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[casi-analysis] casi-news digest, Vol 1 #84 - 3 msgs

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Today's Topics:

   1. Thank God for the torturers- 
   2. Not a pretty picture (Mark Parkinson)
   3. How Ahmed Chalabi conned the neocons (Hassan)


Message: 1
Date: Thu, 6 May 2004 03:55:21 EDT
Subject: Thank God for the torturers-

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]

>     Thank God for the Torturers
>     By Steve Weissman
>     t r u t h o u t | Perspective     Part I: Inside the Infernal Machine
>  Private Lynndie England has now become the poster child for "democracy in
> the Middle East," the ultimate goal that President George W. Bush and Prime
> Minister Tony Blair invoked to justify their current adventure. All over the
> vast, oil-rich region, people see young Lynndie leering at a naked Iraqi with a
> sack over his head as he masturbates at her command.     Her sadistic fun
> and games - along with even more disgusting photos and stories of male rape and
> deadly beatings - play directly into the hands of puritanical, anti-Western
> Muslim preachers and suicidal Fools of God. How righteous Osama must feel
> when he hears that the young woman, a reservist in the Military Police, was
> shipped back to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, after becoming pregnant in Iraq.
> But Lynndie was not just having a good time, even if she seemed to enjoy her
> work. A prison guard in a special high-security cellblock run by military
> intelligence, she was doing what the shadowy types had asked her to do, which
> was to humiliate and disorient Iraqi prisoners prior to interrogation.     Once
> CBS News televised the photos, President Bush and everyone else proclaimed
> themselves suitably shocked, horrified, disgusted, and appalled. They
> condemned the small number of people who committed these shameful aberrations. They
> denied any systematic abuse. And they piously pleaded that the world,
> especially the outraged Muslim World, not think ill of our brave men and women in
> uniform.     What else could they say?     But no matter. It was all too late.
> Sy Hersh - the reporter who won a Pulitizer for exposing the American massacre
> of Vietnamese non-combatants at My Lai - had already unearthed one of
> Washington's shabbier secrets. Writing in the New Yorker, Hersh cited a secret,
> 53-page U.S. Army report by Major General Antonio Taguba, who said in so many
> words that the physical and psychological torture was systematic, intended, and
> officially promoted.     Lynndie England and her poorly trained fellow
> guards were not just gook-bashing because they could, nor were they simply
> mindless youngsters with too much freedom, as in William Golding's Lord of the
> Flies. They were, far more, cogs in an infernal machine. Military intelligence,
> CIA officials, and private contractors had instructed them, in Gen. Taguba's
> phrase, to "set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of
> witnesses."     Lynndie will likely pay a price, as she should, for doing what
> she was told - and for being dumb enough to pose for the pictures. Six of
> her fellow MPs are under criminal investigation, while some of their Army
> superiors have received severe reprimands for lackluster command and loss of
> control, though not for the torture itself.     If public pressure mounts,
> Washington may chuck overboard some of the CIA and military intelligence officers,
> along with private contractors who helped translate and interrogate. In the
> meantime, the Army brass is rushing to fix a prison system that is clearly
> collapsing, and has given the job to Major General Geoffrey D. Miller, the former
> detention camp commander at Guantanamo Bay.     On an earlier visit to Iraq,
> Gen. Miller recommended that military police guards act as "enablers" for
> interrogations, as Pvt. England was doing. Now, he will no doubt build "a
> firewall" to allow his fellow-officers to plausibly deny knowing about the seamier
> side of American intelligence. He might also want to ban personal cameras.
>   But for all the honeyed words and hurried reforms, American torture will
> not stop. The CIA and military intelligence will continue to hurt, humiliate,
> and attempt to break the prisoners they want to question, and - if they can
> get away with it - so will our homeland security forces, whether the FBI, a
> new version of Britain's MI5, or even our local police.     Why so sure?
> Because the Pentagon, the CIA, and the Bush Administration have made torture an
> undeniable tool in their all-embracing War on Terror. When Don Rumsfeld
> repeatedly told us during the Afghanistan War how much the world had changed,
> torture was one of the post-911 "changes" he was telegraphing.     In fact,
> there was less change of direction than natural evolution. The CIA and military
> intelligence began training foreign armies and police forces in torture
> techniques many years before. Much of what Americans now do in Iraq comes right out
> of the CIA's KUBARK Counter-intelligence Interrogation Manual, published in
> 1963, and their updated Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual,
> published in 1983. Both became public in 1997, when the Baltimore Sun won an epic
> Freedom of Information battle against the CIA in an investigation of the
> agency's involvement in Central America.     From the opening battles in
> Afghanistan, American troops used these same techniques, having obviously learned them
> months and years earlier. Only before September 11, any use had to be limited
> and hush-hush, while in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo, the soldiers and
> CIA advisors employed them on an industrial scale, often in partial view.
> The first clue became visible at Bagram Air Base near Kabul, when American
> soldiers systematically put cloth sacks over the heads of their captives,
> whether al-Qaeda, Taliban, or some poor Afghan villager mistakenly taken prisoner.
> Mistakes might - or might not - be sorted out later. We were fighting a War
> on Terror.     In part, a hood, blindfold, or spray-painted goggles made
> prisoners easier to control. But the visual deprivation began the process of
> disorienting them, enhancing psychological stress as the CIA's torture manuals
> recommended.     The troops kept the prisoners standing or kneeling in painful
> positions for hours at a time, forced them into other agonizing postures,
> often stripped them naked, humiliated them non-stop, threatened them, deprived
> them of sufficient food and sleep, or left them in freight containers, where
> they suffered extremes of heat and cold. The soldiers also withheld medical
> treatment and needed medication, especially painkillers, and kicked their
> prisoners around a bit, just to show who was boss.     For selected captives, like
> those on the long flight to Guantanamo, the sensory deprivation became more
> elaborate. Full-face hoods took away their sight and some of their hearing.
> Thick gloves reduced their sense of touch. The 30-hour flight to a completely
> unknown destination added to the effect, cutting them off from anything known
> and reassuring.     Mindful of the Geneva Conventions and other treaties,
> insiders tried to spin what they were doing as only "torture lite" or "stress
> and duress." The goal, as the CIA manuals explained, was not to inflict pain,
> but "to induce psychological regression in the subject by bringing a superior
> outside force to bear on his will to resist."     Where earlier, more
> obvious brutality often stiffened resistance by creating a battle of wills between
> torturer and victim, the new techniques set the conflict within the captive's
> own body and mind, eating away at his or her adult personality and creating
> a child-like state of dependence.     "Stress and duress" left few physical
> scars and baffled casual observers, who saw none of the classic instruments of
> torture. When those were wanted, the CIA and military intelligence generally
> flew prisoners to Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, or the Philippines.     "We don't
> kick the [expletive] out of them," an insider told the Washington Post. "We
> send them to other countries so they can kick the [expletive] out of them."
>  All hail America's global torture machine, in which Pvt. Lynndie England
> played her small part, finding creative and culturally powerful ways to
> humiliate and break Iraqi captives. We can only wonder what secrets her victims
> subsequently revealed. But even if what they told led to Saddam's capture, the
> information would hardly be worth the damage that getting it by torture has now
> done to the occupation of Iraq, the long-term security of Middle East oil
> supplies, and the hope for democratic reform anywhere - except perhaps in the
> United States.     Tomorrow - Part II: Weighing the Costs
> A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly
> Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine
> writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he
> writes for t r u t h o u t.


