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Chalabi, Iraqi power broker who championed U.S. invasion, dies

He died of an apparent heart attack in Baghdad.

By Ed Adamczyk
Chalabi, Iraqi power broker who championed U.S. invasion, dies
Ahmed Chalabi speaks at an American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington in 2005. He died November 3, 2005 in Baghdad. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

BAGHDAD, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- Iraqi power broker Ahmed Chalabi, who persuaded the United States of Saddam Hussein's weapons arsenal, has died at 71, Iraqi state media announced Tuesday.

He died in the bedroom of his Baghdad home, of an apparent heart attack, officials said.

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A well-connected Shia with an American education, a career in banking and politics, and a hatred of Saddam, he became a trusted member of the inner circle of U.S. President George W. Bush. He advised the United States to invade Iraq in 2003.

Chalabi was considered a potential leader of his country until his discredited information about Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction" led to his political downfall.

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The U.S. invasion accomplished his goal of toppling Saddam's regime. After exile from Iraq, he returned from the United States and Britain to live in Baghdad, again maintaining a role in Iraqi politics and becoming the country's interim oil minister. He was instrumental in removing members of Saddam's Bath Party from government positions. Critics said it led to division in the country, which launched sectarian war.

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Chalabi was accused in the 1970s by the Jordanian government of bank fraud in the collapse of his Petra Bank. Convicted in absentia after he fled the country, he was ordered to pay $30 million in allegedly embezzled funds.

He returned to Iraq after the war, running unsuccessfully for political office in 2005 with a "We liberated Iraq" slogan.

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In Baghdad he grew despondent over Iraq's future, noting in an interview in October, "A handful of people have made billions. Corruption has been rampant for eight years but no one said anything because there was money, now there's no money."

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