Speed Reads

Crisis in Iraq

You won't believe who might be Iraq's next leader

It appears that the Obama administration is making a behind-the-scenes push to wrest power from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite who has been blamed for worsening sectarian tensions that are threatening to break up the country. The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that the U.S. is "indicating it wants Iraq's political parties to form a new government without Mr. Maliki as he tries to assemble a ruling coalition following elections this past April."

The New York Times has some interesting details about who might lead a new government:

Over the past two days the American ambassador, Robert S. Beecroft, along with Brett McGurk, the senior State Department official on Iraq and Iran, have met with Usama Nujaifi, the leader of the largest Sunni contingent, United For Reform, and with Ahmad Chalabi, one of the several potential Shiite candidates for prime minister, according to people close to each of those factions, as well as other political figures. [The New York Times]

Emphasis mine. You will recall that Chalabi was the Bush administration's point man in Iraq in the run-up to the invasion, the guy who convinced the U.S. government that American troops would be greeted as liberators. Chalabi and his organization were also widely suspected to have been behind Curveball, the purported informant who fed the Bush administration important details about Saddam Hussein's supposed WMD program.

Chalabi, also a Shiite, fell out of favor shortly after the invasion, and was accused by the U.S. of passing on secrets to Iran. In recent weeks he has reportedly been reaching out to Iraqi minorities in an apparent bid to set himself up as a uniter.

After more than 10 years, it looks like the man who got the U.S. into Iraq might win the ultimate prize after all.