Message: 2
From: "Mark Parkinson" <>
Date: Fri, 07 May 2004 01:54:55 +0100
Subject: Not a pretty picture

By: Ian Williams, Asia Times, May 7

For several months now, the diehard neo-conservative civilians in the
Pentagon have been trying to manufacture a scandal over the former
United Nations "oil for food" program. Their main concern was never
to check what the UN may or may not have done, but to ensure that the
international organization and its representative in Iraq, Lakhdar
Brahimi, were kept off balance and weakened in their dealings with
the US.

Since the White House has now decided that the UN is indispensable
for its exit strategy in this election year, the Pentagon crowd are
all under gag orders. However, they and Iraqi National Congress
leader Ahmed Chalabi know that no plan that Brahimi drafts has a role
for him. He also knows, despite what he was assuring the gullible in
Washington for so many years, that he has no domestic constituency in
Iraq at all. So he has been making the bullets to be fired by the neo-
con surrogates in the Wall Street Journal, the National Review, and
William Safire in the New York Times, from trying to fan the flames
on the issue.

And now, the US administration, and particularly the Pentagon, has
been completely poleaxed by a genuine scandal: the abuse, torture and
killing of prisoners by US troops. The scandal has been compounded
because of the efforts of the military to keep it quiet until CBS's
pictures hit a horrified world. The prisoners, hooded, shackled and
abused, have come to epitomize everything that has been wrong with US

It is the final dab in a concatenation of events that, like the dots
in a pointillist painting, come together to form a recognizable
image, all focused on the issue of prisoners. Considering each of
these thousand points of darkness separately, firstly, President
George W Bush announced on his weekly radio broadcast that regardless
of quibbles about the causes for the war, Saddam Hussein was gone and
his torture chambers were out of business. He did so just as the
world saw pictures of American military abuse and humiliation in the
very Baghdad prison where the Ba'athist torturers used to practice
their craft. The purpose of the war was not supposed to be the
replacement of Iraqi torturers by Americans.

Then CBS revealed that the US military had persuaded them to hold off
on releasing those pictures, even as Secretary of State Colin Powell
was trying to twist the arm of the Qatari foreign minister to censor
alJazeera, the TV station that has set new standards of objectivity
in the Arab World, by, for example, being the first to interview
Israeli ministers. It was additionally revealed that the military
knew all about the practices, had compiled a report about it, but
that the high command and the Pentagon civilians had not actually
bothered to read it.

It seems that not only were these prisoners shuffled around to keep
them from the Red Cross, but that those who were involved, and maybe
even in command of the "interrogations" were civilian contractors.
These mini-Halliburtons and their employees are not subject to
military discipline, not currently subject to what passes for Iraqi
law - and only by an unlikely determined effort by the federal
government, liable under US law.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, a leading civilian neo-con
in the Pentagon, who himself avoided the Vietnam War, when asked on
television how many US casualties there were, showed his patrician
disdain by taking a stab at a round number, of 500, when it was over
700 and rising. Such things are beneath his notice was the message.

The week went on with a Ba'athist Republican Guard general, in full
uniform, taking control of Fallujah, with the blessing of the US
Marines. The Republican Guards have traditionally had few scruples
about shooting Iraqi civilians, and so there should be no worry about
Geneva Conventions when they get to work.

At the same time, it was leaked that the US wants a draft UN Security
Council resolution dissolving UNMOVIC, the UN Iraq weapons inspectors
and allowing the US's own Iraq Survey Group to complete the report
for them.

On the tail of the prisoner abuse stories, the Supreme Court heard
appeals firstly against the White House's contention that Guantanamo
Bay is in another legal dimension, cut off from Cuban, American or
international law, and secondly against the White House's detention
of US citizens as enemy combatants with no recourse to law if the
president does not like the cut of their jib. The military lawyers
for some of the detainees facing military tribunals have redeemed the
honor of the American military by loudly contesting the legality of
what they imply are kangaroo courts, illegal under domestic and
international law.

Following that, two Muslim immigrants who were among hundreds locked
up and abused physically and mentally in the Brooklyn Federal
Detention Center in the first wave of xenophobia after September 11,
launched their case in the New York federal courts. They did so from
Pakistan and Egypt, the countries to which they had agreed to be
deported rather than fight their cases from what seems to have been a
living hell in the detention center. None of the prison officers,
despite copious documentation of their illegal and immoral behavior,
including a report by the justice department's inspector general and
videotapes of them at work, has been prosecuted, or indeed even

To put an outline on this ugly picture as it takes shape, look at the
polls. Frightening numbers of Americans at large still firmly believe
that Iraq was behind the World Trade Center attack. In a recent Roper
poll, apart from a clearly delusional 12 percent who thought the war
in Iraq was going "very well", another 43 percent though it was going
"fairly well".

Previous polls would suggest that a strong correlation between those
who get their news from cable television like MSNBC and Fox and those
who think that the war is going well, that Iraqi weapons of mass
destruction had been found, and that Saddam was behind September 11.
It is likely that those reservists and National Guard troops called
up and sent to Iraq to staff the Abu Ghraib prison fervently believed
all those impossible things before breakfast.

