On the new charges that Ahmed Chalabi's 'intelligence chief' Aras Karim is in fact an Iranian spy, Knut Royce's piece in Newsday contains the biggest bombshells. This is a follow-up on his piece from yesterday.
The Post meanwhile has a lengthier, though less clear-cut account, which includes important new details and an interview with Chalabi's long-time Washington handler Francis Brooke.
(ed. note: Most of the articles discussing this issue refer to the man in question as Aras Karim Habib, though he is sometimes referred to as Aras Habib, Aras Karim, or Aras Habib Karim.)
Now, you probably remember all that has been said about the $340,000 a month stipend that the US was paying until just a few days ago for Chalabi's 'Information Collection Program' (ICP), basically the INC's intelligence operation, which was until recently supposed to become the nucleus of the new Iraqi intelligence service.
(According to a June 2001 letter which the INC sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee, the information collected was sent directly to the Pentagon and the Office of the Vice President.)
Now, who was in charge of the ICP?
Right, Aras Karim.
A few more details.
We've been discussing for some time that Chalabi's connections to the Iranians and his flow of money from the Iranians has been known about among Chalabi's Washington supporters for years. But suspicions that Aras Karim was an Iranian agent are not new either.
Take this October 13th, 1998 New York Times article, which says that "An F.B.I. report said Mr. Karim's cousin Aras Habib Muhamad Al-Ufayli, who had been the intelligence chief for the Iraqi National Congress, had a 'well-documented connection to Iranian intelligence.'"
That article in the Times was about the on-going INS detention of a group of Iraqis who had worked with the INC in northern Iraq and were later held in detention by the INS because of alleged national security concerns. They were represented by former CIA Director James Woolsey, who was also a lobbyist for the INC.
(At the time, the case garnered a great deal of attention, and for good reason, because of the use of so-called 'secret evidence' in the detentions.)
Two years later, Dr. Ali Yasin Mohammed Karim, of the six original detainees, was finally released from INS custody. And the following passage appeared in an August 19th, 2000 article in the LA Times (emphasis added)...
Attorneys for the INS have contended that there is a reasonable belief Karim is a danger to national security. They have argued that one of the doctor's cousins is a suspected Iranian intelligence agent, the doctor's travel patterns were suspicious, and he might have misled federal agents about how his brother Mohammed made it into the United States.
Defense lawyers say the declassified material amounted to little more than rumor.
They said the espionage allegations were largely based on uncorroborated reports culled by FBI agents from Iraqi refugees, who were interviewed in Guam by the FBI after being evacuated from Iraq.
That information shows, for example, that one FBI agent thought Karim might be a spy for Iran, while another agent thought he was a mole for Iraq; the two countries are enemies.
In addition, the summary states that Karim's cousin, Aras, is suspected of being an Iranian intelligence agent, but it offers no specifics.
I suspect we'll be hearing more specifics.