Iraqi Congress used by Iran

Sources say U.S. funded arm of Iraqi Congress was used by Iran
22 May 2004, Knut Royce, New York Newsday

WASHINGTON - The Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that a U.S.-funded arm of Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress has been used for years by Iranian intelligence to pass disinformation to the United States and to collect highly sensitive American secrets, according to intelligence sources.

"Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the United States through Chalabi by furnishing through his Information Collection Program information to provoke the United States into getting rid of Saddam Hussein," said an intelligence source Friday who was briefed on the Defense Intelligence Agency's conclusions, which were based on a review of thousands of internal documents.

The Information Collection Program also "kept the Iranians informed about what we were doing" by passing classified U.S. documents and other sensitive information, he said. The program has received millions of dollars from the U.S. government over several years.

An administration official confirmed that "highly classified information had been provided [to the Iranians] through that channel."

The Defense Department this week halted payment of $340,000 a month to Chalabi's program. Chalabi had long been the favorite of the Pentagon's civilian leadership. Intelligence sources say Chalabi himself has passed on sensitive U.S. intelligence to the Iranians.

Patrick Lang, former director of the intelligence agency's Middle East branch, said he had been told by colleagues in the intelligence community that Chalabi's U.S.-funded program to provide information about weapons of mass destruction and insurgents was effectively an Iranian intelligence operation. "They [the Iranians] knew exactly what we were up to," he said.

He described it as "one of the most sophisticated and successful intelligence operations in history."

"I'm a spook. I appreciate good work. This was good work," he said.

An intelligence agency spokesman would not discuss questions about his agency's internal conclusions about the alleged Iranian operation. But he said some of its information had been helpful to the United States. "Some of the information was great, especially as it pertained to arresting high value targets and on force protection issues," he said. "And some of the information wasn't so great."

At the center of the alleged Iranian intelligence operation, according to administration officials and intelligence sources, is Aras Karim Habib, a 47-year-old Shia Kurd who was named in an arrest warrant issued during a raid on Chalabi's home and offices in Baghdad Thursday. He eluded arrest.

Karim, who sometimes goes by the last name of Habib, is in charge of the information collection program.

The intelligence source briefed on the Defense Intelligence Agency's conclusions said that Karim's "fingerprints are all over it."

"There was an ongoing intelligence relationship between Karim and the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, all funded by the U.S. government, inadvertently," he said.

The Iraqi National Congress has received about $40 million in U.S. funds over the past four years, including $33 million from the State Department and $6 million from the Defense Intelligence Agency.

In Baghdad after the war, Karim's operation was run out of the fourth floor of a secure intelligence headquarters building, while the intelligence agency was on the floor above, according to an Iraqi source who knows Karim well.

The links between the Iraqi National Congress and U.S. intelligence go back to at least 1992, when Karim was picked by Chalabi to run his security and military operations.

Indications that Iran, which fought a bloody war against Iraq during the 1980s, was trying to lure the United States into action against Saddam Hussein appeared many years before the Bush administration decided in 2001 that ousting Hussein was a national priority.

In 1995, for instance, Khidhir Hamza, who had once worked in Iraq's nuclear program and whose claims that Iraq had continued a massive bomb program in the 1990s are now largely discredited, gave UN nuclear inspectors what appeared to be explosive documents about Iraq's program. Hamza, who fled Iraq in 1994, teamed up with Chalabi after his escape.

The documents, which referred to results of experiments on enriched uranium in the bomb's core, were almost flawless, according to Andrew Cockburn's recent account of the event in the political newsletter CounterPunch.

But the inspectors were troubled by one minor matter: Some technical descriptions used terms that would only be used by an Iranian. They determined the original copy was written in Farsi by an Iranian scientist and then translated into Arabic.

And the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded the documents were fraudulent.

Query: If treason is a capital crime then why is Chalabi "doing the Sunday talk shows?" Shouldn't he be in custody?

Observation: Note the line, "The links between the Iraqi National Congress and U.S. intelligence go back to at least 1992, when Karim was picked by Chalabi to run his security and military operations." The latest talking point?

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