Certainly, they had not been told about the Geneva Conventions, and
in a way, why should they, when the White House's closest ally agrees
with those military legal officers that the US is breaking the Geneva
Conventions in Guantanamo Bay and with its plans for military
tribunals? Indeed, why should they pay any attention at all to
international law when the administration and its supporters
repeatedly cast doubts on its applicability to the US when it was
preparing for war without a UN mandate?

What we are seeing in those images from Abu Ghraib prison is what
happens when people hold that the ends justify the means. What we see
in the overall picture formed by all these points is even uglier than
its separate parts. In fact, as history teaches us, the means shape
the end. And the end is that every one of those prisoners abused in
that prison, all of their families, and the hundreds of millions of
Arabs and Muslims who think that those prisoners were tortured
because they were Arab and Muslim like themselves, will never believe
a word the US tells them about democracy and the rule of law again.
And frankly, who can blame them?

Over the next few weeks, the Security Council will be considering
some deeply theological points about the transfer of sovereignty to
Iraq on June 30. Phrases like limited sovereignty, or full
sovereignty but partial exercise of it, are floating in the refined

The issue of the prisoners brings that esoteric discussion to a
sordid head. Will the present Iraqi prisoners be handed over to the
new Iraqi authority? Will the multinational force hand over any
prisoners it takes? Will the force be under any political direction
by the Iraqi authorities, or does command and control mean that the
Americans can continue to do what they like? What will be the status
of those private security contractors? Are they subject to Iraqi

In the rush to diplomatic ambiguity necessary to get a resolution
past the Security Council, the US will certainly try to blunt those
points. But media pressure alone may ensure that they have to be
dealt with, and any such derogation from genuine sovereignty for the
Iraqi administration on July 1 will make the plan that much more
unacceptable to broad swathes of Iraqi society, and indeed to the
world. Those hooded, humiliated and handcuffed Iraqis may have done
their country a profound, if involuntary service, in the long run.

Mark Parkinson


Message: 3
Date: Fri, 7 May 2004 01:20:30 -0700 (PDT)
From: Hassan <>
Subject: How Ahmed Chalabi conned the neocons
To: CASI newsclippings <>,
  IAC discussion <>

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]

Sorry for the long article, but it is available only upon subscription.


How Ahmed Chalabi conned the neocons

The hawks who launched the Iraq war believed the deal-making exile when he =
promised to build a secular democracy with close ties to Israel. Now the Is=
rael deal is dead, he's cozying up to Iran -- and his patrons look like the=
y're on the way out. A exclusive.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
By John Dizard

May 4, 2004 | When the definitive history of the current Iraq war is finall=
y written, wealthy exile Ahmed Chalabi will be among those judged most resp=
onsible for the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq and topple Sa=
ddam Hussein. More than a decade ago Chalabi teamed up with American neocon=
servatives to sell the war as the cornerstone of an energetic new policy to=
 bring democracy to the Middle East -- and after 9/11, as the crucial antid=
ote to global terrorism. It was Chalabi who provided crucial intelligence o=
n Iraqi weaponry to justify the invasion, almost all of which turned out to=
 be false, and laid out a rosy scenario about the country's readiness for a=
n American strike against Saddam that led the nation's leaders to predict -=
- and apparently even believe -- that they would be greeted as liberators. =
Chalabi also promised his neoconservative patrons that as leader of Iraq he=
 would make peace with Israel, an issue of vital importance to them. A year=
 ago, Chalabi was
 riding high, after Saddam Hussein fell with even less trouble than expecte=

Now his power is slipping away, and some of his old neoconservative allies =
-- whose own political survival is looking increasingly shaky as the U.S. o=
ccupation turns nightmarish -- are beginning to turn on him. The U.S. rever=
sed its policy of excluding former Baathists from the Iraqi army -- a polic=
y devised by Chalabi -- and Marine commanders even empowered former Republi=
can Guard officers to run the pacification of Fallujah. Last week United Na=
tions envoy Lakhdar Brahimi delivered a devastating blow to Chalabi's futur=
e leadership hopes, recommending that the Iraqi Governing Council, of which=
 he is finance chair, be accorded no governance role after the June 30 tran=
sition to sovereignty. Meanwhile, administration neoconservatives, once uni=
ted behind Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress he founded, are now spli=
t, as new doubts about his long-stated commitment to a secular Iraqi democr=
acy with ties to Israel, and fears that he is cozying up to his Shiite co-r=
eligionists in Iran,
 begin to emerge. At least one key Pentagon neocon is said to be on his way=
 out, a casualty of the battle over Chalabi and the increasing chaos in Ira=
q, and others could follow.

"Ahmed Chalabi is a treacherous, spineless turncoat," says L. Marc Zell, a =
former law partner of Douglas Feith, now the undersecretary of defense for =
policy, and a former friend and supporter of Chalabi and his aspirations to=
 lead Iraq. "He had one set of friends before he was in power, and now he's=
 got another." While Zell's disaffection with Chalabi has been a long time =
in the making, his remarks to Salon represent his first public break with t=
he would-be Iraqi leader, and are likely to ripple throughout Washington in=
 the days to come.

Zell, a Jerusalem attorney, continues to be a partner in the firm that Feit=
h left in 2001 to take the Pentagon job. He also helped Ahmed Chalabi's nep=
hew Salem set up a new law office in Baghdad in late 2003. Chalabi met with=
 Zell and other neoconservatives many times from the mid-1990s on in London=
, Turkey, and the U.S. Zell outlines what Chalabi was promising the neocons=
 before the Iraq war: "He said he would end Iraq's boycott of trade with Is=
rael, and would allow Israeli companies to do business there. He said [the =
new Iraqi government] would agree to rebuild the pipeline from Mosul [in th=
e northern Iraqi oil fields] to Haifa [the Israeli port, and the location o=
f a major refinery]." But Chalabi, Zell says, has delivered on none of them=
. The bitter ex-Chalabi backer believes his former friend's moves were a de=
liberate bait and switch designed to win support for his designs to return =
to Iraq and run the country.

Chalabi's ties to Iran -- Israel's most dangerous enemy -- have also alarme=
d both his allies and his enemies in the Bush administration. Those ties we=
re highlighted on Monday, when Newsweek reported that "U.S. officials say t=
hat electronic intercepts of discussions between Iranian leaders indicate t=
hat Chalabi and his entourage told Iranian contacts about American politica=
l plans in Iraq." According to one government source, some of the informati=
on he gave Iran "could get people killed." A Chalabi aide denied the allega=
tion. According to Newsweek, the State Department and the CIA -- Chalabi's =
longtime enemies -- were behind the leak: "the State Department and the CIA=
 are using the intelligence about his Iran ties to persuade the president t=
o cut him loose once and for all."

