Ahmed Chalabi, the conniving Shiite Iraqi politician who likely fed US officials bad intelligence before the Iraq war, is up to his old tricks yet again. Chalabi’s latest controversy, the New York Times reported today, is one of two politicians blocking candidates in Iraq’s upcoming parliamentary election with ties to Iran. The top US commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, told the Times that Chalabi and Ali Faisal al-Lami, one of Chalabi’s aides, are “clearly influenced by Iran” and that the US has “direct intelligence that tells us that.” Odierno said Chalabi and al-Lami have had several meetings in Iran, including one with an Iranian on the US’ terrorist watch list. The parliamentary blocking manuevers are an ongoing controversy in Iraq—the blockers say they’re trying to purge candidates with former ties to Saddam Hussein, while blacklisted Sunnis say the block is sectarian-fueled and the result of outside pressure from countries like Iran. What’s for certain is debacle’s potential to undermine Iraq’s elections next month.
For Chalabi, these allegations are merely latest twist in the long, strange journey of a brazen, amibitious, crooked man. From influential lobbyist and darling of Congress to arbiter of false intelligence and opportunist in the wake of Saddam’s fall, no narrative of the Iraq war is complete without Chalabi, his manipulation of US leaders, and his illusions of grandeur as the new leader of a liberated Iraq—a vision, of course, that never came true. Now, in the latest act of a bad drama that won’t end, Chalabi is allegedly doing the bidding of an increasingly dictatorial and militaristic country to undermine Iraq’s early slivers of democracy and one of Obama’s few foreign policy successes. He is, in short, the headache that just won’t go away for American foreign-policy leaders.