One of the grand “oops!” of the Bush invasion of Iraq was the apparent plan to impose neocon favorite Ahmed Chalabi as president of the new regime. Bad idea. A fellow of dubious background (a little bank fraud in Jordan) and even less domestic political support (he hadn’t lived in the country for decades), Chalabi was never going to be accepted by the Iraqi people. Just liberated from a dictator, they weren’t about to accept a flunky for foreigners as leader.
Disappointed by the turn of events, Chalabi reinvented himself as a friend of Iran. His electoral efforts won only dismal results, but he continued to operate behind the scenes. Now he’s BAACCCKKKK!
Reports the Washington Post:
Ahmed Chalabi, the onetime U.S. ally, is in the limelight again, and his actions are proving no less controversial than they did years ago.
On the eve of Iraq’s parliamentary elections, Chalabi is driving an effort aimed at weeding out candidates tied to Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. Chalabi is reprising a role he played after the U.S.-led invasion — which many critics believe he helped facilitate with faulty intelligence — and, in the process, is infuriating American officials and some Iraqis, who suspect his motive is to bolster his own political bloc.
Chalabi, a Shiite, has defended the work of the commission he is leading as legal and crucial during a period of transition to Iraq’s first sovereign government. But his reemergence on the political scene has rankled U.S. officials and fueled concerns that Sunnis and other secular Iraqis will be marginalized.
Some Iraqi and U.S. officials think Chalabi might have his eyes on the ultimate prize, however unlikely he can attain it.
“Even if it kills him, he’s going to stay in Iraq to try to become prime minister,” said Ezzat Shahbandar, a Shiite lawmaker from a competing slate who has known Chalabi for more than 20 years. “This issue is the only tool he has, because he has nothing else going for him.”
Chalabi fell out of favor with the Americans in 2004, after they accused him of spying for Iran. The year before, though, he had been appointed to head a U.S.-formed commission to rid the government of officials tied to Hussein’s regime.
Social engineering is hard enough in America. It’s even harder for Americans to do in foreign countries. The impossibility of micro-managing Iraqi affairs is another reason to rediscover that “humble foreign policy” candidate George W. Bush talked about.