Friday, May 28, 2004

War and Piece:

The Iranians burned Chalabai themselves.

The Brits have been talking to the Iranians for a very long time. If Tehran wants to send a message to Washington the obvious way for them to do it is to give the info to the UK. Their contacts with the US are much more tenuous and they could not guarantee the message got through.

The whole situation becomes clear when you consider the chronology. Up until 9/11 Iran had every reason to back Chalabai. Some of the material that Chalabai circulated in this period bore the traces of its Tehran origin - e.g. the 'Iraqi' plans for an atomic bomb which had clearly been translated from Farsi. The original documents for the Niger hoax were probably obtained from Iran arround this time and for some reason not used.

Every action of Chalabai during this period is consistent with him being a paid Iranian agent during this period. It explains why he opposed the attempted Sunni coup of '96. This did not serve Iranian interests, but if Chalabai had really beleived he had a chance of being installed as President himself his main chance would have been for the Sunni officers to eliminate Saddam and then attempt to dislodge the plotters. this is the strategy that worked for both Lenin and Khomeini

After 9/11 Iran's interests changed markedly as did those of Chalabai. After the Axis of Evil speech it became clear that Bush intended to invade both Iraq and Iran. At this point Chalabai had a real chance of replacing Saddam, he had the enthusiastic backing of the Pentagon hawks.

It is highly unlikely that Iran set up Chalabai with the original intent of causing the US to invade Iraq, even if they had desired that outcome it would take a fantasist to expect it to succeed. Pre 9/11 it was entirely likely that Iran could persuade the US to come to some form of accomodation if the US thought Iraq the bigger threat.

The possibility of causing the US to invade only became possible after 9/11. But at that point Chalabai had no need of Iranian support, nor was there much that the Iranians could do to persuade the US that Chalabai was not to be trusted. Far from being a masterstroke, Iranian intelligence probably thought that they had a disaster on their hands.

Attempting to stop the invasion by burning Chalabai would risk turning Chalabai against them and the chances would then be good that the US tanks would continue on to Baghdad after finishing off Saddam. The best damage limitation strategy at this point for the Iranians was to sit, wait and hope that the US started to become disillusioned about the occupation.

Nor did burning Chalabai in the immediate aftermath of the invasion make much sense. At that point the US was on Iran's doorstep and their principle concern was to avoid ending up with unstable failed states on both their borders. As the occupation has continued however Chalabai has become a liability for all concerned. When Chalabai began trying to prevent the UN from organizing a peaceful transfer of power it was time for Iran to liquidate him.

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