Spy Games

Via Cursor I read this very interesting piece by The Guardian's Julian Borger on the growing suspicion that Ahmad Chalabi's INC — and therefore the United States — was doing the bidding of the Iranian government by invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein. (Cursor notes that this follows up on pieces in Time and Newsweek, if you prefer your news from domesticated domestic sources.)

Here's the beginning of Borger's piece:

An urgent investigation has been launched in Washington into whether Iran played a role in manipulating the United States into the Iraq war by passing on bogus intelligence through Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, it emerged [Monday].

Some intelligence officials now believe that Iran used the hawks in the Pentagon and the White House to get rid of a hostile neighbor, and pave the way for a Shia-ruled Iraq.

According to a U.S. intelligence official, the CIA has hard evidence that Mr. Chalabi and his intelligence chief, Aras Karim Habib, passed U.S. secrets to Tehran, and that Mr. Habib has been a paid Iranian agent for several years, involved in passing intelligence in both directions. …

The implications are far-reaching. Mr. Chalabi and Mr. Habib were the channels for much of the intelligence on Iraqi weapons on which Washington built its case for war.

"It's pretty clear that Iranians had us for breakfast, lunch and dinner," said an intelligence source in Washington yesterday. "Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the U.S. for several years through Chalabi."

War supporters, of course, will rightly point out that just because the "axis of evil" leaders in Iran wanted the United States to topple Saddam's regime — and deceived/manipulated the Bush administration into doing it — doesn't mean it was the wrong thing to do. The FBI shouldn't hesitate to prosecute a mafioso just because doing so would also please his rival mob bosses. (Although, of course, they ought not to base their case on unverified evidence supplied by those rival bosses.)

But advocates of the democratic domino theory ought to at least consider that the mullahs in Iran ascribe to a different theory. They don't seem to think that the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq will result in the spread of Western-style democracy throughout the region. Their theory may be wrong as well, but it's also possible they know things about the region that folks like Richard Perle do not.

And any notion that the war in Iraq sends a strong warning signal to the regime in Tehran seems a bit silly if the allegations about Chalabi and the Iranians prove to be true. Tehran seems less afraid of the overstretched American military than it is of Al Jazeera and the rise of a free Arab press.

Unable to get a comment from INC officials, Borger talks with Laurie Mylroie — a sort of unofficial official of the INC who for years has promoted the idea that Saddam Hussein is the driving force of evil in the world — the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, razor blades in apples at Halloween, declining standardized test scores, acid-washed jeans and the WB's decision to cancel Angel. Mylroie:

… dismissed the allegations as the product of a grudge among CIA and state department officials driven by a pro-Sunni, anti-Shia bias.

She said that after the CIA raised questions about Mr Habib's Iranian links, the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency conducted a lie-detector test on him in 2002, which he passed with "flying colors."

Here we learn, tangentially, that U.K. journalistic standards permit reference to mythical devices. There is no such thing as a "lie detector," which is why you won't read the phrase in most American papers. Mylroie is probably referring to a polygraph — a device which, as its name suggests, measures multiple things — none of which is whether a person is telling the truth.

That aside, we come to a very interesting passage. Mylroie is angry that the CIA has never trusted her boy Chalabi, and even angrier now that he's got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Speaking of the CIA, Mylroie says: "This is people who opposed the war with long knives drawn for people who supported the war."

Mylroie regards the CIA as "people who opposed the war." Interesting. Why does the CIA hate America?

  • Leigh

    Starting wars between the US and the Middle East is what Osama was after too wasn’t it?

  • Simon St.Laurent

    I seem to remember the Iranians buying some fine weaponry from us a decade and a half or so ago as well. Hmmm….

  • Sonicg

    Maybe Perle really does know something about the region. How’s this for a turnabout:
    “I would be the first to acknowledge we allowed the liberation (of Iraq) to subside into an occupation. And I think that was a grave error, and in some ways a continuing error,” said Perle, former chair of the influential Defence Policy Board, which advises the Pentagon. (quoted in the Toronto Star)
    He made the comments to the BBC so maybe he’s hiding out there since he’s probably responsible for passing top secret info. to Chalabi.

  • Michael

    Iran is afraid of Al-Jazeera?
    Well, at least they didn’t trick the Americans into bombing Al-Jazeera’s offices and killing its correspondents!
    They did? Oh.

  • James

    Growing up in the UK, I heard the phrase ‘lie detector’ thrown around a lot. It’s pretty common parlance, and most people realise that the various techniques it refers to have their flaws.

  • Katherine

    If people who opposed the war had “long knives drawn” and the CIA opposed the war, does that mean Mylroie just compared the CIA to Hitler? I am impressed.
    The Night of the Long Knives was a political purge by Hitler and his clique, of his opponents in the Nazi party. He killed everyone he deemed a political threat, including Ernst Roehm, the leader of the SA (the brownshirts).
    And if she didn’t intend to call up that piece of history, why did she use such a specific phrase?

  • dave heasman

    Not just English journalists. This via Billmon today : -
    “the feds are also interviewing and giving lie-detector tests to U.S. officials in Iraq who may have had access to the information.
    Time magazine
    Inside The Takedown
    June 7, 2004 issue”


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