It’s gotta be good if … (from the WSJ …)
In his latest remarkable political reincarnation, onetime U.S. favorite Ahmed Chalabi has secured a position inside the Iraqi government that could help determine whether the Bush administration’s new push to secure Baghdad succeeds.
In a new post created earlier this year, Mr. Chalabi will serve as an intermediary between Baghdad residents and the Iraqi and U.S. security forces mounting an aggressive counterinsurgency campaign across the city. The position is meant to help Iraqis arrange reimbursement for damage to their cars and homes caused by the security sweeps in the hope of maintaining public support for the strategy.
The new position is vaguely defined, and it is too early to tell how much power Mr. Chalabi will ultimately wield. How much money will be available to pay claims and how it might be awarded and disbursed remains to be finalized, too. But he is a skilled political infighter who has often shown a talent for making the most out of whatever hand he is dealt. Mr. Chalabi also maintains close ties with key political allies of Mr. Maliki such as radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, which gives him extra sway within Mr. Maliki’s government. Indeed, U.S. Embassy officials suggest Mr. Chalabi’s closeness to Mr. Sadr is a major reason he was offered the liaison post.
Already, some U.S. officials are expressing concern about Mr. Chalabi’s new role, fearing he will undercut the elaborate system of elected and appointed local governments that American officials have been cultivating over the past three years. American and Iraqi critics also worry that Mr. Chalabi, a Shiite, will use his clout to ensure that Sunni Muslim neighborhoods of the city are hit hardest by the new security crackdown, a move that would further inflame Iraq’s sectarian tensions.