Saturday, April 19, 2003

Once A Thief?

Chalabi, a convicted in absentia embezzler who left Iraq when he was 12 years old, isn't being welcomed as a 'leader'. Whether or not he can explain away his problematic past he's being treated as a thief now, one who is working for the U.S..

As Ahmed Chalabi, the Pentagon's candidate for leader of Iraq, was being asked if he was a thief, the sound of gunfire interrupted the press conference. Mr Chalabi insisted his conviction for embezzling $60m (£38m) was all a plot.

Outside, one of his supporters, Haqi Ismail, sat in shock dabbing the graze on his nose from one of the eight bullets fired into his pick-up truck.


What did he think of the fact that the few people who have heard of him in Baghdad think he is a thief, he was asked. He responded: "This was an aggression committed against me by the Jordanian military at the behest of Saddam's regime. This issue has never been raised by the [Iraqi] people who have come to see me. I will clarify this issue very soon."

In an increasingly surreal atmosphere he refused to explain what the flag of his movement – yellow, green and blue with what looked like red cluster bombs in the middle – symbolised. It was being carried by the Free Iraqi Forces, he said. But who exactly were they? "They are brave volunteers who are part of the coalition forces. Just like the British they are under General Tommy Franks," he responded.

How did he explain that these volunteers have told journalists that they were in fact being paid around $300 a month by him, Mr Chalabi. "It is not $300, that is not the right figure," said Mr Chalabi looking rather alarmed, perhaps at the prospect that he was overpaying them by mistake.

Outside, Mr Ismail was examining bullet holes on the headrest of his seat. What did he think? "I think maybe some people do not like Mr Chalabi too much," he ventured.

According to The Telegraph;

The meeting is taking place even as Ahmad Chalabi, the returned Iraqi exile and favourite of the Pentagon, has set up offices in Baghdad. Mr Chalabi is seen in the Arab world as an outsider and lacking the forces on the ground needed to impose a brutal form of order on Iraq.

But there were signs of a softening towards him. The pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat reported that Jordan, where Mr Chalabi was sentenced in absentia to 22 years in jail for bank fraud in 1992, had changed legislation to allow the conviction to be lifted.

The meeting the Telegraph excerpt refers to was one attended by 'Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey - as well as Egypt and Bahrain, current chairman of the Arab League.'

Each country has its concerns leading to their call for a boycott of any U.S.-led administration of Iraq. But according to this Independent article those concerns aren't exactly on the front-burner of the Bush administration as Colin Powell has announced he is heading to Syria to 'read the riot act to the President, Bashar al-Assad, over the alleged shelter provided for members of the former Iraqi regime and pursuit of chemical weapons.'

No comments: