The Manipulator

The New Yorker continues its decidedly impressive coverage of Iraq with this new profile of Ahmed Chalabi, and manages to find new information:

The genesis of Brooke’s assignment was the decision not to unseat Saddam Hussein at the end of the first Gulf War. In May, 1991, President George H. W. Bush signed a covert “lethal finding” that authorized the C.I.A. to spend a hundred million dollars to “create the conditions for removal of Saddam Hussein from power.” Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. officer who was assigned to Iraq at the time, said that the policy was all show, “like an ape beating its chest. No one had any expectation of marching into Baghdad and killing Saddam. It was an impossibility.” Nonetheless, the C.I.A. had received an influx of cash, and it decided to create an external opposition movement to Saddam.

The C.I.A. had been forced to abolish domestic operations after a series of scandals in the nineteen-seventies, and it had folded many of its overseas programs when the Cold War ended. So it outsourced the Iraq project to the Rendon Group. According to Brooke, the company signed a secret contract with the C.I.A. which guaranteed that it would receive a ten-per-cent “management fee” on top of whatever money it spent. The arrangement was an incentive to spend millions. “We tried to burn through forty million dollars a year,” Brooke said. “It was a very nice job.”

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region,