The Center for Cooperative Research
U:     P:    
Not registered yet? Register here
 
Search
 
Current timeline only
Advanced Search


Main Menu
Home 
History Engine Sub-Menu
Timelines 
Entities 
Forum 
Miscellaneous Sub-Menu
Donate 
Links 
End of Main Menu

Volunteers Needed!
Submit a timeline entry
Donate: If you think this site is important, please help us out financially. We need your help!
Email updates
 



  View mode (info):
  Ordering (info):
  Time period (info):

Key Events

Key events related to DSM (56)

General Topic Areas

Alleged al-Qaeda ties (83)
Politicization of intelligence (80)
Pre-9/11 plans for war (34)
Weapons inspections (122)
Alleged WMDs (99)
The decision to invade (104)
Internal opposition (29)
Motives (53)
Pre-war planning (30)
Predictions (19)
Legal justification (96)
Propaganda (23)
Public opinion on Iraqi threat (13)
Diversion of Resources to Iraq (8)
Pre-war attacks against Iraq (18)

Specific Allegations

Aluminum tubes allegation (59)
Office of Special Plans (24)
Africa-uranium allegation (95)
Prague Connection (24)
Al Zarqawi allegation (10)
Poisons And Gases (5)
Drones (4)
Biological weapons trailers (18)

Specific cases and issues

Spying on the UN (8)
Outing of Jose Bustani (13)
Powells Speech to UN (13)
Chalabi and the INC

Quotes from senior US officials

Chemical and biological weapons allegations (23)
Imminent threat allegations (5)
Iraq ties to terrorist allegations (15)
Nuclear weapons allegations (29)
WMD allegations (9)
Democracy rhetoric (33)
Decision to Invade quotes (16)
Click here to join: Suggest changes to existing data, add new data to the website, or compile your own timeline. More Info >>

 

Events leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq: Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress

 
  

Project: Inquiry into the decision to invade Iraq

Export to XML Printer Friendly View Email to a Friend Increase Text Size Decrease Text Size


October 30, 1944

       Ahmed Chalabi is born into a wealthy, oligarchic Shiite family with close ties to Iraq's Hashemite monarchy. [CounterPunch, 5/20/2004; American Prospect, 11/18/2002; New Yorker, 6/7/2004] Ahmed's mother runs political salons catering to Iraq's elite and his father loans money to members of the ruling family who reward him with top posts in the government, which he uses to advance his business interests. Ahmed's grandfather was also close to the monarchy, holding nine cabinet positions in government during his lifetime. [New Yorker, 6/7/2004; American Prospect, 11/18/2002] But it was Ahmed Chalabi's great grandfather who, as the tax farmer of Kadimiah, a town near Baghdad, established the family's grand fortunes. According to Iraqi historian Hanna Batatu, Ahmed's great grandfather was “a very harsh man, [who] kept a bodyguard of armed slaves and had a special prison at his disposal” where, according to a friend of Ahmed Chalabi, he imprisoned serfs who failed to pay their taxes or produce wheat. “When he died the people of Kadimiah heaved a sigh of relief,” Batatu writes. [New Yorker, 6/7/2004; Batatu, 2004 cited in CounterPunch, 5/20/2004]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi
          

1958

       After the 1958 coup that deposes King Faisal II of Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi, 13, and his family flee to Lebanon because of their close ties to the Iraqi Hashemite monarchy (see October 30, 1944). The young Ahmed then goes to England where he attends boarding school. [CounterPunch, 5/20/2004; American Prospect, 11/18/2002; New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi
          

1960s

       Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi exile, studies for his doctorate in math at the University of Chicago where he gets to know Albert Wohlstetter, a prominent cold-war strategist and a mentor for Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. After receiving his degree, Chalabi moves to Lebanon where he works as a math teacher at the American University of Beirut. His brother, Jawad, is also living in Beirut and runs Middle East Banking Corp. (Mebco). [Salon, 5/5/2004; Christian Science Monitor, 6/15/2004; American Prospect, 11/18/2002; New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi, Albert Wohlstetter, Jawad Chalabi
          

1963

       The Chalabi family, with some local partners, found the Middle East Banking Corp. (Mebco). [Salon, 5/5/2004]
People and organizations involved: Middle East Banking Corp.
          

1977

       Ahmed Chalabi moves to Jordan where he founds Petra Bank. His partners include wealthy families from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. [Guardian, 4/142003; Salon, 5/4/2004; Christian Science Monitor, 6/15/2004]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi, Petra Bank
          

1979-1989

       Two years after its founding, Petra Bank, run by Ahmed Chalabi, is the second largest bank in Jordan. The bank's success is attributed to the Chalabi family's vast network of international connections which has enabled Petra to move money in and out of Jordan several steps ahead of the Jordon's strict exchange controls. “They were far more efficient than the other banks,” a Jordanian businessman tells Salon. Chalabi's bank lends money to several influential figures, including Prince Hasan, now a close acquaintance of Chalabi, to whom the bank lends $30 million. Chalabi's friendship with Hassan enables Petra to open a chain of branches in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. [Christian Science Monitor, 6/15/2004; New Yorker, 6/7/2004; Salon, 5/4/2004; Guardian, 4/142003] During this period, Petra bank even does business with Saddam Hussein, helping the dictator finance Iraqi trade with Jordan. [Salon, 5/5/2004]
People and organizations involved: Hasan bin Talal, Petra Bank, Ahmed Chalabi
          

1985

       Albert Wohlstetter introduces Ahmed Chalabi to Richard Perle, undersecretary of defense for international-security policy. [American Prospect, 11/18/2002]
People and organizations involved: Albert Wohlstetter, Richard Perle, Ahmed Chalabi
          

After 1989

       Jordanian investigators spend 45 days in the US looking for hidden assets belonging to a Washington, D.C. subsidiary of Petra Bank, a Chalabi-controlled enterprise that collapsed in 1989 (see August 2, 1989). Nearly all of the US assets listed in Petra Bank's books turn out to be worthless, with the notable exception of an auxiliary office where valuable bank records are presumably kept. The “office” is a country estate with a swimming pool in upscale Middleburg, Virginia. It belongs to the Chalabi family, which had been charging the bank a monthly rent. “There was not one business record in the whole place,” an official will later recall. [New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi, Petra Bank
          

August 2, 1989

       Mohammed Said Nabulsi, Jordan's central bank governor, orders the country's banks to deposit 30 percent of their foreign exchange holdings with the central bank. The measure is part of an effort to enforce regulations on liquidity ratios and reduce the outflow of foreign exchange from Jordan. Petra, run by Ahmed Chalabi, is the only bank among the 20 that is unable to comply with the order. At the urging of Nabulsi, King Hussein puts Petra under government supervision and orders an audit of the bank's books. Petra's board of directors are replaced and an investigation begins. Two weeks later, in August 1989, Chalabi flees the country—reportedly with $70 million. According to Hudson Institute's Max Singer, Prince Hassan personally drives Chalabi to the Jordanian border, helping him escape. The investigation subsequently uncovers evidence of massive fraud. “The scale of fraud at Petra Bank was enormous,” Nabulsi will later recall. “It was like a tiny Enron.” Arthur Andersen determines that the bank's assets are overstated by $200 million. The bank is found to have enormous bad debts (about $80 million); “unsupported foreign currency balances at counter-party banks” (about $20 million); and money purportedly owed to the bank which could not be found (about $60 million). Millions of dollars of depositors' money had been routed to the Chalabi family empire in Switzerland, Lebanon, and London, in the form of loans that had not been repaid. The Chalabi family's Swiss and Lebanese firms, Mebco and Socofi, are later put into liquidation. As a result of the fraud, the Jordanian government is forced to pay $200 million to depositors whose money had disappeared, and to avert a potential collapse of the country's entire banking system. [CounterPunch, 5/20/2004; Guardian, 4/142003; American Prospect, 11/18/2002; New Yorker, 6/7/2004; Christian Science Monitor, 6/15/2004; Salon, 5/4/2004] Chalabi later provides a different account of what happened. According to Zaab Sethna, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress, King Hussein of Jordan turned on Chalabi in coordination with Iraq because Chalabi was “using the bank to fund [Iraqi] opposition groups and learning a lot about illegal arms transfers to Saddam.” Petra Bank was also providing the CIA with information on the Jordanian-Iraqi trade. [American Prospect, 11/18/2002; New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi, Middle East Banking Corp., Petra Bank, Hussein bin Talal, Mohammed Said Nabulsi, Arthur Andersen
          

