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Paul Wolfowitz’s Iran Connection

It is now generally accepted that the Iraq War came about as a result in large part of manipulation of intelligence, which skewed the decision-making process. Ahmed Chalabi, the multi-millionaire confidence trickster who headed the Iraqi National Congress, fed fabricated information to his neoconservative allies in the Pentagon and White House. The so-called intelligence was repackaged in Doug Feith’s Office of Special Plans (OSP) and stove-piped up to the decision makers, thereby circumventing the normal checks and balances in place at the Central Intelligence Agency for the vetting of raw information. Alleged “reliable sources” provided detailed descriptions of drones capable of flying across the Atlantic Ocean, links with al-Qaeda, chemical and biological stockpiles, and hidden nuclear weapons programs, all of which became the menu du jour for policymakers. Garbage in, garbage out developed into the standard operating procedure as the United States government willy-nilly began a war of aggression against an enemy that presented no threat, Washington’s complete ignorance of facts on the ground best exemplified by its post-invasion futile search for weapons of mass destruction that did not exist.

Less well known is the role played by private neoconservative organizations in cooking the books to make the case for war. In 2001, the United States spent more than $20 billion per year on intelligence gathering and analysis, but the White House still felt it desirable to bring in outside advisers to provide additional insights. President George W. Bush was regularly briefed [1] by “experts” from the American Enterprise Institute and other neocon think tanks, some of whom were simultaneously working at Feith’s OSP while also writing articles for publications including the Weekly Standard and The Wall Street Journal to make the case for war. It was a perfect trifecta: forge the intelligence, exploit access to the media, and brief a befuddled president based on your own contrived narrative.

In an essentially broken system where any bit of information appeared to be as relevant and reliable as any other bit, it was inevitable that everyone would soon wind up developing his or her own sources. Pentagon number two Paul Wolfowitz, often described as the architect of the Iraq War, was not slow to rise to the bait. In late 2002 and early 2003, Wolfowitz regularly met secretly with a group of Iraqi expatriates, consisting mostly of Shias but also including several Sunnis, who resided in the Washington area and were opponents of the Saddam Hussein regime. The Iraqis had not been in their country of birth for many years but they claimed to have regular contact with well-informed family members and political allies, an assertion not unlike that made by Chalabi. The Iraqi advisers provided Wolfowitz with a now-familiar refrain, i.e. that the Iraqi people would rise up to support invading Americans and overthrow the hated Saddam. They would greet their liberators with bouquets of flowers and shouts of joy.

Well, of course, it didn’t turn out that way. When Iraq began to turn sour shortly after the invasion, Wolfowitz began to panic and called in his sources for a meeting. He demanded to know why they, not he, had misjudged the response of the Iraqis, who were growing increasingly uncooperative and striking back against the coalition forces. The expats replied defensively that they had been hearing that the American soldiers had frequently behaved brutally towards the local people, turning possible allies into enemies, but apart from that they could not provide much insight into developments back at home. Wolfowitz angrily dismissed the group, never to meet with them again.

And just as Ahmed Chalabi eventually turned out to be something akin to a double agent, feathering his own nest while providing U.S. intelligence to the Iranians, there is also a back story to the Wolfowitz group. The Iraqis were headed by one Dr. Ali A. al-Attar, born in Baghdad in 1963, a 1989 graduate [2] of the American University of Beirut Faculty of Medicine. He subsequently emigrated to the United States and set up a practice in internal medicine in Greenbelt, Maryland, a suburb of Washington D.C. Al-Attar eventually expanded his business to include nine practices that he wholly or partly owned in Virginia and Maryland.

Al-Attar prospered and moved to upscale McLean, Virginia, but he soon found himself in trouble with both regulatory and tax authorities. In April 2009, his license to practice medicine was suspended [3] by the Maryland State Board of Physicians due to “questionable billing practices.” Al-Attar refused to cooperate with the Board in subsequent investigations, which included inquiry into the level of care he was providing as well as his “unprofessional conduct” relating to sexual relationships with patients. His license to practice medicine was revoked in September 2011.

Al-Attar was also being investigated [4] by the FBI for large scale health care fraud in 2008-9. He and his partner Dr. Abdul H. Fadul charged insurance companies more than $2.3 million for services their patients did not actually receive, with many of the false claims using names of diplomats and employees enrolled in a group plan at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington. In one case, the doctors claimed an embassy employee visited three of their clinics every 26 days between May 2007 and August 2008 to have the same testing done each time. The insurance company paid the doctors $55,000 for more than 400 nonexistent procedures for that one patient alone.

