Chalabi and Re-Baathification

Posted by Cutler on November 07, 2006
Iraq, Right Zionists

Gideon Rachman, the “official” blogger of the Financial Times, recently ran into Ahmed Chalabi in London and it prompted a recollection of Chalabi’s role in the US invasion of Iraq.

Rachman notes a change in Chalabi’s “program” these days:

[I]n one significant respect, Chalabi’s message now differs markedly from that of his original neo-con sponsors. While they are clearly itching to take on Iran, Chalabi is urging reconciliation. He argues that the Iranians would be willing to play a positive role in stabilising Iraq, if Iran could be assured that the new Iraq would not then be used as base to attack them. Chalabi wants to convene a regional peace conference and worries that – “Iraq is being turned into a battleground between Iran and the United States.” But even though a respectable crowd turned out to see Chalabi today, I have the feeling that the man’s audience is dwindling away.

Chalabi has reinvented himself any number of different times, including one recent incarnation as an ally of Moqtada al-Sadr.

Perhaps feeling his audience “dwindling away,” Chalabi may be reinventing himself in an even more dramatic way as a champion of re-Baathification!

A Washington Post article–“Proposal Would Rehire Members of Hussein’s Party“–reports the following:

A high-ranking commission of Iraq’s Shiite-led government said Monday it had prepared a draft law that could return tens of thousands of former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party to their government jobs…

Ali al-Lami, executive director of the Supreme National Commission for de-Baathification, said in an interview that the commission had drafted a law for parliament that would give 1.5 million former Baathists who “excommunicate” themselves from the party the option of returning to their former government jobs or drawing a pension for their past employment…

Lami said 3,000 or so top former Baathists would be given their pensions but would not be allowed to resume government employment. And about 1,500 high-level former Baathists would be barred from ever resuming their jobs or drawing a pension.

This has all the markings of a Chalabi move.  Chalabi has always been the most ardent supporter of the “Commission for de-Baathification.”  And who is Lami? An article in Al Hayat from February 23, 2005, republished by the BBC on February 24, 2005 (no on-line link) identifies Lami in this way:

“Ali Faysal al-Lami [is a] member of the Shi’i Political Bureau and the political coordinator of the group in the United Iraqi Alliance that supports the nomination of Iraqi National Congress Leader Ahmad al-Chalabi to the post of prime minister.”

It would appear that Chalabi is now courting the Baathist insurgency.  Presumably, he has the strong support of US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad in this regard.

One wonders, however, if his Right Zionist friends are similarly prepared to adopt such a conciliatory approach to the “old guard” Sunni Arab Baathist ruling elite.   If so, this would be far more significant that all the pseudo-self-criticism that has been making news of late.

3 Comments to Chalabi and Re-Baathification

  • Today the Independent in the UK has reported that Khalizad may not be long of this world either to be replaced by the US ambassador of Pakistan- don’t know what you make of that but it might indicate a change of strategy

  • No sooner had Cockburn raised the issue of Khalilzad’s departure than White House spokesman Tony Snow tried to bat down the Khalilzad rumor. Nevertheless, a move to replace Khalilzad with the US ambassador to Pakistan–a man named Ryan Crocker–would hardly mark a change of strategy from Khalilzad’s attempt to win greater Sunni Arab participation.

    When Crocker was appointed to the Coalition Provisional Authority back in 2002, the Middle East Economic Digest (“Revealed–The Seven Men Who Will Run Iraq,” June 6, 2003) described Crocker as “A career US foreign service official and Arabist.”

    Michael Rubin had this to say about Crocker in May 2004:

    Of the first 18 senior advisers deployed to Baghdad, none were from the Defense Department; perhaps half were State Department bureau of Near Eastern affairs ambassadors or policy-planning staff members…
    Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Ryan Crocker became both Garner and Bremer’s governance director. He handpicked the political team, staffing it almost exclusively with career Near Eastern Affairs diplomats and members of the Policy Planning Staff.

    Back in 2003, Crocker had been rumored to be the leading candidate to serve as US Ambassador to Iraq. This brought howls of protest from Right Zionists. In an article entitled “State Department Giving Baghdad to House of Saud?,” Joel Mowbray had nothing kind to say about Crocker:

    State is already placing—or attempting to place—pro-Saudi individuals in important positions in a post-Saddam Iraq:… State’s top pick for ambassador to the post-Saddam Iraq is Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Ryan Crocker… Crocker will undoubtedly run into opposition from the White House, where the President’s vision of a democratic Iraq is diametrically opposed to Crocker’s view of the Arab world.

    That was a long time ago. Crocker hasn’t changed his vision. The same can not necessarily be said of the President’s vision.

  • It would appear that Chalabi is now courting the Baathist insurgency. Presumably, he has the strong support of US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad in this regard. One wonders, however, if his Right Zionist friends are similarly prepared to adopt such a conciliatory approach to the “old guard” Sunni Arab Baathist ruling elite.

    Just read that Khalizad is out (link from Informed Comment) and will be replaced by this spring. More evidence of a post-election Right Zionist resurgence?

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