June 10, 1990

       A 500-page report completed on behalf of the Jordanian military attorney-general charges that Ahmed Chalabi was directly responsible for the collapse of Petra Bank (see August 2, 1989). It accuses him of making “fictitious deposits and entries to make the income ... appear larger; losses on shares and investments; [and] bad debts ... to Abhara company and Al Rimal company.” The technical report contains 106 chapters, each of which addresses a different irregularity. Most of them are attributed to Chalabi. [Guardian, 4/142003]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi, Petra Bank
          

May 1991

       President George H. W. Bush signs a covert “lethal finding” authorizing the CIA to spend a hundred million dollars to “create the conditions for removal of Saddam Hussein from power.” [New Yorker, 6/7/2004] The CIA forms the Iraqi Opposition Group within its Directorate of Operations to implement this policy. [Ritter, 2005, pp 128] Awash in cash, the agency hires the Rendon Group to influence global political opinion on matters related to Iraq. According to Francis Brooke, an employee of the company who's paid $22,000 per month, the Rendon Group's contract with the CIA provides it with a ten percent “management fee” on top of whatever money it spends. “We tried to burn through $40 million a year,” Brooke will tell the New Yorker. “It was a very nice job.” The work involves planting false stories in the foreign press. The company begins supplying British journalists with misinformation which then shows up in the London press. In some cases, these stories are later picked up by the American press, in violation of laws prohibiting domestic propaganda. “It was amazing how well it worked. It was like magic,” Brooke later recalls. Another one of the company's tasks is to help the CIA create a viable and unified opposition movement against Saddam Hussein (see June 1992). This brings the Rendon Group and Francis Brooke into contact with Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi (see After May 1991). [New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Rendon Group, Francis Brooke, George Herbert Walker Bush
          

After May 1991

       CIA Agent Whitley Bruner contacts Ahmed Chalabi in London as part of an effort to organize Iraqi exiles into a unified opposition movement against Saddam Hussein (see May 1991). [New Yorker, 6/7/2004; Newsweek, 4/5/2004]
People and organizations involved: Whitley Bruner, Ahmed Chalabi
          

1992-1996

       Over a period of four years, the CIA's Iraq Operation Group provides the Iraqi National Congress (INC) with $100 million, which the organization uses to set up training camps and propaganda operations in Northern Iraq. [Ritter, 2005, pp 128; Christian Science Monitor, 6/15/2004] During this time span, Chalabi allegedly misuses a lot of the funds. “There was a lot of hanky-panky with the accounting: triple billing, things that weren't mentioned, things inflated ... It was a nightmare,” a US intelligence official who works with Chalabi will say in 2004. [Newsweek, 4/5/2004] Chalabi refuses to share the organization's books with other members of the INC, and even with the US government itself. According to a former CIA officer, “[T]hey argued that it would breach the secrecy of the operation.” One night, government investigators break into the INC's offices to do an audit. They find that although the books are in order, many of the group's expenditures are wasteful. [New Yorker, 6/7/2004] Chalabi spends much of his time in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. Robert Baer, a CIA officer who is also working in Iraq, later recalls: “He was like the American Ambassador to Iraq. He could get to the White House and the CIA. He would move around Iraq with five or six Land Cruisers.” Hundreds of thousands of dollars flow “to this shadowy operator—in cars, salaries—and it was just a Potemkin village. He was reporting no intel; it was total trash. The INC's intelligence was so bad, we weren't even sending it in.” Chalabi tries to portray Saddam's regime as “a leaking warehouse of gas, and all we had to do was light a match,” Baer says. Chalabi, at certain points, claims to know about Iraqi troop movements and palace plans. But “there was no detail, no sourcing—you couldn't see it on a satellite.” [New Yorker, 6/7/2004 Sources: Robert Baer]
People and organizations involved: Iraqi National Congress, Robert Baer, Central Intelligence Agency
          

April 9, 1992

       After a two-year investigation, Ahmed Chalabi is convicted in abstentia and sentenced by a military court to 22 years of hard labor and ordered to return $230 million in embezzled funds. The 223-page verdict charges Chalabi with 31 counts of embezzlement, theft, forgery, currency speculation, making false statements, and making millions of dollars in bad loans to himself, to his friends, and to his family's other financial enterprises in Lebanon and Switzerland (see June 1992). [Guardian, 4/142003; Salon, 5/4/2004; Newsweek, 4/5/2004; Christian Science Monitor, 6/15/2004; New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi
          

June 1992

       The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), headed by Masud Barzani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), headed by Jalal Talabani, meet in Vienna along with nearly 200 delegates from dozens of Iraqi opposition groups to form an umbrella organization for Iraqi dissident groups. [New Yorker, 6/7/2004; Federation of American Scientists, 8/8/1998] The event is organized by the Rendon Group, which has been contracted by the CIA to organize the wide spectrum of Iraqi dissidents into a unified movement against Saddam Hussein. Rendon names the group the “Iraqi National Congress” (INC). The CIA pays the Rendon Group $326,000 per month for the work, funneled to the company and the INC through various front organizations. [CounterPunch, 5/20/2004; Rolling Stone, 11/17/2005 Sources: Unnamed former CIA operative] Thomas Twetten, the CIA's deputy directorate of operations, will later recall: “The INC was clueless. They needed a lot of help and didn't know where to start.” [The New Republic, 5/20/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp 296-297] Rendon hires freelance journalist Paul Moran and Zaab Sethna as contract employees to do public relations and “anti-Saddam propaganda” for the new organization. [SBS Dateline, 7/23/2003]
People and organizations involved: Masud Barzani, Jalal Talabani, Central Intelligence Agency, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Kurdistan Democratic Party, Iraqi National Congress, Rendon Group, Paul Moran, Zaab Sethna, Thomas Twetten
          

October 1992

       Prominent Shiite Iraqi opposition groups join the Iraqi National Congress, a creation of the CIA (see June 1992), and hold a meeting in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq where they select a three-man leadership council and a 26-member executive council. The three leaders include moderate Shiite Muslim cleric Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum; ex-Iraqi general Hasan Naqib; and Masud Barzani. Ahmed Chalabi, who is reportedly not at all popular among the exiles present, is somehow selected to chair the executive council. This event represents the first major attempt to bring together the many different groups in Iraq opposed to Saddam Hussein. [New Yorker, 6/7/2004; Federation of American Scientists, 8/8/1998]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi, Hasan Naqib, Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum, Kurdistan Democratic Party, Iraqi National Congress, Masud Barzani
          

(1994)

       The Iraqi National Congress sets up “a forgery shop” inside an abandoned schoolhouse in the Kurdish town of Salahuddin. “It was something like a spy novel,” CIA agent Robert Baer later recalls. “It was a room where people were scanning Iraqi intelligence documents into computers, and doing disinformation. There was a whole wing of it that he did forgeries in. ... He was forging back then, in order to bring down Saddam.” One of the documents fabricated by the INC is a copy of a purported letter to Chalabi from President Clinton's National Security Council. The letter requests Chalabi's help in a plot to assassinate Saddam Hussein. Baer believes Chalabi's intent is to trick the Iranians into believing that the Americans will kill Hussein, thus inspiring them into joining a plot against the dictator. According to Francis Brooke, a Rendon Group employee working with the INC, Chalabi did not create the forged letter. “That would be illegal,” he says. [New Yorker, 6/7/2004 Sources: Robert Baer]
People and organizations involved: Rendon Group, Ahmed Chalabi, Iraqi National Congress, Francis Brooke
          

March 1995

       Ahmed Chalabi creates a militia army of about 1,000 fighters in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq and bribes tribal leaders in the city of Mosul to support a planned rebellion against Saddam Hussein. He is also hosting members of Iranian intelligence who promise that when the operation is launched, Iran will simultaneously hit Iraq from the south. But the CIA learns that Baathist officials have caught wind of the plot and the CIA instructs agent Robert Baer to tell Chalabi that “any decision to proceed will be on your own.” Chalabi, who has no military experience, decides to go through with the plot anyways. But the operation quickly flounders when many of Chalabi's fighters desert, the bribed Iraqi tribal leaders stay home, and the Iranians do nothing. The CIA is furious that it funded the operation, which becomes known within the agency as the “Bay of Goats.” [New Yorker, 6/7/2004; CounterPunch, 5/20/2004]
People and organizations involved: Francis Brooke, Rendon Group, Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi, Central Intelligence Agency, Saddam Hussein, Robert Baer
          