But the neocons have bigger problems than Chalabi. As the intellectual arch=
itects of an "easy" war gone bad, they stand to pay the price. The first to=
 go may be Zell's old partner Douglas Feith. Military sources say Feith wil=
l resign his Defense Department post by mid-May. His removal was reportedly=
 a precondition imposed by Ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte when he a=
greed to take over from Paul Bremer as the top U.S. official in Iraq. "Feit=
h is on the way out," Iraqi defense minister (and Chalabi nephew) Ali Allaw=
i says confidently, and other sources confirm it. Feith's boss, Undersecret=
ary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, may follow. Bush political mastermind Karl R=
ove is said to be determined that Wolfowitz move on before the November ele=
ction, even if he comes back in a second Bush term. Sources say one of the =
positions being suggested is the director of Central Intelligence.

In part, the White House political crew is reacting to pressure from the un=
iformed military, which is becoming a quiet but effective enemy of the neoc=
ons. The White House seems to be performing triage to save the political ca=
pital of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney, =
Iraq hawks who have close ties to the neocons. "Rumsfeld and Cheney stay," =
says an Army officer. "Powell has his guy Negroponte in there. But the neoc=
ons are losing power day by day."

Why did the neocons put such enormous faith in Ahmed Chalabi, an exile with=
 a shady past and no standing with Iraqis? One word: Israel. They saw the i=
nvasion of Iraq as the precondition for a reorganization of the Middle East=
 that would solve Israel's strategic problems, without the need for an acco=
mmodation with either the Palestinians or the existing Arab states. Chalabi=
 assured them that the Iraqi democracy he would build would develop diploma=
tic and trade ties with Israel, and eschew Arab nationalism.

Now some influential allies believe those assurances were part of an elabor=
ate con, and that Chalabi has betrayed his promises on Israel while cozying=
 up to Iranian Shia leaders. Whether because of intentional deception or a =
realistic calculation of what the Iraqi people will accept, it's clear that=
 Chalabi won't be delivering on his bright promises to ally a democratic Ir=
aq with Israel. Had the neocons not been deluded by gross ignorance of the =
Arab world and blinded by wishful thinking, they would have realized that t=
he chances that Chalabi or any other Iraqi leader could deliver on such pro=
mises were always remote. In fact, they need have looked no further than th=
e Israeli media: A long piece in Israel's Jerusalem Report magazine publish=
ed nine days before the war began last year featured Israelis who dismissed=
 Chalabi's promises about Israel as a political ploy, "a means by which to =
appeal to the Jewish lobby and, in turn, the administration."

"Chalabi has no use for Israel. He knew all along that this was a nonstarte=
r," says Robert Baer, a former CIA field officer who led covert U.S. operat=
ions inside Iraq in the mid-1990s aimed at toppling Saddam. "Chalabi knows =
exactly what Israel stands for in Iraq and in Iran, with or without Saddam.=
 The idea of building the pipeline to Haifa, or rapprochement with Iran ...=
 I'm sure he told [the neocons] these things could happen, that he played t=
o their prejudices and said, 'This is the new Middle East,' but he didn't b=
elieve any of it. That's the way Chalabi operates."

"He was willing to ally with anyone to get where he is now, whether it was =
the neocons, the Israelis or the Iranians," adds Baer. "He wanted back into=
 Iraq and nothing was going to stop him."

It could have been predicted that Chalabi would want to deal with Israel's =
enemies in Iran. He and his relatives have made that clear. As Iraq's defen=
se minister, Ali Allawi, says, "We have a lot of problems in common with Ir=
an. If we could involve them in a regional security agreement with us, that=
 would be very fruitful." Still, Chalabi's visit to Iran last December and =
his repeated assertions that peace in Iraq requires peace with Iran first a=
larmed, then embittered, his old friends.

Chalabi's neoconservative friends, however, seem to have looked away from e=
vidence that the businessman has always allied himself with whomever can he=
lp him the most. In the 1980s, Chalabi's scandal-plagued Petra Bank funnele=
d money to Amal, a Shia militia allied with Iran in Lebanon. And according =
to a former CIA case officer who worked in Iraq, Chalabi had close ties to =
the Iranian regime when he was in Kurdish Northern Iraq in the mid-1990s tr=
ying to foment resistance to Saddam. He even dealt with Saddam himself when=
 the price was right, and initiated a method to finance the dictator's trad=
e with Jordan in the 1980s through his Petra Bank.

Chalabi's Arab admirers say they knew he'd never make good on his promises =
to ally with Israel. "I was worried that he was going to do business with t=
he Zionists," confesses Moh'd Asad, the managing director of the Amman, Jor=
dan-based International Investment Arabian Group, an industrial and agricul=
tural exporter, who is one of Chalabi's Palestinian friends and business pa=
rtners. "He told me not to worry, that he just needed the Jews in order to =
get what he wanted from Washington, and that he would turn on them after th=

Ahmed Chalabi refused to speak to Salon. He has denounced U.N. envoy Brahim=
i as an "Arab nationalist" and compared the U.S. decision to bring back som=
e former Iraqi soldiers to "allowing Nazis into the German government immed=
iately after World War II." Douglas Feith, Chalabi's longtime ally and spon=
sor, also declined a request for an interview. Nevertheless, the outline of=
 the new conflict between the Shiite former exile and his erstwhile sponsor=
s is clear, based on interviews with Iraqi officials, U.S. military personn=
el and intelligence officers, and politically connected Israelis.

The crux of the conflict is Iran, and whether the U.S. should try to make a=
 deal with the Islamic Republic to enlist its support for peace in Iraq. Be=
fore and immediately after the war, the neoconservative position was that U=
.S. empowerment of the long-disenfranchised Shia community would make possi=
ble an Iraqi government that would make a "warm peace" with Israel. This in=
 turn would pressure the rest of the Arab world to make a similar peace, wi=
thout the need to concede land to the Palestinians.

