Dual Loyalties

My opinion on the people who shape our world

Monday, March 21, 2005

Eli J. Lake Lobbies for Feith's OSP to Run the INC (Could He Be Shilling For Mossad) 1/9/02

Eli J. Lake on Iraq on National Review Online: "Botching Iraqi Policy
The State Department getting in the way.

By Eli J. Lake, State Department correspondent, United Press International
January 9, 2002 8:25 a.m.

ast week the State Department cut off nearly all funding for the Iraqi National Congress, citing financial mismanagement.

State claims the coalition of rebels has failed to implement the basic reforms called for in a U.S. audit completed last October. They complain that there are no procedures in place to account for how the INC's information-collection program spends its money. And they raise concerns over the effectiveness of other programs.

The INC counters that the program employs operatives in dangerous countries surrounding Iraq that can't have their names show up in a document that could be obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Sparking a revolution is, after all, messy business that doesn't neatly fit into annual ledgers.

The real problem is not how the rebels keep their books, but rather what they intend to do with the money that's on them. The INC's driving force, Ahmad Chalabi, has been fairly straightforward about how he intends to use American support. He wants to eventually train enough men to challenge a single Iraqi brigade and gain a foothold inside Iraq, a home address to attract more defectors and soldiers to fight Saddam. Chalabi came close to this goal in 1996 before the Kurdish Democratic Party allowed Saddam's troops to vanquish the remaining stronghold the INC had in northern Iraq in Erbil.

Not surprising, the State Department does not share the INC's view of itself. It would like for the group to be a political organization, nonviolently presenting alternative perspectives on Saddam's rule through newspapers and until recently a television station.

The problem in Iraq appears to not be so much a question of popular support for ousting their ruler but faith that a group of Saddam's opponents would have enough military muscle to protect them from the state's death squads. After all countless Iraqis were slaughtered in 1991 when the first President Bush told them to rise up against the regime and then allowed that regime to use its remaining helicopters to put down the rebellion.

In the last ten years, Iraqi people's faith inside in the opposition has weakened in the face of bungled coups and Washington's foot dragging. This trend appears to be exacerbated by a near four-year marriage between Chalabi's rebels and the State Department. Iraqi rebels do not need better accountants, they need weapons and training superior to the Iraqi Republican Guards (and probably lots of U.S. air power).

If the second President Bush is serious about toppling Saddam's government, he should not entrust this task to diplomats who are prized for their skills in negotiating with existing governments. The stated goal of Iraq policy for the INC, Congress, and, for that matter, the Republican party (according to the 2000 platform) is the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. In foreign policy speak this is called regime change, which is a nice way of saying war, the proper domain of the Pentagon.

But regime change runs counter to the grist of what the State Department does. Modern diplomacy is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of states within the international system. The notion was first sketched out in the 1815 Congress of Vienna and is enshrined in the chapter two of the United Nations Charter. The idea is simple, no matter what different governments think of each other, they may not interfere in each other's internal affairs, because every country is a sovereign entity. For this reason, much of the CIA's work is secret. Washington can't come right out and say they are influencing events inside a country because it violates the basic tenets of diplomacy.

Letting the diplomats manage an insurrection inside Iraq is akin to asking the director of Central Intelligence to negotiate a ceasefire between the Israelis and Palestinians. Admittedly, this is a bad analogy since the substance of the current U.S. ceasefire proposal for the holy land was negotiated by George Tenet last June. But it proves the point, the spymaster's ceasefire failed miserably, just ask the Israeli navy.

As abhorrent as Saddam's regime is, the United States still formally recognizes it as the government of Iraq. Mind you this hasn't stopped American spies from buying off various Saddam opponents or hatching coup plots, but the State Department at least doesn't have to worry about these matters. Contrast this with the Taliban, which the United States never recognized as the government of Afghanistan or the current warlords who run Somalia. The diplomatic problems with military action in those places are far less complicated.

Foggy Bottom has long been suspicious of Chalabi and his plans for insurrection inside Iraq. The State Department has opposed not only arming and training INC rebels but also a more modest plan to distribute humanitarian aid inside the country. In October, the State Department even sent an envoy to London to urge the INC's leadership not to make defectors the group recruited available to journalists and other U.S. intelligence agencies.

Meanwhile, the primary Iraq policy goal of the State Department, at least under Colin Powell, has been the modification of international sanctions against Iraq. This policy by its nature recognizes the legitimacy of Saddam's regime because if "smart sanctions" work then they will persuade him to allow weapons inspectors inside the country. As one State Department official told me recently, "Regime change is plan B if the sanctions don't work."

The Pentagon opposed smart sanctions from the beginning of the administration and also made a modest grab for the INC account in the early part of the 2002 budget process. The reason is because people who work at the Pentagon focus on winning wars. Most analysts there believe that Saddam Hussein is at war with the United States and should therefore be defeated, Congress of Vienna be damned. After all, the guy tried to kill the first President Bush in Kuwait and won't live up to the terms of the agreements he signed to end the Gulf War back in 1991 anyway.

Fortunately for President Bush, the Pentagon employs many experts in the kind of war likely to be most successful against Saddam. They reside in the office of Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict. If the president wishes to end Saddam Hussein's career as a statesman he should transfer INC responsibilities to the SOLIC offices.

If not, he should just come out and say he opposes regime change in Iraq and propose legislation reversing the Iraq Liberation Act that set aside the first bundle of money for the INC in 1998. In the meantime he should do Colin Powell and Ahmad Chalabi both a favor and promise them that neither will have to deal with each other again."

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