Al-Attar exploited the fact that he had a number practices in two states with separate billing and banking arrangements, including individual tax numbers, which enabled him to shift money around to fool his own accountants regarding his actual income. As in the case of the Egyptian Embassy, he was able to multiple-bill for the frequently fabricated services rendered once he obtained insurance information.

Al-Attar was indicted by the federal government acting on behalf of the IRS in March 2012 for having fraudulently prepared tax returns between 2004 and 2006. The IRS claimed that he and his business partner Fadul systematically diverted [5] payments from the accounts of their several offices into their personal accounts, siphoning off more than $500,000. The government case involved the instances of fraud that were easiest to prove in court, but it was likely just the tip of an iceberg with millions more in additional money being diverted to offshore accounts in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Dr. Ali A. Al-Attar fled the United States after the indictment to avoid arrest and imprisonment. Late in 2012 he was observed in Beirut, Lebanon conversing with a Hezbollah official. It turns out that al-Attar is only a first generation Iraqi. He was born in Baghdad, but his parents were both from Iran.

It would be possible to merely observe that it was just another day in the hubristic lives of power brokers inside the Beltway if Wolfowitz’s meetings had not contributed to a war that broke the back of the United States. Wolfowitz was rewarded by George W. Bush for his dismantlement of Iraq with the position of President of the World Bank. His poor judgment quickly came to the fore yet again when he was forced to resign [6] that post over an “inappropriate relationship” with a female employee. He now holds a senior position at the neocon American Enterprise Institute.

Given his less than glorious track record vis-à-vis Iraq, one might reasonably ask Paul Wolfowitz how he discovered Dr. al-Attar. It would also be interesting to learn about the extent to which Wolfowitz checked out the backgrounds of the people he was talking to in his haste to overthrow Saddam. One might also ponder why the United States spends tens of billions of dollars on intelligence gathering if it is still necessary to assemble ad hoc and secretive groups of foreign-born residents of questionable loyalties to determine what is going on overseas. Given al-Attar’s national origin and his friends in Lebanon, it might also be intriguing to speculate whether the upper levels of the Bush administration were the gullible victims of a conspiracy orchestrated by Tehran to entice the United States into destroying the one Arab state that truly threatened the regional dominance of the Islamic Republic of Iran. That would be quite a story.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

37 Comments (Open | Close)

37 Comments To "Paul Wolfowitz’s Iran Connection"

#1 Comment By Hugh On June 5, 2013 @ 5:43 am

I didn’t think there was even a question about the Iran connection after Chalabi was alleged in 2004 by US intelligence to have passed secrets of ‘critical importance’ to Iranian intelligence. Chalabi passed American codes on to Iran. Chalabi’s head of security, Arras Karim, was described by US intelligence as an employee of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. This information’s been in the public domain for years but has disappeared from discussion of the Iraq war and its aftermath.

This Iranian intelligence-Chalabi-Wolfowitz-AEI link is the sort of story that could come up again and again if anyone wanted to push it.

#2 Comment By Emilio On June 5, 2013 @ 6:26 am

Great read. However, too much is blamed on the “system,” not enough on personal responsibility. As per the banality of evil, the lowest-level guys in the chain have less responsibility than the brass, clearly. Nonetheless, low-level Nazi camp guards get hounded even 70 years later. So how about the upper levels? They were hung at Nuremberg. Hence even the suggestion that a convoluted and flawed intelligence system somehow failed our uppermost leadership holds very little water for me. If you had eyes in 2002, you could plainly see that Bush and Rumsfeld and Cheney were salivating for war with Iraq, and their salivation had nothing to do with intelligence networks. They wanted it. It was obvious. They reacted to a national tragedy by exploiting it for God knows what reason, but if you ask me, based on their demeanor, it was probably psychological, ego-driven, etc.

#3 Comment By Sam On June 5, 2013 @ 8:06 am

Mr. Giraldi, Great story and great sleuthing, as usual. Though Occam’s razor leads me to believe that Wolfowitz’s motivations were not to do Iran’s bidding. Connecting the dots leads me several hundred miles west.

#4 Comment By C. L. H. Daniels On June 5, 2013 @ 9:55 am

Wow, that is… Just wow. I’d like to say that this shocks me, but it really doesn’t.

If anyone wonders why Millenials first turned against Republicans, look no further than the Iraq war, and the attendant lies, mismanagement and all-around incompetence displayed by the Bush administration.

#5 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 5, 2013 @ 10:55 am

“They wanted it. It was obvious. They reacted to a national tragedy by exploiting it for God knows what reason, but if you ask me, based on their demeanor, it was probably psychological, ego-driven, etc.”

