Sunday, April 15, 2007
you find you're back in Vegas with a handle in your hand:
The sordid story of Muhammed Shahwani takes a new turn. Shahwani, you'll recall, is the
Iraqi intelligence chieftain, surviving since the halcyon days of Iyad Allawi's tenure as premier. His credentials as a survivor are undermined somewhat by his reported status as a CIA asset. It turns out that the CIA has been distrustful of turning the Iraqi intelligence apparatus over to the Shiite-led government, despite all the sovereignty rhetoric and such. One such concern is that the Maliki government would transform the Iraqi intelligence service into an instrument of sectarian persecution. Meanwhile, Shahwani's Iraqi National Intelligence Service does things that the Maliki government denounces, like detaining Iranian diplomats in Baghdad.

In response, reports Ned Parker in today's L.A. Times, Maliki has created a parallel intelligence service, one that he can control. (Parker confirms that CIA still pays for the INIS, which helps explain those Iran-diplomat detentions.) Sure enough, that service is described by a Western diplomat as "slightly reactionary in a Shiite sense": it's what was behind Maliki's January outburst about "presenting the file" of a hardline Sunni parliamentarian, Sheikh Abdul Nasser Janabi. Needless to say, it doesn't put the Shiite death squads in its cross-hairs. It's difficult to use the term "extra-legal" in a situation like this one, where the ostensibly official INIS gets its money from a foreign intelligence service, but there's no law establishing the authority for the 1,200 operatives loyal to Sherwan Waili, Maliki's intelligence chief.

If Parker's piece is any measure, the rise of Waili will further entrench Shahwani. Waili serves as the manifestation of the fears that led the U.S. to install Shahwani in the first place: the return to a mukhabarat-style security structure, this one loyal to the Shiites instead of Saddam. Quoth an anonymous western diplomat: Waili's operation is "slightly shady." That's true, but the alternative -- U.S. control of INIS -- is what led to Waili's operation in the first place. There's been a lot of talk over the last few months that Maliki is becoming less of a sectarian by acquiescing to the Sadr City raids. If anyone wants to test the proposition, a natural starting point would be to remove Shahwani and see if the removal of Waili's pretext for sectarian "balancing" has any effect.
--Spencer Ackerman
Hi Spencer -

Do you have an email address I could drop you a line on? Am doing some research I think you might be interested in helping with...


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