After 1996

       After the failed coup attempt in Iraq (see March 1995), Ahmed Chalabi comes to Washington to lobby the US government to pursue a policy of regime change. Chalabi sets up shop in a million-dollar brick row house in Georgetown, owned by Levantine Holdings, a Chalabi family corporation based in Luxembourg. The house will serve as both the Iraqi National Congress' Washington headquarters and as Chalabi's home. Francis Brooke, Chalabi's aide, and Brooke's family will live in the house for free. [New Yorker, 6/7/2004; Washington Post, 11/24/2003, pp C01] Brooke is reportedly a devout Christian who, the New Yorker reports, “has brought an evangelical ardor to the cause of defeating Saddam.” Brooke tells the magazine: “I do have a religious motivation for doing what I do. I see Iraq as our neighbor. And the Bible says, when your neighbor is in a ditch, God means for you to help him.” [New Yorker, 6/7/2004] Brooke believes that Saddam Hussein is of such an evil nature, that even the most extreme measures would be justified to remove him. Charles Glass of Harper's will report that Brooke “says he would support the elimination of Saddam, even if every single Iraqi were killed in the process. He means it. ‘I'm coming from a place different from you.... I believe in good and evil. That man is absolute evil and must be destroyed.’ ... He says he believes in Jesus and in resurrection and in eternity. If all the Iraqis die, he says, they will live in eternity. But the ‘human Satan’ must go, no matter what.” [CounterPunch, 5/20/2004] As part of their lobbying strategy, Chalabi and Brookes examine the successes of various American Jewish lobby groups. “We knew we had to create a domestic constituency with some electoral clout, so we decided to use the AIPAC [American Israel Political Action Committee] model,” Brooke later the New Yorker. [New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi, Iraqi National Congress, Francis Brooke
          

January 1996

       The CIA—concerned about Chalabi's contacts with Iran and convinced that he is not capable of delivering on his promises—severs its ties with him and the Iraqi National Congress. [New Yorker, 6/7/2004; Christian Science Monitor, 6/15/2004]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi, Central Intelligence Agency, Iraqi National Congress
          

August 1996

       One of the Kurdish groups within the Iraqi National Congress (INC) invites Iraqi forces into Kurdistan to crush a rival faction allied with Chalabi. Saddam Hussein sends 40,000 Iraqi soldiers and 300 tanks into the Kurdish city of Irbil. Saddam's forces capture, torture, and kill hundreds of Chalabi's followers and some INC officials. At this time, Chalabi is in London. The Clinton administration eventually evacuates 7,000 supporters. [Guardian, 2/22/2002; American Prospect, 11/18/2002; New Yorker, 6/7/2004] A few years later, Chalabi and his aide, Francis Brooke, will help ABC News produce a documentary that puts the blame on the CIA.
People and organizations involved: Iraqi National Congress, Central Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Chalabi
          

1997

       Ahmed Chalabi, speaking before an audience at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), insists that with just minimal support from the US, Saddam Hussein's government could easily be toppled and replaced with a government friendly to Israel. Chalabi's ideas reportedly catch the attention of neoconservatives Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith. [Newsweek, 5/31/2003; New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, Ahmed Chalabi, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz
          

(1997-1998)

       According to Middle East expert Judith Kipper, around this time, Ahmed Chalabi makes “a deliberate decision to turn to the right,” having realized that conservatives are more likely than liberals to support his plan to use force to topple Saddam Hussein's government. Chalabi's aide, Francis Brooke, later explains to the New Yorker: “We thought very carefully about this, and realized there were only a couple of hundred people” in Washington capable of influencing US policy toward Iraq. He also attends social functions with Richard Perle, whom he met in 1985 (see 1985) and who is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and Dick Cheney, the CEO of Halliburton. According to Brooke, “from the beginning, Cheney was in philosophical agreement with this plan. Cheney has said, ‘Very seldom in life do you get a chance to fix something that went wrong.’ ” Paul Wolfowitz is said to be enamored with Chalabi. According to an American friend of Chalabi, “Chalabi really charmed him. He told me they are both intellectuals. Paul is a bit of a dreamer.” [New Yorker, 6/7/2004] He also becomes friends with L. Marc Zell and Douglas Feith of the Washington-Tel Aviv law, Feith and Zell. [Salon, 5/5/2004] Chalabi tells his neoconservatives friends that if he replaces Saddam Hussein as Iraq's leader, he would establish normal diplomatic and trade ties with Israel, eschew pan-Arab nationalism, and allow the construction of a pipeline from Mosul to the Israeli port of Haifa, Zell later tells Salon magazine. Having a pro-Israeli regime in Iraq would “take[] off the board” one of the only remaining major Arab threats to Israeli security, a senior administration official says in 2003. It would do this “without the need for an accommodation with either the Palestinians or the existing Arab states,” notes Salon. [Salon, 5/5/2004; Knight Ridder, 7/12/2003 Sources: L. Marc Zell] But Chalabi has a different story for his Arab friends. He tells his friend, Moh'd Asad, the managing director of the Amman, Jordan-based International Investment Arabian Group, “that he just need[s] the Jews in order to get what he want[s] from Washington, and that he [will] turn on them after that.” [Salon, 5/5/2004] Chalabi also says that the Iraqis would welcome a US liberation force with open arms. [Christian Science Monitor, 6/15/2004]
People and organizations involved: Saddam Hussein, Moh'd Asad, Douglas Feith, L. Marc Zell, Ahmed Chalabi, Francis Brooke, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Richard ("Dick") Cheney
          

November 12, 1997

       David Wurmser, director of the Middle East program at the American Enterprise Institute, writes an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal arguing that the US government should support Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress [INC] and work to foment “an Iraqi insurgency to depose the butcher of Baghdad.” Wurmser writes: “Washington has no choice now but to abandon the coup option and resurrect the INC. An insurgency may be able to defeat Saddam's weak and demoralized conventional army. But one thing is clear: There is no cost-free way to depose Saddam. He is more resolute, wily and brutal than we. His strength lies in his weapons of terror; that is why he is so attached to them.... Organizing an insurgency to liberate Iraq under the INC may provoke Saddam to use these weapons on the way down. Better that, though, than current policy, which will lead him to use them on his way back up.” [Wall Street Journal, 11/12/97]
People and organizations involved: David Wurmser, Ahmed Chalabi
          

December 1997

       UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter meets with Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress. According to Ritter, Chalabi tells him that he has close contacts with Iranian Intelligence and offers to set up a meeting between Ritter and the head of Iranian intelligence. (Chalabi later claims this is “an absolute falsehood.”) [CounterPunch, 5/20/2004]
People and organizations involved: Scott Ritter, Ahmed Chalabi
          

1998

       Ahmed Chalabi suggests in an interview with the Jerusalem Post that if the INC is successful in its efforts to topple Saddam Hussein's government, the new government will restore the oil pipeline from Kirkuk, Iraq to Haifa, Israel. The pipeline has been inoperative since the state of Israel was established in 1948. [New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi, Iraqi National Congress
          

1998

       Ahmed Chalabi and Francis Brooke find allies in the US Senate's Republican leadership. They provide the Republicans with details about the events surrounding the INC-CIA's 1995 failed plot against Saddam Hussein (see March 1995) and Iraq's subsequent incursion into Kurdish territory (see August 1996) which the Republican senators use against the Clinton White House and the CIA. “Clinton gave us a huge opportunity,” Brooke later recalls. “We took a Republican Congress and pitted it against a Democratic White House. We really hurt and embarrassed the president.” The Republican leadership in Congress, he acknowledges, “didn't care that much about the ammunition. They just wanted to beat up the president.” Senior Republican senators, according to Brooke, are “very receptive, right away” to Chalabi and Brooke's information, and Chalabi is soon on a first-name basis with 30 members of Congress, including senators Trent Lott, Jesse Helms, and Newt Gingrich. [Alternet, 5/21/2004; New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Francis Brooke, Newt Gingrich, Trent Lott, Ahmed Chalabi, Jesse Helms
          