What childishness as if those three men alone connived to engage in war —

Excuse me aliens are at my door.

There were/are myriad reasons, but it really isn’t much of a secret and never was.

#6 Comment By KXB On June 5, 2013 @ 1:23 pm

For a Chicago graduate, it seems Wolfowitz forgot this bit from Machiavelli about distrusting exiles (standard reading for Chicago polisci guys):

From Discourses, Book 2, Chapter 31:

“It ought to be considered, therefore, how vain are the faith and promises of those who find themselves deprived of their country. For, as to their faith, it has to be borne in mind that anytime they can return to their country by other means than yours, they will leave you and look to the other, notwithstanding whatever promises they had made you. As to their vain hopes and promises, such is the extreme desire in them to return home, that they naturally believe many things that are false and add many others by art, so that between those they believe and those they say they believe, they fill you with hope, so that relying on them you will incur expenses in vain, or you undertake an enterprise in which you ruin yourself….. A Prince, therefore, ought to go slowly in undertaking an enterprise upon the representations of an exile, for most of the times he will be left either with shame or very grave injury.”

#7 Comment By James Canning On June 5, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

Great piece. Ahmed Chalabi’s role in duping the American people gets too little attention. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfled gobbled the rubbish fed them by Chalabi — especially at Aspen, Colorado in 2002. (AEI conference)

#8 Comment By Myron Hudson On June 5, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

Terrific piece. Thank you!

#9 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 5, 2013 @ 3:57 pm

I may appreciate someone acknowledging Chalabi’s role and his escape the lies unscathed. But this isn’t knew and while we know Chalabi by name. He wasn’t the only one peddling information in the hopes of returning to power.

That group of what? The Iraq national congress wee at everyone’s door. They made the media rounds peddling female consorts of Sadaam as mistresses — it was a shameful period all around. Media outlets were no stronger then than they are now – putty and pudding.

I understand Mr. Gilraldi’s peeve with the three gentleman in question. But if the matter had ended with those three — there would have been no Iraqi conflict. I think Mr. Giraldi should have been more circumspect — I need not remond him — that the CIA even those that knew otherwise were mighty mum on the matter.

And despite it’s problems, I am a huge of of the intell community. How many resignations or firings resulted from coming forward? Included in that circumspect review should be an acknowledgement — that after 9/11 the country was aflame for vengeance or a mil. response.

I worked with DOD and I would not change my position on the matter, even if I knew ahead of time what a hornet’s nest I stood in.

Ten years after the fact and Chalabi and company are sitting pretty —

As for Paul Wolfowitz, of course he should have known better. But that cloud in NY clouded the thinking of some of the most prudent of citizens.

#10 Comment By Chris in Appalachia On June 5, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

“But that cloud in NY clouded the thinking of some of the most prudent of citizens.”

Funny, but when I think of the Iraq war debacle PRUDENT is not a word that comes to mind. And no amount of excuses and explanations and penance will make many of us ever forget that evil episode nor those who were involve.

#11 Comment By James Canning On June 5, 2013 @ 6:30 pm

Paul Wolfowitz led the effort to dupe George W. Bush and deceive the American public, to set up the illegal invasion of Iraq.

So, Bush rewarded him! What a surprise.

#12 Comment By James Canning On June 5, 2013 @ 6:32 pm

KXB – – Interesting quote from The Prince, but the simple fact is Wolfowitz and other neocon warmongers saw their chance to exploit American anger after “9/11”, to set up overthrow of Saddam on knowingly false pretenses.

#13 Comment By Emilio On June 5, 2013 @ 7:15 pm

EliteCommInc says “What childishness as if those three men alone connived to engage in war —” in referring to my post.

Your reading comprehension suffers quite a handicap if you think I stated that those three men alone connived to engage in war.

But go ahead, feel free to make the argument that under the same set of circumstances, with the same flawed information and the same options received, any other president would have set in motion the invasion of Iraq. Let’s hear it. Just in case you agree that Bush was primarily a victim of deeply flawed intelligence and masterful Iranian intrigue — as opposed to his own ego.

Meanwhile, I merely stated that the three most consequential “deciders” actively engaged in a war they aggressively promoted, and imparting too much blame to shady/incompetent intelligence rubs me the wrong way, because it absolves them of some real measure of responsibility by presenting them as misguided dupes rather than advocates of pre-emptive invasion and torture.

#14 Comment By Fran Macadam On June 5, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

They wanted to make war and searched for any reason to convince the public to support it.

#15 Comment By channelclemente On June 5, 2013 @ 7:51 pm

I’ve never heard anyone speculate on where ‘The Wolf” got the bright idea to disband the Iraqi army and purge all the Baath Party members.

