BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — U.S. military personnel and Iraqi police Thursday raided the compound of the Iraqi National Congress and the nearby home of Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi.
Chalabi said the raid was engineered by Baathists who control the Iraqi police and who are now protected by the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Chalabi, who was previously a close adviser to the Pentagon, said the CPA is dissatisfied with his demands for Iraq’s provisional government to be given full control of the Iraqi Army after the June 30 handover and for control of the investigation of fraud in the U.N. oil-for-food program.
“When America treats its friends this way, then they are in big trouble,” Chalabi said.
He called Thursday’s raid “the penultimate act of failure of the CPA in Iraq.”
He said his relationship with the CPA is now “nonexistent.”
When asked about that comment, CPA spokesman Dan Senor only noted that Chalabi “worked closely with us over a number of months.”
Senor said questions about the raid should be addressed to the Iraqi police. “It was an Iraqi-led investigation, an Iraqi-led raid.
“It was the result of Iraqi arrest warrants,” he said.
Chalabi, a Shiite, is a favorite of the Pentagon, but is regarded as divisive and untrustworthy by the State Department.
He is believed to have been a source of intelligence about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, which have not been discovered in the nine months since Saddam’s regime fell.
He was also the champion of a plan to rid Iraq of Baath Party influence that has caused rancor among many Iraqis.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – U.S. troops and Iraqi police raided the home and party offices of Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi on Thursday, taking computers and private files from the man once considered Washington’s top Iraq ally.
Squads of soldiers and police sealed off the neighborhood around the headquarters of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) and a nearby house used by Chalabi, removing computers, files, a copy of the Koran and other personal items, Chalabi said.
Speaking at a news conference from the home several hours after the raids, Chalabi blasted the U.S. authorities running Iraq and the country’s interior minister, saying they were responsible for carrying out a “targeted attack” against him.
“I was asleep, I opened the door and police came into my home carrying pistols,” a clearly furious Chalabi told reporters. “They went through the rooms and I told them to get out, but they said they were slaves under orders.”
Chalabi said he had nothing of importance to hide but listed several reasons why he thought the raids were carried out, including stark differences with U.S. authorities over how corruption in the U.N. oil-for-food program should be probed.
He also said he believed his deepening standoff with U.S. authorities over exactly how much power will be handed over to Iraqis when the country regains sovereignty on July 1 had been an impulse behind the raids.
“Let my people go. Let my people be free. It is time for the Iraqi people to run their affairs,” an impassioned Chalabi said.
He blamed the interior minister — a former member of the Governing Council — for being behind a “spurious warrant” to allow police to come to his home and try to arrest INC members. No one was arrested in the three-hour raids.
Dan Senor, spokesman for the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority running Iraq, said the warrant to search Chalabi’s property had been issued by the police and was an Iraqi police issue. He declined further comment on the raid.
The move against Chalabi, a former exile who returned to Iraq after Saddam Hussein’s overthrow and was tipped as a future leader, came just two days after U.S. officials said the Pentagon had cut off some $340,000 a month in funding to Chalabi’s party, payments that were made in part for intelligence gathered by the group.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said the decision “was made in light of the process of transferring sovereignty to the Iraqi people.”
“We felt it was no longer appropriate for us to continue funding in that fashion,” he told a U.S. Senate hearing.
U.S. officials have said they had doubts about the intelligence the INC provided and about whether Chalabi was motivated chiefly by a desire for power.
In recent months, Chalabi has repeatedly butted heads with U.S. authorities in Washington and Baghdad. On trips to the United States he has criticized policy in Iraq, seemingly in an effort to shore up support with disgruntled Iraqis at home.
He has also drawn criticism from authorities in the U.S.-occupied country who have expressed concern that he is trying to exercise too much influence over the political process in the build up to the handover of sovereignty.
Chalabi, who heads the finance committee of the U.S.-backed Governing Council, has also sought to run his own investigation into the oil-for-food program, whereas U.S. officials in Iraq have appointed an independent auditing authority for the probe.
An exile who lived abroad for more than four decades, Chalabi was convicted in absentia of bank fraud in 1992 by a military court in Jordan, where he had founded a bank that failed. He says the charges were politically motivated.
The Pentagon flew him into Iraq with a group of followers after the U.S.-led invasion last year, giving him an opportunity to establish a political base.
But he has struggled to drum up support and surveys in Iraq have ranked him as one of the least-liked politicians.
Chalabi has many critics elsewhere in the U.S. government, notably at the CIA, which suspected his group may have been penetrated by Saddam’s agents before the war and which questioned the intelligence information it provided.