Saturday, March 21, 2009

Chalabi says the CIA was expecting a Baathist coup against Saddam

AlHayat prints the first installment of an extended interview with Ahmed Chalabi--it would be a tough job for some poor soul to translate, if anyone were to bother, let alone annotate with all the necessary caveats given the man's reputation. Meanwhile, the first thing that jumped out at As'ad AbuKhalil was Chalabi's mention of the famous "liberal" Kanaan Makiya as a co-conspirator with Chalabi and others in paving the way for the 2003 American invasion. To the LB of RoadstoIraq, an Iraqi, the first thing that jumped out at her was the mention of a similar role by the Jordanian King Abdullah.

For me, this part cried out for attention:

Following meetings in late 2002 in Iran that Chalabi says included himself, representatives of the Supreme Council, Barzani and Talabani, with senior Iranian military and political officials, there was then a meeting in London in December 2002. Chalabi says the Iraqis had decided to form a provisional government, before the invasion, "to take part in the liberation" and to act as an interim government thereafter. But at the meeting in London, Zalmay Khalilzad, on specific orders from the White House, vetoed the idea, and said there would instead be an interim American or Coalition Provisional Authority. And this veto was repeated by Khalilzad at a meeting with a similar Iraqi group in Salahuddin in February 2003.

The interview asks Chalabi what the reason was, and Chalabi replied as follows:
My explanation is that [the Americans] did not want the opposition [meaning primarily himself, the Supreme Council and the Kurdish parties] to control this [interim] government, and they were convinced--particularly the CIA--that it was within their ability to obtain the support of military leaders in Iraq and members of the Baath party to replace Saddam and rebel against him. And up until the last moment they were expecting these people to play a role in [regime-]change in Iraq. And they were saying that the formation of an interim government would make these people turn away from supporting replacement of Saddam, and would make them stand with him.
I haven't read any of the Americans' memoirs and so on, so I don't know what kind of real corroboration or otherwise there may be from Washington for the report that the CIA was expecting Baathists to carry out a coup. (In the interview Chalabi cites books by Douglas Feith and Bob Woodward). But to the extent that such a thing is plausible, the parallel with current events is striking. Because in the face of Maliki's current "opening", and the shadowy reports of US pressure in that direction, what the Supreme Council is now saying is that they would accept the return of former Baathists, but only those who opposed Saddam, presumably the same group of people that the CIA was looking to back in 2003.

The whole thing dressed up as a drastic new departure for a "post-sectarian" Iraq.

Michael Moore said somewhere in that film: "Maybe it was all a dream".

4 Comments:

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