Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi expat politician who pressed for “regime change” in his home country and was associated with discredited reports of WMDs used to promote America’s decision to invade it, has died at age 71.
“We mourn regretfully the death of Dr. Ahmad Chalabi,” Iraqi president Fuad Masum said in a statement. “Chalabi had a pivotal role with many Iraqi leaders in fighting the dictatorship.” At the time of his death, Chalabi was head of the finance committee in the Iraq parliament. He died of heart failure in his home in Baghdad.
Chalabi was born and raised in Baghdad, studied math at MIT, and earned his doctorate at the University of Chicago. He founded the Iraqi National Congress, a coalition of groups supporting the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
Through this, Chalabi, who was known for his charm, formed a decades-long relationship with American officials, opinion leaders, and journalists — especially those with neoconservative sympathies.
But soon after the invasion, after American troops were not welcomed by Iraqis as Chalabi had suggested and the WMD evidence proved elusive, the Bush administration dissociated themselves from him. Jane Mayer’s 2004 New Yorker profile, titled “The Manipulator,” illustrated that moment and how he got there.
Chalabi, a secular Shia Muslim, was also involved with the “de-Ba’athification” effort to remove alleged Saddam supporters from public life, which alienated the Sunni minority and helped lay the groundwork for, among other things, the ISIS insurrection.
In recent years, Chalabi had survived an assassination attempt and aligned himself with a group of radical Shiites leading several violent uprisings in Iraq. In 2006, Dexter Filkins wrote in The New York Times Magazine that “for many in the West, Chalabi has become the personification of all that has gone wrong in Iraq: the lies, the arrogance, the occupation as disaster.”