January 27, 1998

       Ahmed Chalabi meets Scott Ritter, a liaison for the UN weapons inspectors program, in his London apartment. When Chalabi asks Ritter what kind of information inspectors need, Ritter discloses all of inspectors' intelligence gaps. “I should have asked him what he could give me,” Ritter later tells the New Yorker. “We made the biggest mistake in the intelligence business: we identified all of our gaps.” The New Yorker reports: “Ritter outlines most of the UN inspectors' capabilities and theories, telling Chalabi how they had searched for underground bunkers with ground-penetrating radar. He also told Chalabi of his suspicion that Saddam may have had mobile chemical- or biological-weapons laboratories. ... ” [New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Scott Ritter, Ahmed Chalabi
          

(July 1998)

       Scott Ritter has a second meeting with Ahmed Chalabi (see January 27, 1998), this time at Chalabi's house in Georgetown. Inspectors have recently discovered trace evidence of VX nerve gas on warheads in Iraq and Ritter is concerned that the Iraqis are still hiding something. During the meeting, they discuss the VX discovery and Chalabi suggests that Ritter do intelligence work for the INC. He shows Ritter two studies advocating Hussein's overthrow. One of the studies is a military plan, written, in part, by retired General Wayne Downing, who commanded the Special Forces in the first Gulf War. Downing's study suggests that the Baathist regime could easily be toppled by Iraqi fighters alone. But the plan would nonetheless require some American troop support. Chalabi wants to sell the plan to Congress. Ritter, a former marine, isn't impressed and tells Chalabi he thinks it's a ploy to get the US involved. He asks Chalabi, “So how come the fact that you'd need more American assistance is not in the plan?” Chalabi replies, “Because it's too sensitive.” Chalabi then shares with Ritter his plans to rule Iraq. Ritter later tells the New Yorker: “He told me that, if I played ball, when he became president he'd control all of the oil concessions, and he'd make sure I was well taken care of. I guess it was supposed to be a sweetener.” (Chalabi's office will tell the New Yorker that Ritter is a “liar.”) [New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Scott Ritter, Ahmed Chalabi
          

(July 1998)

       David Wurmser says that having a region in northern Iraq controlled by the Iraqi National Congress would provide the missing piece to complete an anti-Syria, anti-Iran block. “If Ahmed [Chalabi] extends a no-fly, no-drive in northern Iraq, it puts scuds out of the range of Israel and provides the geographic beachhead between Turkey, Jordan and Israel,” Wurmser says. “This should anchor the Middle East pro-Western coalition.” [Forward, 7/31/2003]
People and organizations involved: Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi, David Wurmser
          

July 24, 1998

       Francis Brooke and David Wurmser meet with Dore Gold, Israel's permanent representative to the United Nations, with hopes to get Israel to pressure US Congress into approving a $10 million grant to the Iraqi National Congress to fund an effort to facilitate regime change in Iraq. “I went to speak to [Ambassador Gold] just to say that I think it's in Israel's best interest to help the Iraqi people get this thing done,” Brooke says. “The basic case I made was that we need help here in the US to get this thing going.” Commenting on the effort, Richard Perle tells Forward, a Jewish-American Magazine, “Israel has not devoted the political or rhetorical time or energy to Saddam that they have to the Iranians. The case for the Iraqi opposition in Congress would be a lot more favorable with Israeli support.” [Forward, 7/31/2003]
People and organizations involved: Richard Perle, David Wurmser, Francis Brooke, Dore Gold
          

October 31, 1998

       President Clinton Signs the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 into law. The act, which passed with overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate, was written by Trent Lott and other Republicans with significant input from Ahmed Chalabi and his aide, Francis Brooke. The act makes it “the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.” To that end, the act requires that the president designate one or more Iraqi opposition groups to receive up to $97 million in US military equipment and nonlethal training. The act authorizes another $43 million for humanitarian, broadcasting, and information-collection activities. To be eligible for US assistance, an organization must be “committed to democratic values, to respect for human rights, to peaceful relations with Iraq's neighbors, to maintaining Iraq's territorial integrity, and to fostering cooperation among democratic opponents of the Saddam Hussein regime.” [New Yorker, 6/7/2004; Washington Post, 1/25/2002 Sources: Iraq Liberation Act of 1998]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi, Francis Brooke, Trent Lott, William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton
          

(Late 1998)

       General Anthony Zinni, commander of CENTCOM, which has operational control of US combat forces in the Middle East, is provided with a copy of Chalabi's military plan to overthrow Saddam Hussein. “It got me pretty angry,” he later recalls. He warns Congress that Chalabi's plan is a “pie in the sky, a fairy tale.” He tells the New Yorker: “They were saying if you put a thousand troops on the ground Saddam's regime will collapse, they won't fight. I said, ‘I fly over them every day, and they shoot at us. We hit them, and they shoot at us again. No way a thousand forces would end it.’ The exile group was giving them inaccurate intelligence. Their scheme was ridiculous.” [New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Saddam Hussein, Anthony Zinni, US Congress, Ahmed Chalabi
          

Late 1990s

       An associate of Ahmed Chalabi later tells journalist Andrew Cockburn that in the late '90s, “Ahmed opened an INC office in Tehran, spending the Americans' money, and he joked to me that ‘the Americans are breaching their embargo on Iran.’ ” [CounterPunch, 5/20/2004]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi
          

February 4, 1999

       President Clinton signs Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 99-13 designating seven Iraqi opposition groups as being eligible to receive US federal funds under the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act (see October 31, 1998). The act stated that the policy of the US should be to support regime change in Iraq. The seven groups include the Iraqi National Accord, the Iraqi National Congress, the Islamic Movement of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the Movement for Constitutional Monarchy, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. [White House, 2/4/1999]
People and organizations involved: Islamic Movement of Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraqi National Congress, Iraqi National Accord, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Kurdistan Democratic Party, Movement for Constitutional Monarchy, William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton
          

November 19, 1999

       Congress allocates $10 million “to support efforts to bring about political transition in Iraq, of which not less than $8 million shall be made available only to Iraqi opposition groups designated under the ILA [Iraq Liberation Act of 1998] for political, economic humanitarian, and other activities of such groups, and not more than $2 million may be made available for groups and activities seeking the prosecution of Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi Government officials for war crimes.” President Clinton signs the appropriation bill into law on November 29. [The Library of Congress Thomas Database, n.d. Sources: Public Law 106-113] This $10 million dollars is the first allocation of funds to Iraqi opposition groups out of the total $97 million that was authorized by the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act (see October 31, 1998).
People and organizations involved: Iraqi National Congress, William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton
          

2000-2002

       The State Department begins funding the Iraqi National Congress' “information collection” program to the tune of $150,000 per month. The program is part of the US government's larger goal of effecting a regime change in Iraq (see October 31, 1998). According to the agreement between the State Department and the INC, the group is permitted to use the money to “implement a public information campaign to communicate with Iraqis inside and outside of Iraq and also to promulgate its message to the international community at large.” The INC is prohibited from engaging in activities “associated with, or that could appear to be associated with, attempting to influence the policies of the United States Government or Congress or propagandizing the American people.” But according to Francis Brooke, an INC spokesman, some of the State Department's funds are used to finance the expenses of Iraqi defectors who serve as the sources for several US news stories. Brookes claims that there are “no restrictions” on the use of US federal funds to make defectors available to the media. Another Chalabi spokesman will say: “The INC paid some living and travel expenses of defectors with USG funds. None of these expenses was related to meeting journalists.” He adds that the INC “did not violate any US laws.” [Newsweek, 4/5/2004]
People and organizations involved: Francis Brooke, Iraqi National Congress, US Department of State
          

September 2000

       Chalabi's brothers, Jawad and Hazem, are convicted and sentenced in absentia by a Geneva court for fabricating fake documents. [CounterPunch, 5/20/2004]
People and organizations involved: Hazem Chalabi, Jawad Chalabi
          

