Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chalabi and guy pal al-Lami

al-Lami is a Sadrist by trade. He was arrested after an operation in Sadr City where both Iraqi security forces, U.S. civilians, and U.S. soldiers were leaving a meeting that they had with the local government in Sadr City, and their vehicles were attacked with IEDs as they left the meeting. There were some accusations. We had some intelligence that said that al-Lami was the one who directed these attacks on these individuals. He was released in August of '09 as part of the drawdown of our detention facilities because we did not have the actual prosecutorial evidence in order to bring him in front of a court of law in Iraq. All we had was intelligence that linked him to this attack. So, as we had some others, we had to release him. He has been involved in very nefarious activities in Iraq for some time. It is disappointing that somebody like him was in fact put in charge or has been able to run this commission inside of Iraq, in my opinion.
He is -- him and Chalabi clearly are influenced by Iran. We have direct intelligence that tells us that. They've had several meetings in Iran, meeting with a man named Mohandas, which is an ex-council representative member -- still is a council representative member -- who was on the terrorist watch list for a bombing in Kuwait in the 1980s. They are tied to him. He sits at the right-hand side of the Quds Force commandant, Qassem Soleimani. And we believe they're absolutely involved in influencing the outcome of the election. And it's concerning that they've been able to do that over time.

The above is Ray Odierno speaking Tuesday. From yesterday's snapshot: "Speaking to DC's Institute For the Study of War today by video link, the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, declared that Chalabi and Ali al-Lami are strongly influenced by the government of Iran and that they meet with senior-level members of the Iranian government regularly. Lara Jakes and Anne Flaherty (AP) report, 'Odierno told an audience in Washington at the Institute for the Study of War that al-Lami "has been involved in various nefarious activities in Iraq for sometime" and called it "disappointing" that he was put in charge of the commission'." Correction to that, Odierno was broadcast online (live) by video link but he was in DC when speaking. In today's New York Times, Thom Shanker reports on the videolink conversation and terms Odierno's remarks "unusually blunt". Jason Ditz (Antiwar) offers, "Though the conspiracies may be interesting to speculate about, the truth may be far simpler. Chalabi's political bloc stands to gain considerably with the effective destruction of the rival Allawi bloc, and he hardly needed a foreign dictate to see a political opportunity and take it." Eli Lake (Washington Times) adds:

The Washington Times reported in August that Mr. al-Lami was arrested in 2008 on suspicion that he was a liaison for Mr. Chalabi with an Iranian-backed militia group in Iraq known as the League of the Righteous.
Gen. Odierno said intelligence reports suggested that Mr. al-Lami had planned an attack on U.S. and Iraqi officials in Sadr City. Mr. al-Lami said he was tortured in a special prison run by foreign contractors and that he was innocent of the charges against him.
"He was released in August 2009. We did not have the prosecutorial evidence in order to bring him in front of a court of law. All we had was intelligence on this," Gen. Odierno said.
Francis Brooke, the Washington adviser to Mr. al-Lami's patron, Mr. Chalabi, said Gen. Odierno showed a "profound lack of understanding of Iraqi politics."

For those unfamiliar with the League of Righteous, they currently boast of having kidnapped a 60-year-old US contractor, Issa T. Salomi. They kidnapped 5 British citizens in Baghdad and, when Barack Obama's administration entered into negotiations with them, released 3 corpses and 1 hostage alive (Peter Moore was the one alive) after their leaders were released from prison -- al-Lami is thought to have been released as part of that trade. The Obama administration's decision to enter into talks with the group was shocking considering the group also brags of their attack on a US military base in Iraq in which five American soldiers were killed.

Tony Rennell (Telegraph of London) provides an adaptation of Mark Urban's new book Task Force Black which notes the League of Righteous:

There was further retaliation to come in May 2007 when Peter Moore, a British computer expert, and his four bodyguards were seized by gunmen at the finance ministry in Baghdad and held hostage.
The kidnappers identified themselves as the 'League of the Righteous', a name known to be used by associates of the Khazalis. In return for the hostages, they demanded the release of the Khazali brothers and a number of other individuals detained in raids by special forces.
Late last year, Moore was unexpectedly released by his captors after more than two-and-a-half years in captivity. In return, Qais Khazali was transferred from U.S. to Iraqi custody with the understanding that he would soon be released.
Moore's bodyguards - Jason Swindlehurst, Jason Creswell, Alec MacLachlan and Alan McMenemy - however, never returned home. They were dead, shot by their kidnappers, the unfortunate and unforeseen collateral damage from the SAS taking on the insurgents in Iraq and their Iranian paymasters.