This was, of course, a pipe dream: The Shia community in Iraq, like the Sun=
ni community, is overwhelmingly anti-Israel, and the entire range of its le=
adership has close ties with Iran. Belatedly realizing that Chalabi's promi=
se to build a secular, pro-Israel Shiite government is not going to come tr=
ue, in the past couple of months the neocons in the Defense Department have=
 tried to come up with a new plan. Feith, Wolfowitz and others are backing =
away from the Shia, due to their ties to Iran as well as Chalabi's deceptio=
ns. They are trying to cobble together a coalition of rehabilitated Sunni M=
uslim Iraqi Army officers and Kurdish leaders backed by their militias that=
 would have Shia participation, but in a reduced role. For proponents of th=
is strategy, the front-runner to be prime minister of the next version of t=
he transitional government is Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, the founder an=
d leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

This policy has very little support. It's opposed by those neocons who stil=
l back Ahmed Chalabi and his Shia allies -- including influential former De=
fense Policy Board chair Richard Perle, along with neocon intellectuals Mic=
hael Ledeen, Bernard Lewis and Barbara Lerner. Although they like Talabani,=
 they oppose the tilt toward the Sunnis, and some are still adamant that Ch=
alabi play a role. "He's effective in bringing groups of Iraqis together, s=
omething he's done for many years," Perle said on CNN on March 28. "He beli=
eves in democracy. I have complete confidence in him, and I hope the people=
 of Iraq are wise enough to see his benefits."

The shift in strategy toward Talabani is also being dismissed, for differen=
t reasons, by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Stat=
e Colin Powell, John Negroponte, the new ambassador to Iraq, and the unifor=
med military. They look at the Iraqi population statistics, which show a Sh=
ia majority; a map of the country, which shows a long, hard-to-defend borde=
r with Iran; and the U.S. military order of battle, which shows overstretch=
ed armed forces, and conclude there cannot be a stable Iraqi government tha=
t isn't led by the majority Shia.

Even the Kurds have their doubts about the new rise in their standing with =
the neocons. Richard Galustian, a British security contractor in Iraq who w=
orks closely with the Kurdish authorities, says, "The political elevation o=
f the Kurds within Iraq will be very unpopular with other Iraqis, and will =
be treated with caution by the Kurdish leaders themselves. Many will be ske=
ptical of the ability of the U.S. administration to sustain and remain cons=
istent in any new relationships." If the Americans can turn on the Shia, th=
e reasoning goes, why couldn't they later turn on the Kurds?

President Bush's ability to impose order on this mess is not obvious, and h=
e doesn't have more than a couple of weeks to figure out a solution. With p=
hotographs of U.S. troops torturing and abusing Iraqi prisoners inflaming t=
he Arab world, U.S. casualties soaring, the June 30 date to turn over sover=
eignty looming and no exit strategy in sight, Bush's Iraq adventure has tur=
ned into a deadly mess that seems certain to make the U.S. more at risk fro=
m terrorism, not less. Bush brought this trouble on himself by buying into =
the neocons' interpretation of the dynamics of the Middle East, and into Ah=
med Chalabi's plans for Iraq -- maybe most disastrously by buying Chalabi's=
 assurances that a secular government dominated by Israel-friendly Shia was=
 possible. If Bush and the neocons wanted to know about Chalabi's real deal=
-making nature, the signs were there for them to read. But they didn't want=
 to know.

Chalabi appears to have recognized that the neocons, while ruthless, realis=
tic and effective in bureaucratic politics, were remarkably ignorant about =
the situation in Iraq, and willing to buy a fantasy of how the country's po=
litics worked. So he sold it to them.

Ahmed Chalabi's family, Shia Muslims from Kut in southern Iraq, has a tradi=
tion of working with occupation governments, starting with the regime of th=
e Ottoman Turks in 1638. Chalabi's father, Abdul Haydi Chalabi, was a membe=
r of the council of ministers of King Faisal II, whose short-lived Hashemit=
e dynasty was installed by the British in 1921. He was also president of th=
e Iraqi Senate created by the Hashemites.

The Hashemites are Sunni Muslim nobility, originally from a region in today=
's Saudi Arabia. While they lost their leading position in the Arabian peni=
nsula to the Al Sa'ud family, they were successfully installed as monarchs =
in both Jordan and Iraq with British support. The Jordanian Hashemites foun=
d a base of support in the local Bedouin tribes, and retain power to this d=
ay. The Iraqi Hashemite branch, though, was strongly opposed by the local S=
hia Muslim ayatollahs from the beginning. So in 1922 the Iraqi Shia religio=
us leaders in Najaf issued a fatwa, or decree, forbidding observant Shia fr=
om supporting the Hashemites. The Chalabi family wasn't deterred, though. T=
hey were among the few Shia to defy the fatwa and support the British-impos=
ed dynasty. They were rewarded with royal patronage, and wound up controlli=
ng the flour milling industry in Baghdad and Basra. The fatwa was finally l=
ifted in 1937, and by then the Chalabis had made a fortune.

Ahmed Chalabi was born in 1944. His family reached the peak of its wealth a=
nd influence during his childhood. In 1958, though, the Hashemite royals we=
re slaughtered during a military coup d'=E9tat, and the Chalabis fled, firs=
t to Jordan, then to Britain. Chalabi reportedly still has a British passpo=

The highly intelligent Chalabi enrolled at MIT at 16, where he earned a deg=
ree in mathematics. He then took a Ph.D. in math at the University of Chica=
go in 1969. (His thesis was "On the Jacobson Radical of a Group Algebra.") =
Despite these serious power-geek credentials, Chalabi has always been known=
 as charming, worldly, and a skilled networker. While at Chicago, Chalabi m=
et Albert Wohlstetter, an applied mathematician and one of the founders of =
the neoconservative movement. Wohlstetter introduced Chalabi to future move=
ment leaders like Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz.

After earning his doctorate, Chalabi returned to the Middle East and became=
 a math professor in Beirut. At the time Beirut was the peaceful financial =
center of the region, and in 1963 Chalabi's family had, along with some loc=
al partners, started Mebco, or the Middle East Banking Corp. It was run by =
Chalabi's brother Jawad. They had also established a Swiss financial compan=
y, Socofi, in 1954, as well as a Swiss subsidiary of MEBCO.

As Ahmed Chalabi has told the story, the Jordanian Hashemite crown prince, =
Hassan bin Talal, persuaded him to start the Petra Bank in Jordan in 1977. =
Chalabi's associates say the family had given the Jordanian Hashemites some=
 of the assassinated Iraqi Hashemites' overseas assets after the 1958 coup,=
 which no doubt helped smooth the way. The Chalabi family's other banking a=
nd financial companies provided further support.