#16 Comment By Landon On June 5, 2013 @ 9:55 pm

The influence and sketchy character of the Iraqi-Iranian doctor is news, but Chalabi’s manipulation of the neocons is not news — see “How Chalabi conned the neocons,” [7]

Benjamin Netanyahu also brought direct pressure to bear on the US Congress to wage war on Iraq (which, by the way EliteCommInc, had nothing to do with “that cloud in NY,” nor even with the implosion of Building 7).

On Sept 12 2002 Bibi encouraged a Congressional subcommittee chaired by Dan Burton to “support George Bush in waging war against Iraq” because Iraq was the “keystone” in the terror network. Dennis Kucinich pressed the Israeli PM for “evidence” that Iraq was connected to ‘the NY cloud.’ Bibi responded by spinning a yarn about a man with a knife, while Burton licked Bibi’s toes.

#17 Comment By Michael On June 6, 2013 @ 9:57 am

I think it is wrong to continue harping on the neocon connection. They were among many voices arguing that Saddam had to be stopped. Certainly there was bad intelligence, but it didn’t drive the narrative as much as you think it did.

#18 Comment By Clint On June 6, 2013 @ 11:01 am

Wolfowitz is one more neoconservative chickenhawk.

Wolfowitz never served.

#19 Comment By One Love / One Heart On June 6, 2013 @ 11:18 am

“ad hoc and secretive groups of foreign-born residents of questionable loyalties”

Of course this description fits many “American” interventionists. Add “second generation” immigrants who feel a residual tug of loyalty to a “foreign prince” or tribe and you’ve got a recipe for disaster: people with divided loyalties informing or even formulating US foreign policy.

#20 Comment By Rurik On June 6, 2013 @ 1:19 pm

AEI is AIPAC with fewer letters.

#21 Comment By Sam Agahi On June 6, 2013 @ 5:42 pm

It is so unfair and sinful that our system of justice condemns a young soldier who gets convicted for killing Iraq prisoners but rewards those who lied , cooked the books and intelligence reports to their advantages. All these criminals are living in luxury on on taxpayers. Kind of Wolfowitz became head of World bank, Cheney writing books and laughs at thousands of our young people who are wounded and disable for the rest of their lives and Bush and Romney looks down on American fighting force for not being able to deliver what they thought victory should be. Most of terrorism that we are experiencing stem from the actions of these criminals. We should not forget that this war killed over 500,000 Iraqis. May God forgives us for our ignorance.

#22 Comment By James Canning On June 7, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

Sam Agahi – – Do G W Bush and Mitt Romney “look down” on US armed forces? No.

Did Bush foolishly unleash a vicious civil war in Iraq? Yes, absolutely.

#23 Comment By James Canning On June 7, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

Nichael – – You are DEAD WRONG if you think the neocons did not cause the illegal invasion of Iraq to take place.

Crucial role of Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon: duping the President of the US with knowingly false intelligence. Neocons ran that office.

#24 Comment By Jett Davis On June 7, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

This article, and the facts behind it, is exhibit “A” of how the Trotskyist (?) neocons cooked the books to lead us to war with Iraq…just like the Left said they did. So does agreeing with this make me a Leftist? Certainly not, but just as the specter of Lincoln, secession, and the limits of federal power loom over our domestic landscape—and define conservatism—so too do the notions of ‘pre-emptive war,’ and ‘exporting democracy’ mark the debate over what a truly conservative foreign policy should look like. These debates—and the questions raised by them—will continue to define the Republican Party, and the answers could, ultimately, lead to its dissolution.

#25 Comment By America is gullible On June 8, 2013 @ 1:46 am

{Given al-Attar’s national origin and his friends in Lebanon, it might also be intriguing to speculate whether the upper levels of the Bush administration were the gullible victims of a conspiracy orchestrated by Tehran to entice the United States into destroying the one Arab state that truly threatened the regional dominance of the Islamic Republic of Iran.}

First, It is not that Bush is gullibel victim, but YOU ARE. I cannot believe a former CIA agent is that gullible that because of Attar”s parents national origin, then Attar is an Iranian spy. It is so dumb to think this way. No wonder Americans are so gullbile. secon, Chalabi is not Iranian spy but is American and MI6 and Mossad spy and the neocons have still good relations with him. Only gullible people think otherwise. If he were Iranian spy, then by now your government would have killed him. Don’t you know that. Did’nt do it yourself when you were at the CIA?

#26 Comment By Cassanova Xi On June 8, 2013 @ 6:32 am

The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. Tragic you.