October 25, 2000

       Congress substantially increases its support for Iraqi opposition organizations, more than doubling the groups' funding to $25 million for 2001. Of this amount, $18 million is specifically designated for the Iraqi National Congress: $12 million for “food, medicine, and other humanitarian assistance,” and $6 million for the “production and broadcasting inside Iraq of radio and satellite television programming.” In addition, $2 million is allocated for groups and activities seeking the prosecution of Saddam Hussein, while the remaining $5 million is “to support efforts to bring about political transition in Iraq.” [The Library of Congress Thomas Database, n.d. Sources: Public Law 106-429]
People and organizations involved: William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton, Iraqi National Congress
          

February 2001

       Paul Wolfowitz reportedly calls Francis Brooke, an aide to Ahmed Chalabi, late one night and promises that Saddam Hussein will be toppled while Bush is in office. According to Brooke, Wolfowitz says he will resign if it doesn't happen. Wolfowitz will later deny this account and call it “nonsense.” [New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Paul Wolfowitz, Francis Brooke
          

September 15, 2001

       State Department auditors discover that the Iraqi National Congress' “information collection” program has failed to keep its books in order. According to the audit, the INC used a mixture of accounting methods (both cash and accrual); lacked adequate internal controls; lacked written accounting policies and procedures; had bank balances that exceeded FDIC insured amounts; and “did not comply with applicable regulations and agreements.” The auditors question the costs of about $2.2 million out of $4.3 million in expenditures between March 2000 and May 2001. “Of that amount, $113,794 was unallowable under terms and conditions of the agreement, and $2,107,093 was classified as unsupported because of either inadequate or a lack of documentation.” [Sources: Review of Awards to Iraqi National Congress Support Foundation] Examples cited by auditors include $2,070 paid for a Washington health center membership and money paid to the Burson-Marsteller public relations firm. [Washington Post, 1/25/2002] Another $101,762 was spent in undocumented expenses related to travel and badge distribution for attendees at a human rights conference. Additionally, the INC made $578,795 in undocumented cash payments. The auditors also draw attention to the INC's shifting of funds “back and forth among several different banks into several different currencies” which they note created a potential for “fraud, waste, and abuse.” [Sources: Review of Awards to Iraqi National Congress Support Foundation] In a 200-page response to the audit, the INC acknowledges “the need to strengthen internal [financial] controls,” but denies any misuse of federal funds. Entifadh K. Qanbar, the INC's Washington office director, says the US government is using the financial issues as a “smoke screen” to divert attention away from its failure to develop its own policy on Iraq. “There is a sense that the INC will make Saddam very angry if we are allowed to conduct aggressive actions inside the country,” Qanbar says. “That will drag the United States into a war. They are not prepared to go to war against Saddam. This is why the review is stalled.” [Washington Post, 1/25/2002]
People and organizations involved: US Department of State, Entifadh Qanbar, Iraqi National Congress
          

September 19, 2001-September 20, 2001

       The Defense Policy Board (DPB) meets in secrecy in Rumsfeld's Pentagon conference room on September 19 and 20 for nineteen hours to discuss the option of taking military action against Iraq. [New York Times, 10/12/01] They also discuss how they might overcome some of the diplomatic and political pressures that would likely attempt to impede a policy of regime change in Iraq. [New York Times, 10/12/01] Among those attending the meeting are the 18 members of the Defense Policy Board, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Bernard Lewis, Ahmed Chalabi, and Chalabi's aide Francis Brooke. [New Yorker, 6/7/2004; Vanity Fair, 5/04, pp 236; New York Times, 10/12/01] Secretary of State Colin Powell and other State Department officials in charge of US policy toward Iraq are not invited and are not informed of the meeting. A source will later tell the New York Times that Powell was irritated about not being briefed on the meeting. [New York Times, 10/12/01] During the seminar, two of Richard Perle's invited guests, Princeton professor Bernard Lewis and Ahmed Chalabi, the president of the Iraqi National Congress, are given the opportunity to speak. Lewis says that the US must encourage democratic reformers in the Middle East, “such as my friend here, Ahmed Chalabi.” Chalabi argues that Iraq is a breeding ground for terrorists and asserts that Saddam's regime has weapons of mass destruction. [Vanity Fair, 5/04, pp 232] He also asserts “there'd be no resistance, no guerrilla warfare from the Baathists, and [it would be] a quick matter of establishing a government.” [New Yorker, 6/7/2004] Attendees write a letter to President Bush calling for the removal of Saddam Hussein. “[E]ven if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism,” the letter reads. The letter is published in the Washington Times on September 20 (see September 20, 2001) in the name of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), a conservative think tank that believes the US needs to shoulder the responsibility for maintaining “peace” and “security” in the world by strengthening its global hegemony. [Project for a New American Century, 9/20/01; Manila Times, 7/19/03] Bush reportedly rejects the letter's proposal, as both Cheney and Powell agree that there is no evidence implicating Saddam Hussein in the attacks. [New York Times, 10/12/01 Sources: Unnamed senior administration officials and defense experts]
People and organizations involved: Henry A. Kissinger, James Woolsey, Adm. David E. Jeremiah, Ahmed Chalabi, Bernard Lewis, James R. Schlesinger, Dan Quayle, Harold Brown, Newt Gingrich, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, Defense Policy Board, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Francis Brooke
          

December 17, 2001

       After fleeing Iraq, Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, 43, defects to the US. Before he is debriefed by the CIA, he spends several days in a Bangkok hotel room being coached by Zaab Sethna, the spokesman of the Iraqi National Congress, on what he should tell his debriefer. On December 17, he meets with a CIA official who questions him. Strapped to a polygraph machine [Rolling Stone, 11/17/2005] , al-Haideri proceeds to tell the agent he is a civil engineer who helped hide Iraq's illicit weapons in subterranean wells, private villas, and even beneath the Saddam Hussein Hospital. After reviewing the polygraph, which was requested by the Defense Intelligence Agency, the intelligence debriefer concludes that Haideri made the entire story up. [Rolling Stone, 11/17/2005; New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency, Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, Zaab Sethna, Defense Intelligence Agency
          

2002-2003

       The Bush administration develops plans for post-war Iraq. But the process is plagued with infighting between a small, highly secretive group of planners in the Pentagon and experts at the CIA and State Department who are involved with the “Future of Iraq Project” (see April 2002-March 2003). The two opposing groups disagree on a wide range of topics, but it is the Pentagon group which exerts the strongest influence on the White House's plans (see Fall 2002) for administering post-Saddam Iraq. One State Department official complains to The Washington Post in October 2002 “that the Pentagon is seeking to dominate every aspect of Iraq's postwar reconstruction.” The group of Pentagon planners includes several noted neoconservatives who work in, or in association with, the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans (see September 2002) and the Near East/South Asia bureau. The planners have close ties to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), two think tanks with a shared vision of reshaping the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East in favor of US and Israeli interests. The Pentagon planning group “had a visionary strategy that it hoped would transform Iraq into an ally of Israel, remove a potential threat to the Persian Gulf oil trade and encircle Iran with US friends and allies,” Knight Ridder Newspapers will later observe. The group's objectives put it at odds with planners at the CIA and State Department whose approach and objectives are much more prudent. The Pentagon unit works independently of the CIA and State Department and pays little attention to the work of those two agencies. Critics complain that the group is working in virtual secrecy and evading the scrutiny and oversight of others involved in the post-war planning process by confining their inter-agency communications to discussions with their neoconservative colleagues working in other parts of the government. The Pentagon planners even have a direct line to the office of Dick Cheney where their fellow neoconservative, Lewis Libby, is working. [Knight Ridder, 7/12/03; Washington Post, 4/2/03; Associated Press, 11/12/02] In the fall of 2002, the various groups involved in planning for post-war Iraq send their recommendations to the White House's Executive Steering Committee, which reviews their work and then passes on its own recommendations to the cabinet heads (see Fall 2002). According to a July 2003 report by Knight Ridder Newspapers, the ultimate responsibility for deciding the administration's post-war transition plans lay with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. [Knight Ridder, 7/12/03]
The Office of Special Plans -

The civilian planners at the Pentagon believe that the UN should exert no influence over the structure, make-up, or policy of the interim Iraqi post-Saddam government. They seek to limit the UN's role to humanitarian and reconstruction projects, and possibly security. The State Department, however, believes that the US will not be able to do it alone and that UN participation in post-Saddam Iraq will be essential. [Observer, 4/6/03; Los Angeles Times, 4/2/03]

