The passel of neoconservatives who pushed for war in Iraq in 2003 believed fervently that the war would change the face of the Middle East.
How right they were! The Middle East is changed forever, only not in the way the neocons had hoped. Rather than usher in an era of greater US influence in the region, the destruction of the government in Iraq in 2003 has allowed Iran to expand its political, economic, and military influence westward into the vacuum left by the elimination of Saddam Hussein. Belatedly — slowly, slowly — a few neocons here and there are starting to recognize that the vaunted democracy in Iraq is in grave danger of looking like the not-so-democratic "Islamic democracy" next door in Iran.
It’s a process that’s long been obvious to more objective observers of the Iraq war and its aftermath. And another thing that’s obvious: Ahmed Chalabi, the darling of the neocons, the bosom buddy of Richard Perle, the favored Arab of the likes of Danielle Pletka and Michael Rubin, the comrade of Fouad Ajami, is Iran’s best friend, ally and agent. It was, of course, Chalabi and his partner, Ali al-Lami, who together control Iraq’s occupation-era "de-Baathification commission," who ran the Iranian-instigated purge of more than 500 candidates in the March 7 election. Earlier this week, I asked General Odierno about Chalabi and Lami, and he said point blank that the US has "direct intelligence" that Chalabi and Lami "clearly are influenced by Iran," and that they meet regularly with an nian official who "sits at the right-hand side of the Quds Force commandant, Qassem Soleimani."
Yesterday, speaking at the US Institute of Peace, Ambassador Christopher Hill was asked whether he agrees with Odierno’s assessment. "I am in 100 percent agreement with General Odierno," said Hill.
Yet even as a neocon here or there denounced Lami and his Iranian backers for the purging of hundreds of Iraqi nationalists on trumped-up charges of Baathism, they can’t quite bring themselves to denounce Chalabi, their former darling, as well, and when they do, they don’t even bother to engage in self-criticism about their former love affair with Chalabi.
Take for instance, the op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Kim and Fred Kagan. When Odierno spoke, Kim Kagan was sitting right next to him, and to her credit she questioned Odierno hard on Iran’s role in Iraq. But in the op-ed, co-written with her husband, Fred Kagan — who is based at the American Enterprise Institute, which was Chalabi’s home-away-from-home before the war and in its early phases — the Kagans gloss over Chalabi’s role. The note, in passing, that the rotund Iraqi wheeler-dealer is "a leading member of the Iranian-backed Shiite list," but they say no more on that subject. They go on to note with alarm Iran’s growing influence in Iraq: