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Israel makes friends in Iraq

Andy Newman


 

Mithal al-Alousi, a top aide to Iraqi National Congress leader, Ahmed Chalabi, has just turned up in Israel, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, attending a conference on terrorism at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Centre. Rather implausibly al-Alousi claims that his boss, Chalabi, did not know about the trip to Israel, but he says Chalabi supports contacts with Israel

Al Alousi was Director General of the de-Baathification department that oversaw the purging of Ba'ath party activists from Iraqi institutions. This process proved controversial as Ba'ath party membership was mandatory for many professionals, or those seeking foreign travel. Husam al-Rawi, a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects and a professor at Baghdad University was reported in the Guardian saying "The problem is they didn't look at who were really leaders. They ... went down too low. Instead of targeting a thousand or a few hundred people, they targeted 80,000." In a one party state, the governing party acts as a social institution that draws in members for pragmatic, rather then purely ideological reasons. The majority of Ba'ath members will have had no relationship with the repressive security services.

De-Ba'athification, was a particular project of the Pentagon's favourite Iraqi, Ahmed Chalabi and American neo-con Paul Wolfowitz. It is therefore a project particularly associated with the neo-conservative agenda. Interestingly, Paul Bremmer the former American imperial pro-consul dissolved the de-Baathification unit the day before he handed over power to the Interim Iraqi Government, without reference to any Iraqi organisation.

The new government of Iyad Alawi has since both criticized the disbanding of the Iraqi army by Bremmer and said that it will incorporate Ba-ath party experience back into government. Clearly Alawi intends to build a repressive police state, and he needs all the help he can get.

Chalabi had been widely tipped to take over as Iraqi president, before being sidelined by rival Alawi. Seemingly from no-where rumours started circulated in Washington, including a leading article in Newsweek in May, that Chalabi might be working with the Iranian government. Laughably some unnamed Whitehouse sources suggested that Chalabi may have fed the CIA false Iranian intelligence on Iraqi WMD to goad the US into attacking Iraq! Yeah right.

Of course Chalabi has links with Tehran, as he was the CIA's go-between to the Iranian government, particularly in 1995 when a CIA operative known as "Bob" tried to coordinate military action between the Kurdish guerrilla armies and the Badr Brigade - Iraqi shias, armed and trained by Iran, in a push to overthrow Saddam. Chalabi was promising that some Iraqi army units would defect. The offensive, scheduled for March 3rd was called off at the eleventh hour, as it seems that "Bob" had exceeded his authority.

Al Alousi's visit to Israel is in fact not surprising. Chalabi has had long term relations with Tel Aviv, and his project in Iraq is associated with a Zionist dream of Balkanising the Arab world, with weak states and strong war lords. Under Chalabi Iraq would have become the Lebanon with oil. Chalabi's flirting with the Zionists is not unique.  Haaretz reports the Iraqi ambassador in London recently saying there is a powerful lobby in Baghdad pushing for ties with Israel. The Arab Web site Al  Illaf just published a report saying that Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zabari, is pushing for an end to the state of war between Iraq and Israel. This is perhaps not surprising as Zabari was formerly the chief lieutenant of Massoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The penny drops when we ask who was involved from the KDP in negotiations with the CIA and Chalabi in 1995 - yes our friend Hoshyar Zabari!

According to Haaretz, quoting Iraqi diplomats in Amman, there was a recent meeting in Jordan of senior Iraqis with Israelis. They say Iraqi defence minister Hazem Al-Shaalan also favours a thaw in relations with Israel.  Al Shaalan is a shady figure. He was a Ba'ath Party member and Iraqi MP until 1990, when he suddenly left for London and allegedly spied on the opposition groups in the UK for Baghdad. He joined the émigré Free Iraqi Council, and it is rumoured that he became a CIA spy. He emerged from no-where in Iraq to become governor of Diwaniyah, and was then elevated to Foreign Minister! He certainly has strong friends in the American camp, and few friends in Iraq.

Not all in the Iraq government favour normalization of relations with Israel. Importantly, the new Quisling President Iyad Alawi, is opposed. This is further evidence that there is still a power struggle in Iraq between different American strategies, and between their allies about what best to do. There is reportedly a poisonous atmosphere in the Iraqi government as ambitious and ruthless wannabes jockey for position.

Currently the Americans are viewing Chalabi with disfavour, but he still draws $340,000 per month from the Pentagon, including $36000 per month to maintain an office in Tehran. Washington clearly wants to keep its options open. The model of government Chalabi proposed for Iraq has failed disastrously in Afghanistan. In his recent autobiography, General Franks, the man who led the invasion of Afghanistan admits that the Whitehouse had a plan to install Hamid Karzai long before 11th September 2001. So the failure to reconstruct Afghanistan was deliberate policy from the start.

Indeed, there seems to be a shift in policy in Afghanistan. A few days ago, the war lord in Herat, Ismail Khan, was overthrown by the US backed government of Karzai. This briefly led to the United Nations withdrawing from the city after their office was mobbed by 1000 supporters of Ismail Khan, and according to Paul Greening, an Oxford based volunteer now in Kabul, all International citizens were pulled out of Herat by the International NGO security officer. Nevertheless, American troops backed the Afghan government forces who secured victory; and this may represent a move towards stronger, centralised government and reining in the warlords.

What does come across is that the American neo-cons have bitten off more than they can chew. Their ideological assumptions of what would happen after invasion were wrong, and resistance in Afghanistan and Iraq has caused them to revise their plans. The links to Israel by some members of Alawi's government suggest that he presides over a divided house, and furthermore that not all sections of the US state are throwing their lot in with him. The prospects of American victory in Iraq look very slim as they seem to be adrift without a rudder.


 

 

September 2004

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