The Pentagon group wants to install Ahmad Chalabi, the controversial Iraqi exile leader of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), as leader of post-Saddam Iraq. [Knight Ridder, 7/12/03; American Prospect, 5/1/03 Sources: Richard Perle]
The group thinks that the Iraqis will welcome Chalabi, who claims he has a secret network inside and outside the Ba'ath government which will quickly fill in the power vacuum to restore order to the country. Chalabi is a notorious figure who is considered untrustworthy by the State Department and CIA and who has a history of financial misdealings. [Knight Ridder, 7/12/03] But the Pentagon is said to be enamored with Chalabi “because he [advocates] normal diplomatic relations with Israel” which they believe will “‘ [take] off the board’ one of the only remaining major Arab threats to Israeli security.” Another geopolitical benefit to installing Chalabi is that he can help the US contain “the influence of Iran's radical Islamic leaders in the region, because he would ... [provide] bases in Iraq for US troops,” which would “complete Iran's encirclement by American military forces around the Persian Gulf and US friends in Russia and Central Asia.” [Knight Ridder, 7/12/03 Sources: Unnamed Bush administration official] Danielle Pletka, vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, with close ties to the Pentagon's planning group, tells Robert Dreyfuss of American Prospect Magazine that the State Department's perception of Chalabi is wrong. “The [Defense Department] is running post-Saddam Iraq,” said Pletka, almost shouting. “The people at the State Department don't know what they are talking about! Who the hell are they? ... the simple fact is, the president is comfortable with people who are comfortable with the INC.” [American Prospect, 5/1/03]
The Pentagon's planning unit believes that the Iraqis will welcome US troops as liberators and that any militant resistance will be short-lived. They do not develop a contingency plan for persistent civil unrest. [Knight Ridder, 7/12/03]
However the State Department's “Future of Iraq” planning project is more prudent, noting that Iraqis will likely be weary of US designs on their country. [New York Times, 10/19/03]
The Pentagon planners believe that Iraq's oil reserves—estimated to contain some 112 billion barrels of oil—should be used to help fund the reconstruction of Iraq. They also advocate a plan that would give the US more control over Iraq's oil. “[The Pentagon] hawks have long argued that US control of Iraq's oil would help deliver a second objective,” reports the Observer. “That is the destruction of OPEC, the oil producers' cartel, which they argue is ‘evil’—that is, incompatible with American interests.” The State Department, however, believes such aggressive policies will surely infuriate Iraqis and give credence to suspicions that the invasion is motivated by oil interests. One critic of the plan says “that only a puppet Iraqi government would acquiesce to US supervision of the oil fields and that one so slavish to US interests risks becoming untenable with Iraqis.” [Insight, 12/28/02; Observer, 11/3/02]

People and organizations involved: American Enterprise Institute, Project for the New American Century, Ahmed Chalabi, Donald Rumsfeld, Danielle Pletka, Condoleezza Rice  Additional Info 
          

February 2002

       In an interview with the Guardian of London, Ahmed Chalabi describes his plan to overthrow the Iraqi government. “The United States will help us to train and equip light anti-tank battalions, well-trained, and highly mobile. Those people, once on the ground, will be able to defeat Saddam's forces.” Just 11 weeks of training would be adequate to train the Iraqi National Congress' forces to defeat Iraq's army of 400,000, he insists. “Chalabi gave a theoretical example: a rebel incursion across the Kuwaiti border to capture a frontier town. The rebel force would be protected from counter-attack by US air power, and within days the key southern city of Basra would fall as its garrison mutinied.” According to Chalabi, Saddam would quickly lose his grip on the country. “Once that happens, our problem will not be finding people—our problem will be absorbing people,” Chalabi claims. [New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi
          

February 11, 2002

       Former CIA Director James Woolsey telephones Deputy Asistant Defense Secretary Linton Wells to arrange a meeting between Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analysts and Mohammad Harith, an Iraqi defector being supplied by the Iraqi exile group, the Iraqi National Congress. [Knight Ridder, 7/16/04 Sources: Classified Pentagon report] After the phone call, Wells issues an “executive referral,” requesting that the Iraqi National Congress (INC) introduce Harith to the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). [Reuters, 2/18/04; Knight Ridder, 7/16/04 Sources: Classified Pentagon report] Later in the day, two DIA officers meet with Ahmed Chalabi to arrange an interview with Harith. In an email to Knight Ridder Newspapers, Wells will later recall, “I discussed the issue of an individual with information on Iraq weapons of mass destruction with intelligence community members. They said they would follow up. I never met with any member of the INC.” [Knight Ridder, 7/16/04]
People and organizations involved: Linton Wells, Mohammad Harith, Iraqi National Congress, James Woolsey
          

Summer 2002

       Ahmed Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, says that “informants within the Iraqi intelligence community,” have revealed “that Hussein's VX stockpile is far larger than the 3.9 tons Iraq reported—something UNSCOM inspectors have long suspected,” reports The Washington Post. “Chalabi also says that the VX had been converted into a dry salt for long term storage and was positioned in various sites across Iraq for use in the event of a foreign attack. UNSCOM officials said the account seemed credible, given what was learned about Iraq's VX program in the final months of weapons inspections.” [Washington Post, 7/31/02]
People and organizations involved: Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi
          

August 2002

       After the State Department decides it will no longer provide the Iraqi National Congress (INC) with monthly payments, funding for the INC's “information collection” program and other covert operations is picked up by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) which begins providing Chalabi's group with a monthly stipend of $340,000. Under the DIA's rules, the INC is forbidden from publicly releasing any info about its intelligence program without written permission from the Pentagon. Under the State Department, the INC had been feeding stories to the media. The Defense Department tasks the INC with collecting intelligence on Iraq's alleged ties to al-Qaeda, its presumed arsenal of WMD, and the whereabouts of Michael Scott Speicher, a US Navy pilot missing since being shot down during the first gulf war. Not withstanding its divorce with the INC, the State Department will continue supporting other INC initiatives, providing it with $8 million for its newspaper, anti-Hussein television broadcasts into Iraq, and regional offices and humanitarian relief programs. [New Yorker, 6/7/2004; Newsweek, 4/5/2004; Houston Chronicle, 3/11/2004; Washington Post, 8/16/2002]
People and organizations involved: Defense Intelligence Agency, US Department of State, Iraqi National Congress
          

