Chalabi's House Raided by U.S. Troops
By Scott Wilson and Ariana Cha
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, May 20, 2004; 1:50 PM
BAGHDAD, May 20 -- U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police on Thursday raided the home of Ahmad Chalabi, a Governing Council member who was once the Pentagon's pick to run post-war Iraq, and two office buildings used by his Iraqi National Congress.
U.S. troops detained three guards and seized computers, dozens of rifles, and files from the offices of the INC, a coalition of parties headed by Chalabi that opposed Saddam Hussein from exile.
Hours after the morning raids, a U.S. official and an Iraqi judge disclosed to reporters that arrest warrants had been issued for 15 people on charges of kidnapping, fraud and "associated matters."
Eight of the people on the list have been declared fugitives, the judge said. Each of them is associated with the INC. The judge said the men had illegally detained and tortured people, stolen government cars for personal use and illegally taken over government facilities.
INC officials said about 100 U.S. soldiers arrived in the neighborhood before the raids began, and that Iraqi police carried out much of the search at the direction of an American in civilian clothes whom they identified as an official with Central Intelligence Agency.
Boot prints marked several doors kicked down in the raids, which included a top-to-bottom search of the INC's intelligence offices.
Chalabi, at a news conference later, was furious. "They invaded the home of a Governing Council member a few days after the president of the Governing Council was blown up by terrorist actions at an American checkpoint," he said, according to the Associated Press.
Brandishing a framed picture on which the glass was shattered, he accused troops and police of rousing him from his bed, ransacking his office, removing documents and a valuable copy of the Koran and "vandalizing" his belongings.
He said U.S. officials disliked his opposition to former members of Hussein's Baath Party, his efforts to investigate kickbacks paid by foreigners to Hussein under the U.N. oil-for-food program and his demands for full Iraqi control over the armed forces after a U.S. handover of limited sovereignty, planned for June 30.
"Let my people go. Let my people be free. It is time for the Iraqi people to run their affairs," Chalabi said.
The raids appeared to complete Chalabi's remarkable fall from grace in Washington during the past year while U.S. troops occupied Iraq. The Defense Intelligence Agency decided earlier this month to end a $340,000 monthly payment to the INC's intelligence arm, the source for much of the pre-war information on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction that were President Bush's rationale for toppling Hussein.
"This is a political conspiracy and political pressure," said Haider Musawi, an INC official who spoke with reporters at the party's headquarters in a lavish home once occupied by Hussein's half-brother. "We have been talking about full sovereignty for the Iraqi people. We have been talking about a corruption investigation into the U.N. programs. We knew that they were preparing something against us for some time."
Chalabi, a wealthy businessman who returned to Iraq after decades of exile in London, won favor among Pentagon officials before the war for his ardent opposition to Hussein and as a generous source of information on Iraq's weapons programs. He is also a moderate Shiite Muslim, making him a potentially important bridge to Iraq's majority religious community.
But it became clear soon after the fall of Baghdad that Chalabi enjoyed little support inside Iraq, and much of his pre-war intelligence has turned out to be wrong or "intentionally misleading," according to a recent U.S. assessment. The failure to find weapons of mass destruction has become a political liability for Bush during an election year, and Chalabi's relationship with his former patrons at the Pentagon has soured accordingly.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company