#27 Comment By Ahmed Fourati On June 8, 2013 @ 12:30 pm

At one time, Chalabi’ house was raided in Baghdad by CIA because of the several evidences about his connection with the Iranian regime, who by the way Gingritch went to Fox News to condemn the CIA by doing that. More political rivals had warned in public like Iyad Allawi about his connection with Teheran. The puzzling fact that the CIA, FBI, Judicial when they have ample evidence about the bogus and hoax information about Wolfowitz, Feith, Chalabi why they don’t arrest them? Dr. Karen Kwiatkowski provided several testimonies about clear violation of the law by Feith during his OSP.

#28 Comment By James Canning On June 8, 2013 @ 4:28 pm

Jett Davis – – “Trotskyite”. The original neocons tended to be fanciers of Leon Trotsky (assassinated by Joe Stalin’s henchmen in Mexico).

#29 Comment By Michael On June 9, 2013 @ 7:59 am

James, the neocons didn’t start the war. They are just easy fall guys for those who want to exonerate the role of the intel community, the Pentagon, and the Hill, and the press. No one seriously questions whether or not Saddam had a WMD program. And it wasn’t cooked up intelligence that started it either. And no, Chalabi’s role has been plenty scrutinized. (CIA didn’t take him seriously.) Some intelligence was bad (yellowcake in Niger) but that’s mostly a red herring. Read Duelfer’s book for a better picture of the story.

#30 Comment By Philip Giraldi On June 9, 2013 @ 11:09 am

Yes James, the neocons didn’t “start” the war but they were the sine qua non in enabling it. There would have been no Iraq war without the neocons in senior positions at the Pentagon, at the NSC, and in the White House.

#31 Comment By Michael O’Hearn On June 9, 2013 @ 1:10 pm

I always appreciate your insights, Philip.

George W., or any president for that matter, was not so much interested in the intelligence in making the decision to go to war. Essentially, he wanted to finish up what his father started in the first Gulf War still festering as a sorrowful mistake to get into. This had a lot to do with family pride and the Bush family’s connections to Saudi Arabia, notwithstanding the neo-con denial that it had anything to do with the alleged Iraqi hit attempt on the ex-president.

With this mindset, Bush’s only friends and allies were neocon Jews bent on saving the secular Israeli state, and fundamentalist hawks who thought that they could bring about Christ’s return, both ideas being diametrically opposed as irrational as that may sound. The Pope and practicing Catholics were by and large against military intervention.

I have no regrets in voting for both Bushes in all four elections, and on the two Reagan-Bush tickets. The cultural implosion from rejection of the life-giving Word will inevitably entangle America in war, and may eventually bring about our final destruction as a nation. In this state of national emergency, we need Christians in office, even though some are prone to mixing family business and new world order fantasy such as nation building with issues of national security. Past mistakes can be used for a positive good once we admit the error of our ways.

#32 Comment By James Canning On June 9, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

Thanks, Philip. Indeed, neocons were the sine qua non, enabling the war to proceed.

#33 Comment By Dave On June 9, 2013 @ 5:11 pm

The invasion of Iraq was one of the most stupidest acts of the United States government. The war was really won by Iran! Iraq blocked Iranian expansion in the Persian gulf area. Iraq now is on Iran’s side!

#34 Comment By Ken Hoop On June 10, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

Michael O’Hearn above, abjured even considering third party activism because he bought the Bushes as sincere Christians.
I’m not sure which represents more gullibility: faith in a corrupt beyond salvation two party system or faith in
nominal Christian pretense.

#35 Comment By Michael O’Hearn On June 11, 2013 @ 3:10 am

Ken,

I got your message.

Allow me to just say that Satan may be in control of the NWO and NSA, but Christ ultimately reigns through the cooperation of ordinary human beings. God’s grace can do marvelous things if we are open to it.

#36 Comment By Glen in DC On July 11, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

Found this article while reading the confabulations of Laurie Mylroie. Great to hear from someone from the CIA shedding light on Wolfowitz.

At inception was Woolsey, Wolfowitz and Mylroie who pushed hard for the Iraqi 9-11 connection. Later characters like Chalabi, Curveball and Yosef spawned perfectly into this huge web of deception. The Iran connection is plausible because Chalabi would go anywhere and do anything for the right price.

Bush’s love for AEI hawks like Wolfowitz was the catalyst for war. Some believe that the invasion was “all about oil.” But let’s not forget AEI’s underlying agenda and its influence on the Bush administration’s foreign policy.

#37 Comment By GY Alsheikh On March 7, 2017 @ 1:47 pm

Then, who poisoned and killed Chalabi last year??