September 2002

       Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, adamant hawks, rename the Northern Gulf Affairs Office on the Pentagon's fourth floor (in the seventh corridor of D Ring) the “Office of Special Plans” (OSP) and increase its four-person staff to sixteen. [Mother Jones, 1/04; Tom Paine [.com], 8/27/03; Inter Press Service, 8/7/03; American Conservative, 12/1/03; New Yorker, 5/5/03; Los Angeles Times, 11/24/02; Knight Ridder Newspapers, 8/16/02 Sources: Unnamed administration official, Karen Kwiatkowski, Greg Thielmann] William Luti, a former navy officer and ex-aide to Vice President Cheney, is put in charge of the day-to-day operations. [Guardian, 7/17/03; Mother Jones, 1/04] The Office of Special Plans is staffed with a tight group of like-minded neoconservative ideologues, who are known advocates of regime change in Iraq. Notably, the staffers have little background in intelligence or Iraqi history and culture. [American Conservative, 12/1/03; Inter Press Service, 8/7/03; Salon, 7/16/03; Mother Jones, 1/04 Sources: A Pentagon adviser, Karen Kwiatkowski, Greg Thielmann] Some of the people associated with this office were earlier involved with the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group, also known as the “Wurmser-Maloof” project (see Shortly after September 11, 2001). They hire “scores of temporary ‘consultants’ ... including like-minded lawyers, congressional staffers, and policy wonks from the numerous rightwing think-tanks in the US capital.” Neoconservative ideologues, like Richard Perle and Newt Gingrich, are afforded direct input into the Office of Special Plans. [Guardian, 7/17/03; Mother Jones, 1/04] The office works alongside the Near East and South Asia (NESA) bureau, also under the authority of Douglas Feith [Inter Press Service, 8/7/03; Mother Jones, 1/04 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski] The official business of Special Plans is to help plan for post-Saddam Iraq. The office's staff members presumably “develop defense policies aimed at building an international coalition, prepare the secretary of defense and his top deputies for interagency meetings, coordinate troop-deployment orders, craft policies for dealing with prisoners of war and illegal combatants, postwar assistance and reconstruction policy planning, postwar governance, Iraqi oil infrastructure policy, postwar Iraqi property disputes, war crimes and atrocities, war-plan review and, in their spare time, prepare congressional testimony for their principals.” [Insight, 12/2/03] But according to numerous well-placed sources, the office becomes a source for many of the administration's prewar allegations against Iraq. It is accused of exaggerating, politicizing, and misrepresenting intelligence, which is “stovepiped” to top administration officials who use the intelligence in their policy decisions on Iraq. [Telegraph, 7/11/04; Mother Jones, 1/04; CNN, 7/11/04; Tom Paine [.com], 8/27/03; Knight Ridder Newspapers, 8/16/02; Los Angeles Times, 11/24/02; American Conservative, 12/1/03; New Yorker, 5/5/03; Inter Press Service, 8/7/03 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski, Greg Thielmann, Unnamed administration official] There are very few news reports in the American mainstream media that report on the office. In fact, the office is reportedly Top Secret. [Bamford, 2004, pp 308] “We were instructed at a staff meeting that this office was not to be discussed or explained,” OSP staffer Karen Kwiatkowski will later say, “and if people in the Joint Staff, among others, asked, we were to offer no comment.” [American Conservative, 12/1/03] Colin Powell is said to have felt that Cheney and the neoconservatives in this “Gestapo” office had established what was essentially a separate government. [Woodward, 2004 cited in Washington Post 1/18/04 Sources: Top officials interviewed by Washington Post editor Bob Woodward] Among the claims critics find most troubling about the office are:
The office relies heavily on accounts from Iraqi exiles and defectors associated with Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress (INC), long considered suspect by other US intelligence agencies. [Salon, 7/16/03; Guardian, 7/17/03; Inter Press Service, 8/7/03; New Yorker, 5/5/03; Mother Jones, 1/04; Independent, 9/30/03 Sources: Unnamed administration official, Greg Thielmann]
One defector in particular, code-named “Curveball,” provides as much as 98 percent of the intelligence on Iraq's alleged arsenal of biological weapons. [CNN, 7/11/04] Much of the information provided by the INC's sources consists of “misleading and often faked intelligence reports,” which often flow to Special Plans and NESA directly, “sometimes through Defense Intelligence Agency debriefings of Iraqi defectors via the Defense Human Intelligence Service and sometimes through the INC's own US-funded Intelligence Collection Program, which was overseen by the Pentagon.” [Mother Jones, 1/04] According to Karen Kwiatkowski, the movement of intelligence from the INC to the Office of Special Plans is facilitated by Colonel Bruner, a former military aide to Gingrich. [Salon, 3/10/04; Mother Jones, 1/04; Newsweek, 12/15/03 Sources: Memo, Karen Kwiatkowski] Bruner “was Chalabi's handler,” Kwiatkowski will tell Mother Jones. “He would arrange meetings with Chalabi and Chalabi's folks.” [Mother Jones, 1/04 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski]
The Office of Special Plans purposefully ignores intelligence that undermines the case for war while exaggerating any leads that support it. “It wasn't intelligence,—it was propaganda,” Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked at the NESA desk, will later explain. “They'd take a little bit of intelligence, cherry-pick it, make it sound much more exciting, usually by taking it out of context, often by juxtaposition of two pieces of information that don't belong together.” [New Yorker, 5/5/03; New York Times, 10/24/02; Inter Press Service, 8/7/03; Guardian, 7/17/03; Salon, 7/16/03; Mother Jones, 1/04; Independent, 9/30/03 Sources: Ellen Tauscher, Greg Thielmann, Unnamed former intelligence official]

The OSP bypasses established oversight procedures by sending its intelligence assessments directly to the White House and National Security Council without having them first vetted by a review process involving other US intelligence agencies. [Guardian, 7/17/03; Salon, 7/16/03; Mother Jones, 1/04; New Yorker, 5/5/03 Sources: Unnamed senior officer who left the Pentagon during the planning of the Iraq war, David Obey, Greg Thielmann]
The people at Special Plans are so successful at bypassing conventional procedures, in part, because their neoconservative colleagues hold key positions in several other agencies and offices. Their contacts in other agencies include: John Bolton, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International; Bolton's advisor, David Wurmser, a former research fellow on the Middle East at the American Enterprise Institute, who was just recently working in a secret Pentagon planning unit at Douglas Feith's office (see Shortly after September 11, 2001); Elizabeth Cheney, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs; Stephen Hadley, the deputy national security adviser; Elliott Abrams, The National Security Council's top Middle East aide; and Richard Perle, Newt Gingrich, James Woolsey and Kenneth Adelman of the Defense Policy Board. The office provides very little information about its work to other US intelligence offices. [Salon, 7/16/03; Inter Press Service, 8/7/03; Guardian, 7/17/03 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski, Unnamed An unnamed senior officer who left the Pentagon during the planning of the Iraq war, Greg Thielmann, David Obey]
Lastly, the people involved in Special Plans openly exhibit strong pro-Israel and anti-Arab bias. The problem, note critics, is that the analysis of intelligence is supposed to be apolitical and untainted by ideological viewpoints. [American Conservative, 12/1/03 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski]
According to a CIA intelligence official and four members of the Senate's Intelligence Committee, Special Plans is the group responsible for the claim Bush will make in his 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq had attempted to procure uranium from an African country (see January 28, 2003). [Information Clearing House, 7/16/03; The Nation, 6/19/03] After the existence of the Office of Special Plans is revealed to the public, the Pentagon will deny that it served as a direct conduit to the White House for misleading intelligence, instead claiming that its activities had been limited to postwar plans for Iraq. [New Yorker, 5/5/03] And a December 2003 opinion piece published in Insight magazine will call the allegations surrounding the Office of Special Plans the work of conspiracy theorists. [Insight, 12/2/03]
People and organizations involved: Colonel Bruner, James Woolsey, Newt Gingrich, Kenneth Adelman, Colin Powell, Richard Perle, Elliott Abrams, Stephen Hadley, Karen Kwiatkowski, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Abram Shulsky, David Wurmser, Elizabeth Cheney  Additional Info 
          

October 2002

       Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the London-based Iraqi National Congress (INC) meets with the executives of “three US oil multinationals to negotiate the carve-up of Iraq's massive oil reserves post-Saddam.” Also in attendance are “leading oilmen, exiled Iraqis, and lawyers.” The meeting, titled “Invading Iraq: dangers and opportunities for the energy sector,” meets “behind the closed doors of the Royal Institute of International Affairs” in London. Several weeks after the meeting one delegate will tell the Guardian that the whole day could have been summarized with: “Who gets the oil?” The meeting is confirmed by INC spokesman Zaab Sethna. [Observer, 11/3/02; Guardian, 11/22/02]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi
          

December 20-21, 2002

       The Oil and Energy Working Group, one of 17 such groups working under the US State Department's “Future of Iraq” project (see April 2002-March 2003), meets to discuss plans for the oil industry in a post-Saddam Iraq. People who are likely members of this group include Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, Sharif Ali Bin al Hussein of the Iraqi National Congress; recently defected personnel from Iraq's Ministry of Petroleum; the former Iraqi head of military intelligence; Sheikh Yamani, the former Oil Minister of Saudi Arabia; and unnamed representatives from the US Energy Department. The responsibilities of this working group include: (1) developing plans for restoring the petroleum sector in order to increase oil exports to partially pay for a possible US military occupation government. (2) reconsidering Iraq's continued membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and “whether it should be allowed to produce as much as possible or be limited by an OPEC quota.” (3) “consider[ing] whether to honor contracts made between the Hussein government and foreign oil companies, including the US $3.5 billion project to be carried out by Russian interests to redevelop Iraq's oilfields.” [US Department of State, 12/19/02; Observer, 11/3/02; Oil and Gas International, 10/30/02]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi, Sheikh Yamani
          

January 2003

       President George W. Bush meets with Iraqi exiles. According to a former senior White House official, after the meeting, Bush decides that the exiles will not be put in power in post-Saddam Iraq. “The future of this country ... is not going to be charted by people who sat out the sonofabitch (Saddam) in London or Cambridge, Massachusetts,” Bush is said to have stated. This effectively kills the Pentagon's plan to create an Iraqi-government-in-exile which was to include the Ahmed Chalabi, the president of the Iraqi National Congress (INC). [Knight Ridder, 7/12/03]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi, George W. Bush
          

