US tests claims that Iran used Chalabi
By Guy Dinmore in Washington
Published: May 24 2004 21:18 | Last Updated: May 24 2004 21:18
US intelligence agencies are investigating whether Iran duped the US by passing false information on Iraq's weapons capabilities through Ahmad Chalabi while he was leading an Iraqi opposition group in exile, according to a former intelligence officer and US media reports.
Mr Chalabi, whose home and offices in Baghdad were raided last week by Iraqi police and plainclothes US "advisers", has defended himself over the weekend on US TV networks.
He denied passing US intelligence to Iran or false information to the US. Iraq's judiciary said it was seeking associates of Mr Chalabi on corruption and kidnapping charges. They include Aziz Habib, his intelligence officer.
Mr Chalabi accused George Tenet, CIA head, of trying to discredit him and challenged Mr Tenet to join him in testifying under oath to Congress.
Mr Chalabi has been defended by powerful supporters over the past week, including Paul Wolfowitz, deputy defence secretary, General Richard Myers, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and Richard Perle, a prominent neo-conservative and former Pentagon advisor.
It was no secret that Mr Chalabi had a long association with Iran, which backed his Iraqi National Congress (INC) in its efforts to unite Iraqi opposition against the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Patrick Lang, former head of the Middle East section of the Pentagon's Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), said he had learned from former intelligence colleagues that the DIA suspected Iran had used Mr Chalabi as a conduit for false intelligence to the US. The DIA, he said, also concluded that Mr Chalabi was passing information to the Iranians.
The CIA and FBI have made no comment in public, but are widely reported to be investigating Mr Chalabi.
Mr Lang said it was possible that Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, a prominent Iraqi Shia opposition leader based in Ira n since 1980, was also a conduit.
The ayatollah, who was killed in a huge bomb blast in Iraq last August, told the Financial Times during the build-up to the war that his organisation - the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) - had provided the US with information on Iraq's chemical weapons capabilities.
Conservative supporters of Mr Chalabi insist he is a victim of a smear campaign and the attacks on his character a nd the INC are politically motivated. The former banker has recently been highly critical of policies pursued by the US in Iraq.
TEHRAN'S TENTACLES OF TERROR
May 25, 2004
By AARON MANNES
AS the U.S. is distracted between preparing to hand over Iraqi sovereignty, the Abu Ghraib scandal and the ongoing fighting, Iran's mullahs carefully keep their eye on the ball - pursuing a nuclear-weapons capability, flooding Iraq with money and agents, infiltrating Afghanistan, supporting terrorism against Turkey and (with Syria) directing the Palestinian intifada.
The U.S. government seems to have focussed mainly on the nuclear issues - though we've semi-officially noticed, if not countered, the meddling in Iraq.
But Washington seems blind to the strategic challenge: Iran, in close coordination with its ally Syria and its proxy Hezbollah, is making a play at becoming the dominant power in the Middle East, with repercussions throughout the world.
For Iran, Iraq's fate is a winner-take-all contest. American success building a stable, free Iraq would leave Iran hemmed in by American-allied Afghanistan, Turkey and Iraq. But it would also be fatal ideologically to the oppressive Iranian theocracy.
Freed from Saddam's repression, new liberal interpretations of Islam could emerge from Iraq's holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. Already, the grandson of Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini has relocated to Iraq, where he denounced the Iranian regime as violating the spirit of Islam.
Alternately, if Iranian terror can drive America out of Iraq, Iran will be well positioned to fill the resulting power vacuum.
While Iranian-backed cleric Muqtada al-Sadr dominates today's headlines, he is by no means Iran's only, or even most important, proxy in Iraq. Iran is reportedly infiltrating thousands of operatives into Iraq. Hezbollah, which is closely linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, and which Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called the "A-Team of terrorists," is establishing a presence in Iraq. And Iran's TV and radio broadcasts to Iraq have dwarfed U.S. efforts at public diplomacy.
Sadr's rebellion may only be a test of U.S. reactions - with the real terror push to expel America.
But Iran's muscle-flexing extends beyond Iraq. With Arafat isolated and Hamas' leadership decimated, Hezbollah, with Iranian and Syrian support, is taking control of the Palestinian terrorist groups and directing the intifada.
Israel is Iran's real military rival in the region, but the Palestinian terrorists will help Iran counter Israel's military supremacy through a combination of suicide bombings and short-range rockets that can strike Israel's strategic infrastructure and population centers.
Iranian control over the Palestinian terrorist groups has implications beyond Israel. These groups have the means to undermine the pro-Western monarchy in strategically located Jordan, whose population is more than half Palestinian. Palestinians are also being recruited to join jihadists in Iraq, where Hamas has opened offices. Most ominously, the Palestinian terrorists could augment Hezbollah's ability to launch terror attacks worldwide.
Iran is also attempting to reduce American influence on its eastern and western borders. Iran dominates the western part of Afghanistan, where it is arming anti-American fighters and broadcasting anti-American propaganda.
To its west, Iran is linked to terrorism against Turkey. According to the Arabic daily al-Sharq al-Awsat, Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah's top killer who works closely with Iran's Revolutionary Guards, helped organize the November 2003 bombings in Turkey.
Turkey, a key U.S. ally, can defend itself militarily from Iran, but if the region is sliding under Iranian influence, the Turks might seek a pragmatic agreement with their radical Islamist neighbor.
Meanwhile, Iran keeps on seeking nuclear weapons as insurance against any American reaction. If the mullahs get the bomb, U.S. punitive strikes against the Iranian regime become very risky. U.S. forces in Iraq and the Persian Gulf would be hostage to nuclear terror while Iran masterminded a campaign of bombing, assassination and kidnapping against Americans and their Iraqi allies.
Iran's missiles could target Israel, Turkey and Europe. Hezbollah could threaten nuclear terror anywhere.
If Iran can successfully undermine the American endeavor in Iraq while destabilizing U.S. allies in the region, the blow to both America's position in the Middle East and its prestige worldwide would be incalculable. Iran would be free to export radical Islam, terrorism and WMD technology worldwide.
In this worst-case but all-too-conceivable scenario, a nuclear Iran could emerge as a radical Islamic superpower, locked in a global struggle with the United States, making the long war on terror much longer and much more dangerous.
Aaron Mannes is the author of the TerrorBlog (profilesinterror.com). His book "Profiles in Terror" is due out in September.