The Slatest

Discredited, U.S.-Backed Iraq War Advocate Ahmed Chalabi Dies at 71

Ahmed Chalabi with U.S. officials Jay Garner (right) and Paul Bremer (center) in Baghdad on May 16, 2003.

Zohra Bensemra/AFP/Getty Images


Ahmed Chalabi—the Iraqi exile whose Iraqi National Congress opposition group was funded by the United States for years, and who helped spread later-discredited claims about Saddam Hussein’s purported weapons of mass destruction programs that were a major reason many Americans backed the second Iraq war—has reportedly died in Baghdad of a heart attack at age 71.

Chalabi served as Iraqi oil minister and deputy prime minister in 2005 and 2006 but by that point had already fallen out with the Bush administration. From the New York Times:

As it became clear that Iraq did not have an active chemical, biological or nuclear weapons program and as the occupying American forces did not receive the welcome that the Iraqi opposition had predicted, the Bush administration distanced itself from him.

One year after the invasion, American special forces raided his home in Baghdad, apparently searching for evidence that he was sharing intelligence with Iran. (Although Mr. Chalabi kept close ties to Shiite Iran’s clerical leadership and had lived in Tehran before the invasion, no such evidence was found.)

Chalabi studied at MIT and the University of Chicago after his family left Iraq in 1958; his relationship with the United States government began in the early ‘90s after the first Iraq war. After Sept. 11, intelligence sources linked to Chalabi and his INC group fed information on Hussein’s (nonexistent) WMD programs and al-Qaida connections to intelligence agencies and the press (particularly the New York Times), arguing that the U.S. could easily achieve a major geopolitical success by invading Iraq and installing a democratic government in Hussein’s place. Said Chalabi in a 2004 New Yorker piece, “There is a smear campaign that says I am responsible for the liberation of Iraq. But how bad is that?”