Early 2003

       The US Defense Intelligence Agency [DIA] concludes early in 2003 that the intelligence being provided by dissidents supplied by the Iraqi National Congress is of little value. The New York Times reports that an internal DIA study has found that “dissidents invented or exaggerated their credentials as people with direct knowledge of the Iraqi government and its suspected unconventional weapons program.” [New York Times, 9/29/03; Independent, 9/30/03 Sources: Unnamed US officials] Unnamed officials interviewed by the Times say the defectors have been considered by the Defense Intelligence Agency to be dubious sources from the start. It is believed that the dissidents' motivation for talking has been money and their opposition to Saddam Hussein. The Times' sources say “they would not speculate on whether the defectors had knowingly provided false information and, if so, what their motivation might have been.” [New York Times, 9/29/03; Independent, 9/30/03 Sources: Unnamed US officials] The document reveals that more than $1 million was paid to Chalabi's group for information about Saddam Hussein's alleged banned weapons programs. [Independent, 9/30/03; New York Times, 9/29/03 Sources: Unnamed US officials]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi, Iraqi National Congress
          

January 30, 2003-January 31, 2003

       Colin Powell's chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson, meets with other State staffers and CIA analysts at the agency's Langley headquarters in a conference room down the hall from George Tenet's office to review two White House reports on Iraq's alleged illegal activities. The two dossiers are meant to serve as the basis for Powell's upcoming speech at the UN (see 10:30 a.m. February 5, 2003). One of the reports—a 48-page dossier that had been provided to Powell's office a few days earlier (see January 29, 2003) —deals with Iraq's supposed arsenal of weapons of mass destruction while the other, slightly more recent report totaling some 45 pages, addresses the issue of Iraq's history of human rights violations and its alleged ties to militant groups listed by the state department as terrorist organizations. [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pg 230] Shortly after the CIA analysts begin their review of the documents, the decision is made to scrap them and start from scratch. “They suspect much of it originated with the Iraqi National Congress (INC) and its chief, Ahmed Chalabi,” Vanity Fair magazine will later report. Powell's staff is also “convinced that much of it had been funneled directly to Cheney by a tiny separate intelligence unit set up by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.” [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pg 230] A senior source later tells US News and World Report that the documents had included “unsubstantiated assertions.” According to several administration officials, Powell's team “tried to follow ... [the] 45-page White House script,” but “there were too many problems—some assertions, for instance, were not supported by solid or adequate sourcing—Indeed, some of the damning information simply could not be proved.” [US News and World Report, 6/9/03 Sources: Unnamed senior source] Similarly, one senior official will later recall: “We went through that for about six-hours—item by item, page by page and about halfway through the day I realized this is idiocy, we cannot possibly do this, because it was all bullsh_t—it was unsourced, a lot of it was just out of the newpapers, it was—and I look back in retrospect—it was a [Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas] Feith product, it was a Scooter Libby product, it was a Vice President's office product. It was a product of collusion between that group. And it had no way of standing up, anywhere, I mean it was nuts.” [Bamford, 2004, pp 368-9] One item in the White House's original draft alleged that Iraq had obtained software from an Australian company that would provide Iraqis with sensitive information about US topography. The hawks' argument was that Iraqis, using that knowledge, could one day attack the US with biological or chemical weapons deployed from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). But when Powell's intelligence team investigated the issue, it became “clear that the information was not ironclad.” (see October 1, 2002) [US News and World Report, 6/9/03 Sources: Unnamed senior source] Summing it up, one official will later explain, “We were so appalled at what had arrived from the White House.” [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pg 230.]
People and organizations involved: Larry Wilkerson, Ahmed Chalabi, Colin Powell
          

Before March 2003

       The US trains between seven and eight hundred Iraqi exiles at the Taszar military base in Hungary. At the base, dubbed “Camp Freedom,” the exiles, or “Free Iraqi Forces” (FIF), are taught both survival skills and support functions. Most of those trained are believed to be supporters of INC president Ahmed Chalabi. [Reuters, 4/7/03; Knight Ridder, 7/12/03; AP, 4/1/03; BBC, 4/1/03]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi
          

April 13, 2003

       Appearing on NBC's “Meet the Press,” Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, says: “After (Gen. Jay Garner) finishes his job of restoring basic services, the interim Iraqi authority will be established. And that interim authority will be an authority of Iraqis, chosen by Iraqis. And it will be able to function as an authority in the country immediately after Gen. Garner's job is finished, which should be only a few weeks.” [US Department of Defense, 4/13/03]
People and organizations involved: Jay Garner, Ahmed Chalabi
          

May 1, 2003

       In an email to New York Times Baghdad bureau chief John Burns, reporter Judith Miller defends a story she filed on Ahmed Chalabi which had scooped a major story being written by another Times reporter. In her email she reveals that Chalabi was the source of most of her reporting on Iraq's alleged arsenal of WMD. She writes: “I've been covering Chalabi for about 10 years, and have done most of the stories about him for our paper, including the long takeout we recently did on him. He has provided most of the front page exclusives on WMD to our paper.” [Washington Post, 5/26/2003]
People and organizations involved: Judith Miller, John Burns, Ahmed Chalabi
          

(Late May 2003)

       Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, complains about the US occupation of Iraq that he played a pivotal role in bringing about. “They told us, ‘Liberation now,’ and then they made it occupation,” he says. “Bush said he was a liberator, not an occupier, and we supported the United States on this basis.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/29/03]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi
          

2004

       Journalist Andrew Cockburn asks an investigator who spent several years looking into the collapse of Ahmed Chalabi's Petra Bank if the US government has ever questioned him about the scandal. “No, not once,” he replies, adding that journalists have also avoided reporting about Chalabi's involvement in Petra Bank. [CounterPunch, 5/20/2004]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi, Petra Bank
          

February 18, 2004

       Ahmed Chalabi, president of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), tells the London Telegraph during an interview in Baghdad that he has no regrets that the intelligence he fed to the US turned out to be wrong. Though his group has been accused of intentionally providing misleading information to US intelligence through the Pentagon offices under Douglas Feith, he believes its members should be regarded as “heroes in error.” “As far as we're concerned we've been entirely successful,” he contends. “That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important. The Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat. We're ready to fall on our swords if he wants.” One of the most significant claims Colin Powell had made to the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003 had been supplied by a source supplied by the INC. In that case, a defected Iraqi major had claimed that Iraq possessed mobile bilogical weapons labs. [Telegraph, 2/19/04]
People and organizations involved: Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi
          

Spring 2004

       L. Marc Zell, a former law partner of Douglas Feith, tells Salon magazine: “Ahmed Chalabi is a treacherous, spineless turncoat. He had one set of friends before he was in power, and now he's got another.” Salon notes that Zell's “remarks ... represent his first public break with the would-be Iraqi leader.” Zell believes Chalabi pulled a deliberate bait and switch, telling neoconservatives what they wanted to hear so they would back his bid to be the future leader of Iraq. [Salon, 5/5/2004]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi, L. Marc Zell
          

June 4, 2004

       In an op-ed piece defending Ahmed Chalabi, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute writes that “throughout the 1990s, Chalabi was regularly accused of malfeasance by his enemies,” and asserts that the conviction in Jordan (see April 9, 1992) “has never been documented.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/4/2004]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi, Danielle Pletka
          

(December 2004)

       President Bush reportedly asks King Abdulla of Jordan to pardon Ahmed Chalabi for his role in the 1989 collapse of Petra Bank (see August 2, 1989). In 1992, a military court found Chalabi guilty on 31 counts of embezzlement and other charges, sentencing him to 22 years of hard labor and ordering him to return $230 million in embezzled funds (see April 9, 1992). According to Seymour Hersh, the king is “stunned” by the request. “How can he pardon Chalabi after what he had done?” Hersh asks. “The money he stole was from old women and children ... and he was reviled.” [Democracy Now!, 5/11/2005]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi, George W. Bush, Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein
          


Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under the Creative Commons License below:

Creative Commons License Home |  About this Site |  Development |  Donate |  Contact Us
Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Use