December 06, 2005

Tehran Backing Chalabi as Iraq's Next PM


By Ali Nourizadeh

London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi deputy prime minister and leader of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) party, has won the conditional support of the Iranian leadership for his decision to contest the elections independently of the "Unified Iraqi Coalition." Senior officials in Tehran have also expressed their support for Chalabi as the prime minister after the Iraqi elections to be held in mid-December if he wins enough seats in parliament that qualifies him to compete with the other likely leading candidates former Prime Minister Dr. Iyad Allawi, incumbent Prime Minister Dr. Ibrahim al-Jafari, and Adel Abdul Mahdi, the prominent leader in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution (SCIRI) and vice president.


A high-level source in the office of Iranian Guide Ali Khomeini has disclosed to "Asharq al-Awsat" that the supreme leadership in Tehran is deeply worried these days by the rise in Dr. Allawi's political fortunes after his success in forming an expanded list that includes important parties and national figures and in the wake of signals from Shiite religious leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani indicating his dismay and frustration with the failed performance of Dr. Al-Jafari's Government on one hand and on the other the failure of the deputies from SCIRI, Al-Dawah Party, and other Shiite parties to fulfill the promises they had made and the splits in the Unified Iraqi Coalition. The source pointed out that Ayatollah Al-Sistani has not only stopped opposing Allawi's return as head of the government but there are also indications that the supreme Shiite cleric views Allawi as the only Shiite politician capable of putting an end to the interference of the Iranian intelligence services and Revolutionary Guards (IRG) in Iraq's internal affairs.

The Iranian source added that Chalabi succeeded in persuading Iranian President Ahmadinezhad and Hashemi Shamrah, his highly influential adviser, that he is the only one capable of scheduling the US and British withdrawal from Iraq, that Washington and London trust and respect him, and that his presence as the head of the Iraqi government will reduce in a noticeable way Washington's fears from Iran's growing influence. At the same time, Tehran knows very well that Chalabi will not turn into an enemy because the ties that link him to the ruling regime in Iran are solid and old and will not be affected by any political storms or sudden turns in the present alliances in Iraq.

"Asharq al-Awsat" learned that a former adviser to Chalabi who had fled to Iran after US military intelligence in Iraq accused him of providing the Iranian Revolutionary Guards with secret information about the US military and security presence in Iraq and Iraqi officials' relations with former US Governor Paul Bremer played an important role in arranging Chalabi's visit to Tehran and his meeting with the officials there, foremost of them the Iranian president, the foreign minister, and senior officials in Khomeini's office, Iranian intelligence, and the IRG.

On the other hand, Colonel Ismail, the former officer in the IRG's intelligence service who fled from Iran, asserted to "Asharq al-Awsat" the validity of recent reports about the involvement of circles close to the IRG's Quds Corps in the plot to assassinate former Iraqi Prime Minister Dr. Allawi. Speaking to this newspaper, he gave details of the plan that was due to be implemented during Allawi's visit to Basra and said that the leader of a small Shiite party financed by the IRG's intelligence service was asked to announce his split from the Shiite "Unified Iraqi Coalition" and join the Iraqi list led by Allawi. This leader, who is also a member of the Iraqi National Assembly, has some popularity in Basra and Al-Zubayr and his mission was to accompany Allawi on an elections visit to these two cities. A unit of very well trained elements was moved from the IRG's Khatim al-Anbiya camp to Basra on the eve of the Shiite party's announcement of its split to wait for Allawi's arrival. The plot was to assassinate Allawi and his colleague Hujjat al-Islam Hussein al-Sadr, whose name tops the Iranian intelligence list of "enemies" together with the names of Allawi, Iyad Jamal-al-Din, and Dr. Adnan Pacachi. Col. Ismail disclosed that one of his colleagues in the IRG leaked details of the plot to the concerned organs in the British forces in Basra, thus foiling it after Dr. Allawi was briefed on this information. He added that the Shiite party's split from the "Unified Coalition" remained secret at Dr. Allawi's request.

December 6, 2005 08:38 PM







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