So on May 11, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote a column with the headline, “For Iraqis to Win, the U.S. Must Lose.” The point was pretty basic — the people who eventually end up with power are not going to be people who are seen as US stooges. Going into the war, the biggest US stooge was Ahmed Chalabi. As it turns out, the Bush administration was his stooge, but I doubt that’s how it’s perceived in Iraq.
Earlier this week, Chalabi’s funding was cut off by the Pentagon, as of today he’s been thrown off the Interim Governing Council, and his home and offices have been raided. That would seem to indicate that he’s completely out of favor with his former allies in the Bush administration, but perhaps the alternate explanation makes more sense. Recent polls have shown that Muqtada al-Sadr, who has been under assault by the coalition for a couple of months, is the second most popular leader in Iraq. The most popular, Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani, has had a somewhat rocky relationship with the coalition as well. Could it be that the Pentagon is throwing Chalabi in the briar patch in order to boost his legitimacy going into the handover on June 30 and the elections (whenever they happen)? As it is, Lakhdar Brahimi has said he isn’t going to include Chalabi in the caretaker government, so Chalabi is out of power in a month either way. If he’s the guy the the Pentagon really trusts, then kicking him while he’s down may be the best move possible to increase his political viability. This possibility was raised in a comment over at Dangerousmeta, and I felt compelled to post about it myself.
Update: Josh Marshall makes a pretty good argument that the conspiratorial view of Chalabi-related events is probably off base.