Just after the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, Chalabi seems to have first e=
stablished his ties with the Iranian Shia theocracy. The new Islamic Republ=
ic turned on the shah's former allies in Israel with a vengeance. The Irani=
an regime set up a substantial intelligence and political apparatus in Leba=
non, among the oppressed local Shia.

One of the key Shia institutions in Lebanon was MEBCO in Beirut, which by t=
he 1980s had become a banker for the Shia Amal militia. Amal and Hezbollah =
were the principal private armies in Lebanon tied to the regime in Iran. Ch=
alabi was placing Petra depositors' money with MEBCO in those years; by the=
 time Petra collapsed in 1989, bank auditors found, the equivalent of $41 m=
illion in transactions with MEBCO were on the books. "All the Lebanese bank=
s were divided between political parties and factions," says Hassan Abdul A=
ziz, a former director at Petra Bank. "MEBCO bank was no different. All the=
 Shia were close to Iran emotionally or otherwise." A former CIA case offic=
er in Lebanon has a less sympathetic view. "This was basically funding a ci=
vil war, which meant murders, assassinations, and blowing up Israelis. MEBC=
O was putting their chips on every square." Iran and the Shite militias wer=
e not the only violent elements destabilizing Lebanon in the '70s and '80s,=
 of course. The bloody
 Israeli invasions of Lebanon, along with later punitive expeditions, infla=
med the Shia and other Lebanese.

But Lebanon was not the only venue for the Chalabi family's flexible and in=
novative approach to international finance. This may come as a surprise to =
some of Ahmed Chalabi's newer friends, but he helped finance Saddam Hussein=
's trade with Jordan during the 1980s. Specifically, Chalabi helped organiz=
e a special trading account for Iraq at the Jordanian central bank. Due to =
the problems created by the war with Iran, Saddam Hussein was unable to obt=
ain credit on normal terms. The special account with the Jordanians allowed=
 him to swap oil for necessary imports -- at least Saddam thought they were=
 necessary -- without going through the international credit system. As Has=
san Abdul Aziz explains, "Petra was the first to give letters of credit to =
Iraq, which they did for 23 months before Banco del Lavoro did in 1984. (Th=
e Banco del Lavoro scandal involved the provision of U.S. government commod=
ities loans to buy arms for Saddam Hussein.) By 1986 Jordan had $1 billion =
in annual trade with
 Iraq this way, and Petra Bank had 50% of the market." It makes the neocons=
' insistence that Saddam was behind Petra's fall -- and Chalabi's convictio=
n for embezzling and fraud -- even less credible.

After Petra was seized by the Jordanian authorities in August 1989, Chalabi=
 fled Jordan in the trunk of Crown Prince Hassan's car. Chalabi and his fam=
ily were still wealthy, despite the collapse of their banking empire, but h=
is career in Middle East banking was over. He was now a double exile, from =
Jordan as well as Iraq, comfortably ensconced in London. Just a year after =
his fall, though, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. When the subsequent Gulf W=
ar weakened but did not topple Saddam, a new possibility beckoned: the retu=
rn of the Chalabi family to power in Iraq.

Like many people in the Middle East, Ahmed Chalabi may have had the image o=
f the CIA as an all-knowing organization of worldwide puppet masters. If so=
, he soon learned otherwise. But in the early 1990s the CIA looked like a g=
ood prospect to sponsor an anti-Saddam Iraqi exile movement. At the same ti=
me, though, Chalabi was also looking to the Islamic regime in Iran for help=

Chalabi and some fellow exiles founded the Iraqi National Congress in 1992.=
 The INC was largely funded by the CIA, which provided part of its support =
through the Rendon Group, a Washington public relations company that also d=
oes international political work for the Department of Defense. The CIA's s=
upport for the INC paid for two radio stations, various propaganda operatio=
ns, and training camps in northern Iraq for Iraqi army defectors. (Northern=
 Iraq, controlled by various Kurdish factions and protected by U.S. air cov=
er, was a safe haven for Iraqi dissidents along with U.S. and allied intell=
igence operators.)

While Chalabi was perfectly willing to take the CIA's money, he quickly lea=
rned that it had become an ineffectual, self-obsessed bureaucracy. "He had =
absolute, total disdain for D.C.," says one of his former case officers in =
northern Iraq. "He looked at the Agency, and Rendon, and they flashed incom=

The case officer doesn't know precisely when Chalabi developed a deep relat=
ionship with the Iranian clerical regime, but it was in place when Chalabi =
was in northern Iraq in the early '90s. As the case officer recounts it, "H=
e was given safe houses and cars in northern Iraq, and was letting them be =
used by agents from the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security [Veva=
k], and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. At one point he tried to bro=
ker a meeting between the CIA and the Iranians."

The same officer says from time to time Chalabi would offer him "intelligen=
ce," which the officer would turn down. "I knew it wasn't any good, and he =
knew I knew. He took the refusal in good humor. We had a good relationship.=
 I like him."

The CIA's relationship with Chalabi came to an end after a failed offensive=
 in March 1995 against Saddam's forces by the small group of INC exiles and=
 the militia of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. The CIA had withdrawn the=
 support it had initially offered for the offensive, in what looks like a c=
lassic conflict between field officers and desk officers. Chalabi left nort=
hern Iraq the next month, and the CIA cut off its funding for the INC. It w=
as at this time that Chalabi turned his attention to the American neoconser=
vatives. The neocons were deeply disturbed by the Israeli government's "lan=
d for peace" negotiations with the Palestinians. The usefulness of the West=
 Bank for "defense in depth" was less important than it would have been fro=
m the '40s to the '70s, given the increase in Israel's relative technologic=
al and military advantage over the Arabs. However, the idea of giving up wh=
at Israel's right-wing Likud leaders and some of the neocons themselves bel=
ieved to be Israel's
 God-given lands on the West Bank of the Jordan River was anathema to them.=
 The solution to Israel's strategic dilemma, in their view, was to somehow =
change the Arab governments.