The corpses of Jason Swindlehurst, Jason Creswell and Alec MacLachlan have been turned over. The British government believes Alan McMenemy is dead. A self-promoter in Baghdad (in and out of Baghdad) got a lot of news attention in December claiming McMenemy was alive and would be handed over in a matter of days. That did not happen. England's Channel 4 News notes:

Mr McMenemy was last seen alive in a hostage video broadcast in July 2008 by his captors - believed to be an Iraqi group called The League of the Righteous. The father-of-two appealed to the British government to take action to allow his to return to family in Scotland.

Daniel Dombey (Financial Times of London) adds, "Gen Odierno also alleged that Mr Lami and Mr Chalabi had crossed into Iran for meetings with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi who advises the Revolutionary Guard and is on the US terrorist list for alleged involvement in 1980s bombing of western embassies." Viola Ginger (Bloomberg News) covers the story here. Laura Rozen (Politico) reports that Odierno and Chris Hill (US Ambassador to Iraq) are scheduled to meet with Joe Biden and Barack at the White House today.

Meanwhile Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports on the sectarian violence that is bubbling back up in Iraq (never completely vanished, it is now more visible):

The Mashhadani family, which is Sunni, has lived in Hurriyah for 40 years, save two years when family members were forced to flee. They say it's once again time to leave.
On Jan. 23, Omar Mashhadani sat on a flimsy mattress in his living room, waiting to watch a soccer game on television. There was a knock at the door.
When Omar answered, he was shot at least three times.
His brother, Jassim, and his mother, Nadima Taha Yasseen, rushed toward the front door. Omar limped into his brother's arms, the Iraqi flag on his green jersey soaked in blood.
No one came to the family's aid. No one helped load Omar into the minibus that took him to the hospital. No men came to pay condolences after he died last month; they were too afraid to openly mourn his death.

The last time Iraq held national elections for Parliament, a number of candidates campaigned by attacking other ethnic groupings and stoking the sectarian tensions. A similar dynamic has emerged in the lead up to the elections scheduled for March 7th. What followed the last elections were two years of ethnic cleansing usually referred to as "the civil war." It's all guess work at this point what will follow Nouri and the thugs effort to reinflame sectarian tensions. John Leland and Riyadh Mohammed (New York Times) report that despite the hope that women made little gains in Iraqi society following the 2005 elections, there is a belief that things might be different this time:

Now, as the campaign begins for the country's second post-invasion parliamentary vote, on March 7, some women say a new female political class is starting to emerge. In one sign of this development, 12 women from outside the political system have formed their own party, with a platform built on women's rights and a jobs program for Iraq's more than 700,000 widows.
"People can see we are independent and we are not working for any party in Iraq," said Jenan Mubark, who organized the slate because, she said, women were often marginalized within parties. "They can see we just want to empower Iraqi women in the educational and economic sectors. It's a very wide range of objectives, but I believe that Iraqi women need it."
Iraqi women have higher rates of poverty and unemployment than men, and lower levels of education.

Violence continues in Iraq. Reuters notes that the corpse of an Iraqi Christian was discovered in Mosul with gun shot wounds (this is the 4th Iraqi Christian shot dead since Friday, a fifth was wounded in a shooting), a Mosul roadside bombing which left five people injured, 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Mosul, 1 Kurdish military member shot dead in Tuz Khurmato and, dropping back to yesterday, a Mosul grenade attack that injured a young girl.

We'll note this from Alan Maass' "The bankers' best friend" (US Socialist Worker):

PITY POOR Barack Obama.
In a high-profile interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the leader of the most powerful government on the planet complained about "the irony...that on the left, we are perceived as being in the pockets of big business, and then on the business side, we are perceived as being anti-business."
It's hard not to feel sympathy for the victim of such an irony, for sure.
But then again, Obama showed which of the two supposed misunderstandings he really wanted to clear up--by spending the rest of the interview pledging his devotion to corporations and capitalism.
"You would be hard-pressed to identify a piece of legislation that we have proposed out there that, net, is not good for businesses," Obama insisted. "We are pro-growth. We are fierce advocates for a thriving, dynamic free market."
Any liberals who believed--on scant evidence--that Obama and his administration had reacted to the Republican victory in the special Senate election in Massachusetts last month by "going populist" were sorely disappointed.

Those who would like more on the topic of that interview can refer to Doug Henwood's Behind the News which airs on WBAI and KPFA and the latest episode (not yet in the archives) from last week addressed the interview with Bloomberg Business Week.

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