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Iraq: Chalabi Says U.S. Organization May Be Behind Attacks

By Peyman Pejman

Ahmad Chalabi, the controversial Iraqi politician and a onetime favorite of some officials of the U.S. Defense Department, has seen his political star fade in recent months. Largely abandoned by his U.S. allies, Chalabi has become the target of attack by Iraqi opponents as well. Now, in an interview in Baghdad with RFE/RL, Chalabi says he is investigating reports that the U.S. National Security Council may have instigated the recent political attacks against him.

Baghdad, 6 September 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Until recently, Ahmad Chalabi was considered Washington's favored Iraqi politician and a realistic contender for the post-Saddam Hussein Iraqi presidency.

But things have changed. In an interview with RFE/RL, he said an April memorandum drafted by the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) -- the presidential advisory body headed by Condoleezza Rice -- may be behind the recent string of political attacks against him.

Chalabi said he has not seen the memo himself. But he said some of his allies have and claim the events of the past few months correspond to the topics raised in the memo. "I heard a strange and disturbing report that there was an NSC memo [instructing people] to go after me, a seven-page memo. I have not seen it," he said. "If true, it is a serious thing because some people who has [sic] seen it have said many of the things that have happened to me are indicated in the memo which was written before."

Chalabi did not elaborate on the incidents to which he was referring. In the past few months, Chalabi has received a cold reception in Washington, where he has been accused of passing classified information to Iran and money laundering in Iraq.

Chalabi has denied the charges, but they have already cost him politically. He and his Iraqi National Congress (INC) have been left out of the new interim government, and he admits some of his allies in Washington do not talk to him anymore. "There is an investigation in the U.S. that is directed to find any American who has leaked information to me," he said. "They have not found anyone so far, and that has put a restraint against Americans in the government [from] talking to me because the investigation still continues."

Despite that, Chalabi says he is still a friend of both the United States and Iran. And many in Iraq warn that the Chalabi is a political survivor and should not be written off quickly.

The INC head also denies reports that he and his organization have shifted political alliance and formed strategic ties with Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shi'a cleric in Al-Najaf whose Imam Al-Mahdi Army followers fought bloody battles with U.S. forces and their Iraqi counterparts.

"The INC worked very hard to stop the killings in Najaf, [Baghdad's] Sadr City, and other parts of Iraq, and that made it necessary for us to talk to the parties that were combatants. Apparently, this was not to the liking of many people. So they began putting out statements saying that we have shifted alliances. That is not true," Chalabi said.

On 1 September, Chalabi escaped an apparent assassination attempt as he was traveling to Baghdad from Al-Najaf, where he had met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Chalabi was not injured in the attack, in which militants reportedly fired on his convoy. But two of his bodyguards were wounded, and one later died after being taken hostage by the Islamic Army in Iraq, the same group that at one point was holding two French journalists.

Chalabi, who has been elected as a member of the transitional parliament, said he is heartened by reassurances by the government of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi that nationwide elections will be held by January 2005 as planned. There are widespread rumors that the government, citing the lack of needed time, might postpone the elections.

Copyright (c) 2004 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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