The neoconservative strategy for Israel was laid out in a 1996 paper called=
 "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," issued by the Inst=
itute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies in Jerusalem (but writte=
n by Americans). The principal authors for the paper were Douglas Feith, th=
en a lawyer with the Washington and Jerusalem firm of Feith and Zell, and R=
ichard Perle, who until last year was the chairman of the Defense Policy Bo=
ard, an advisory committee for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld

In the section on Iraq, and the necessity of removing Saddam Hussein, there=
 was telltale "intelligence" from Chalabi and his old Jordanian Hashemite p=
atron, Prince Hassan: "The predominantly Shi'a population of southern Leban=
on has been tied for centuries to the Shi'a leadership in Najaf, Iraq, rath=
er than Iran. Were the Hashemites to control Iraq, they could use their inf=
luence over Najaf to help Israel wean the south Lebanese Shi'a away from Hi=
zbollah, Iran, and Syria. Shi'a retain strong ties to the Hashemites." Of c=
ourse the Shia with "strong ties to the Hashemites" was the family of Ahmed=
 Chalabi. Perle, Feith and other contributors to the "Clean Break" seemed n=
ot to recall the 15-year fatwa the clerics of Najaf proclaimed against the =
Iraqi Hashemites. Or the still more glaring fact, pointed out by Rashid Kha=
lidi in his new book "Resurrecting Empire," that Shiites are loyal only to =
descendants of the prophet Muhammad's son-in-law, Ali, and reject all other=
 lineages, including
 the Hashemites. As Khalidi caustically notes, "Perle and his colleagues we=
re here proposing the complete restructuring of a region whose history and =
religion their suggestions reveal they know hardly anything about." In shor=
t, the Iraqi component of the neocons "new strategy" was based on an ignora=
nt fantasy of prospective Shia support for ties with Israel.

For Ahmed Chalabi, the neoconservatives' support was the key to getting Was=
hington on his side. And Chalabi's leadership, in turn, was key to the neoc=
ons' support for the INC. Perle and Feith, along with future Bush administr=
ation officials Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld, signed the February 199=
8 "open letter" to President Clinton, in which they listed nine policy step=
s that were in the "vital national interest" of the United States. The firs=
t of these was "Recognize a provisional government of Iraq based on the pri=
nciples and leaders of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) that is representa=
tive of all the peoples of Iraq." In October 1998, under intense lobbying p=
ressure from the neocons, Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, th=
e "Iraqi Liberation Act," which provided money and U.S. legitimacy for Chal=
abi's INC, along with six other exile groups.

However, while Chalabi had proven himself as a lobbyist, if not a guerrilla=
 leader, he had a continuous uphill battle with U.S. intelligence agencies,=
 diplomats and the military, who never liked the INC's loose ways with the =
facts and taxpayer money. This meant that Chalabi had to constantly reinfor=
ce his countervailing support from the neoconservatives -- at least until t=
hey took power in the Bush administration in 2001, and squashed all dissona=
nt internal voices on Chalabi. That's when Chalabi and his allies stepped u=
p their planning for an American overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Behind the sc=
enes, Chalabi was also detailing for the neoconservatives and their Israeli=
 allies in the Likud party how the INC would take care of Israel.

One of the key promises he made concerned the revival of the Iraq-Israel oi=
l pipeline. The pipeline from the oilfields of Kirkuk and Mosul to Haifa ha=
d been built by the British in the late 1920s, and was one of the main targ=
ets of the Palestinian Arab revolt in 1936-38. The 8-inch line was finally =
cut after Israel's independence in 1948. The sections in Arab territory hav=
e mostly rusted away or been carted off for scrap. The Israeli section is u=
sed as an irrigation pipe. The fully surveyed right of way, though, remains=
. It could handle a modern, 42-inch pipe, sufficient to supply the Haifa re=

With Chalabi's encouragement, the Israeli Ministry of National Infrastructu=
re, which is responsible for oil pipelines, dusted off and updated plans fo=
r a new pipeline from Iraq. "The pipeline would be a dream," says Joseph Pa=
ritzky, the minister of national infrastructures. "We'd have an additional =
source of supply, and could even export some of the crude through Haifa. If=
 we could build it, a pipeline would give us stable transport prices. Compa=
re that to tankers; this year their price has almost tripled. We could also=
 avoid problems such as strikes in our ports, which I've had to deal with. =
But we'd need a treaty with Iraq, and a treaty with Jordan to build the pip=

With Chalabi in power in Iraq, either in front or behind the scenes, L. Mar=
c Zell confirms, the neocons were told there would be such a treaty with Ir=
aq. "He promised that. He promised a lot of things."

Just after the U.S. takeover of Iraq, but before the establishment of the G=
overning Council of which Chalabi would be finance chair, Paritzky was lobb=
ied by INC representatives in a meeting at the Dead Sea Marriott Hotel reso=
rt in Jordan. "We had a chitchat about it with the Iraqis, and with the Jor=
danians. But we couldn't go to the market and raise funds based on chitchat=
. We would have needed more to go on." Nevertheless, shortly afterward, on =
April 9, 2003, Paritzky announced a new technical appraisal of the pipeline=

The neocons in the Defense Department, such as Undersecretary of Defense fo=
r Policy Douglas Feith, were more optimistic about the pipeline project tha=
n Paritzky, who knew too much about the Middle East to be easily enthused b=
y Chalabi's promises. The DOD neocons sent a telegram directly to the Israe=
li Foreign Ministry, violating protocol in bypassing the State Department, =
expressing interest and support for the pipeline project. The State Departm=
ent had been told by the Jordanians that there would be no pipeline unless =
the Israelis reached a settlement with the Palestinians. The neocons didn't=
 want to hear that. "If the government agreed to a pipeline without a Pales=
tinian settlement," says a Jordanian official, "the monarchy would fall."

In the meantime, having used the neocons to get himself on the Governing Co=
uncil, Chalabi appointed friends and relatives to key positions in the gove=
rnment. His nephew Salem (Sam) Chalabi, a lawyer, did much of the drafting =
of the interim constitution. Another nephew, Ali Allawi, was made minister =
of trade, with responsibility over foreign trade and investment in Iraq (he=
 was later also named defense minister). Other Chalabi nominees went into t=
he Central Bank, the Finance Ministry and the Oil Ministry.

But Chalabi had his eye on the bigger picture. The wealthy exile had visite=
d Tehran before the war, in August 2002 and January 2003. On those trips he=
 met with senior Iranian officials, and with Mohammed Bakr Al-Hakim, the le=
ader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the main Sh=
ia opposition group. The neoconservatives chose to overlook these visits to=
 a member of the "Axis of Evil." It could be argued that there was no other=
 way to liaise with Iraqi Shia leaders.

