Profile: Ahmed Chalabi

Ahmed Chalabi has been a powerful force behind purging Baathists from Iraqi politics.

Chalabi provided US and UK forces with key information, later debunked, prior to the war [AFP]

Ahmed Chalabi, the head of the once exiled Iraq National Congress (INC), is known within US intelligence circles has having been the main source of information on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programmes.

After the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, it emerged that the CIA had been strongly sceptical of Chalabi’s claims about Iraq’s mobile chemical warfare labs. Much of the information he provided the US and UK as they prepared for war was later debunked.

Chalabi was born in 1945 to an affluent Shia family in Baghdad, but in 1956 he left for the US and Britain.

In 1969, he graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in mathematics.

In 1977, he moved to Amman, Jordan where he helped established the Petra Bank which later went bankrupt and he fled the country. A decade later, a Jordanian military tribunal sentenced him in absentia to 22 years in prison for alleged fraud.

Chalabi has always maintained his innocence and blamed Saddam Hussein’s government for being behind a conspiracy to discredit him.

Opposition to Saddam

A long-time opposition figure dedicated to overthrowing the government of Saddam Hussein, Chalabi established the INC in 1992.

In the mid-1990s, Chalabi returned to Iraq for the first time in nearly 40 years, but remained in the Kurd-administered northern no-fly zone where he enjoyed the protection of the peshmerga opposed to Baghdad.

With assistance from other opposition groups, such as Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Accord, he attempted to organise a revolt against Saddam Hussein but this failed when Iraqi security services agents – the Mukhabarat – infiltrated the operation.

In 1998, the Clinton administration pushed through Congress the Iraq Liberation Act, which provided $100 million to Iraqi opposition groups – headed by the INC – to topple Saddam Hussein

Interim Governing Council

He returned to Iraq in the early days of the US-led invasion in March 2003 and shortly after the ouster of Saddam Hussein’s government was appointed to the 25-member interim Iraqi Governing Council by Coalition Provisional Authority chief Paul Bremer.

In May 2003, Chalabi also chaired the Supreme National Commission for de-Baathification, dedicated to purging Baathists from all walks of Iraq’s political process.

In 2004, the Petra Bank affair returned to haunt him when US senators called for an audit into INC spending habits.

Shortly thereafter, US forces raided his house in Baghdad. Leaked information alleged that Chalabi passed vital information to Iran.

In Iraq’s first post-war elections in January 2005, Chalabi formed the National Congress Coalition, but failed to win a single seat in parliament.

He is currently running as a candidate of the Iraqi National Alliance, a bloc mainly of Shia religious parties, which is headed by Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the former prime minister.

Source: Al Jazeera