Iraq: murdered US contractor warned of corruption

The LA Times has a well-researched story on an American arms dealer who was killed in Iraq after he warned US officials of corruption involving a contract to rapidly supply the Iraqi army with tanks ahead of January 2005's Iraqi elections. The story adds another dimension to reports in January this year that Hazem Shaalan, the Iraqi Defense Minister, had flown $200 million in cash to Lebanon to buy equipment for the Iraqi army.

Shaalan has always been dodgy. He's consistently pointed the finger at the Iranians for causing all the trouble in Iraq, but has never followed through with evidence. He wanted to level Najaf when Moqtada al-Sadr's militia took over the city last autumn, though wisdom prevailed. When former Pentagon sweetheart Ahmed Chalabi raised questions about flying $200 million to Beirut, Shaalan threatened to have him arrested. Perhaps he's just making up for being defense minister of a country that doesn't have an army.