Then in December 2003, Chalabi went to Tehran to meet with Hasan Rohani, th=
e head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council. At that meeting, Chalab=
i said, "The role of the Islamic Republic of Iran in supporting and guiding=
 the opposition in their struggles against Saddam's regime in the past, and=
 its assistance toward the establishment of security and stability in Iraq =
at present, are regarded highly by the people of Iraq."

U.S. intelligence agencies, along with leading neocons, began to look again=
 at just who Chalabi's real friends might be, especially since Iranian inte=
lligence agents from his old friends at Vevak were known to be active in Ir=
aq. Also, the Israelis began to notice that Chalabi's old promises had been=

"I just got the bid papers for a $145 million highway project that were put=
 out by the Iraqis, and they had the Israeli boycott language in them," an =
Israeli in Baghdad told me in March. "Chalabi promised the boycott would be=

Ali Allawi, the Chalabi nephew in charge of the Ministry of Trade, and now =
also the minister of defense, calls trade with Israel "a non-starter. We ar=
en't plugged into that network, and as far as I'm concerned they sell thing=
s we don't need. As for the boycott. I don't care. What's the matter with i=
t? The U.S. boycotts Cuba, and nobody says anything about it.

"Our future is more to the east, with Iran, and to the south, with the Gulf=
 states. Iran has natural geographic ties to Iraq. I'm not interested in wh=
at those neoconservatives at the (Coalition Provisional Authority) have to =
say about Iran. We don't have sufficient port capacity, for example. We sho=
uld use the Iranian ports and roads. Iraq should have fundamental economic =
and trade relations with Iran, and Turkey, as long as they reciprocate, and=
 I think they will." He dismissed the Mosul-Haifa pipeline with a wave of h=
is hand.

Nabil Al Moussa, the deputy minister of planning for the Oil Ministry, conf=
irmed Allawi's position. Asked whether the ministry had any plans for rebui=
lding the pipeline to Israel, his previous professional courtesy went out t=
he window. "Absolutely not, and never! Don't ever ask us if we will sell oi=
l to Israel, because we never will!"

Told of Allawi's and Al Moussa's reaction, Joseph Paritzky was philosophica=
l, and a little contemptuous of his would-be neocon benefactors. "How naive=
 can these Americans be? What, they thought they had a deal? Didn't they no=
tice they were in the Middle East?" A neocon's reaction to Paritzky was cha=
racteristic: "He's a populist asshole who should have kept his mouth shut."=
 But Paritzky obviously understood Middle Eastern politics far better than =
the neocons.

While the neocons felt they could ignore negative reports on Chalabi from t=
he CIA, the State Department and other bureaucratic enemies, they have a ha=
rder time dismissing what comrades like Marc Zell have to say. Nevertheless=
, for the time being, many are sticking to the Bush strategy of staying on =
message and never admitting to mistakes. For example, last week, Michael Le=
deen, a leading neocon at the American Enterprise Institute, complained in =
the National Review Online about "the cascade of anti-Chalabi leaks from hi=
s many mortal enemies at the Department of State and the Central Intelligen=
ce Agency." Changing the message is painful. As one neocon says: "The worst=
 part of all this [Chalabi's betrayal] is that it will be embarrassing to m=
y friends in the Pentagon."

Defense minister Allawi doubts that the neocons will be able to prevail in =
their plan to replace Shia dominance in the new Iraq with the Sunni-Kurdish=
 coalition. "This is the last stand of the neocons, I think. The U.S. does =
have a new policy, which is to find a way to leave. That plan isn't the way=
 to do it. I hear Condi Rice's office opposes the idea, and so does Ambassa=
dor Negroponte."

"We really don't have any choice," says a former intelligence officer and W=
est Pointer in Iraq. "We have to make a deal, though we probably don't have=
 to deal with Iran directly. We can make it through the Shia clergy in Iraq=

Allawi dismisses Feith and the neocons and what he calls "their grandiose s=
chemes," but adds, "The neocons still have some influence, partly because t=
hey have good ties with the Kurds. And Sharon is still the 840-pound gorill=
a for U.S. policy."

Clearly the neocons are now in the process of retreating and regrouping. Th=
e consensus they'd forged among themselves on Iraq policy has dissolved. Th=
e massive plans for the democratization of the Middle East are heading for =
the recycling bin. Meanwhile, Chalabi's hopes for playing a leadership role=
 in Iraq appear to be gone, although the crafty businessman's ability to re=
surrect himself from the dead should not be underestimated. It should also =
be noted that Chalabi family members continue to wield power in Iraq, and w=
ill likely continue to. For example, defense minister Allawi insists that h=
e is not "in my uncle's entourage. Instead I travel alongside him." The rem=
ark can be interpreted to mean that he doesn't take orders from his uncle, =
and yet they are still close. Allawi has had a rather more conventional bus=
iness career than that of his uncle, which has helped his political positio=
n in Iraq. While an early investor in Petra Bank, he soon parted company wi=
th his uncle and the
 other partners. He went on to become a successful and respectable portfoli=
o manager in London before returning to Iraq last year.

In the end, despite the neocons' best hopes, Iran has emerged as crucial to=
 the administration's desire for a political settlement in Iraq. Government=
s in the neighboring countries have taken notice of the neocons' big blunde=
r. "The Iranians have proven to be absolutely brilliant in all of this," sa=
ys a well-connected Jordanian. "They're showing that they're going to be th=
e ones to win this one, and they'll do it with American money and lives."

For his part, Allawi praises what he sees as the U.S. military's new realis=
m about the need for what he calls "a cold peace" with Iran. "There is no w=
ay to have stability in Iraq without Iran," he insists. "The U.S. military =
has been very correct in its contact with Iran at the border, and has never=
 violated the unwritten agreement."

The neocons' Iraq triumph of last year has turned to ashes. Their Likud all=
ies in Israel are bitterly split over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plans f=
or the settlements in the territories. They have a coldly hostile Iraqi gov=
ernment coming in the near future. The clerical regime they loathe in Iran =
has dramatically improved its strategic position. Some of them must be ruei=
ng the day they met Ahmed Chalabi, who told them the fairy tales they wante=
d to hear.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

About the writer
John Dizard is a columnist for the Financial Times.

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