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Guest Mustefser
May 10, 2005

 

 

MEMORANDUM TO: OPINION LEADERS

 

 

FROM: GARY SCHMITT

 

 

SUBJECT: Half Measures in Egypt

 

 

According to press reports, Egypt’s parliament is likely to pass a constitutional amendment today that would allow opposition figures to run for president. This apparent democratic breakthrough, however, is undermined by the amendment’s stipulation that to be placed on a presidential ballot a candidate would need the approval of 300 members from various “elected” Egyptian government bodies – bodies now under the control of the sitting president, Hosni Mubarak.

 

The decision by Egypt to take this half measure is the result of pressure put on President Mubarak by President Bush and Secretary of State Rice. But it is only a half measure, and one that will lead to even more frustration and political instability in Egypt if it remains so. Administration officials and members of Congress would do well to send President Mubarak and his government a signal that American foreign aid (currently about $2 billion/year) is contingent on their doing more to open up the Egyptian political process.

 

Some are concerned that a truly open election will encourage the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood. We agree that is a concern. But, unless we expect Mubarak and his son to hold on to power indefinitely – despite all the corruption, dysfunctionalism, and anger his rule engenders in Egypt itself – this is a risk supporters of democracy must take. And this risk is more manageable now in the context of progress toward democracy rather than later, in the context of increased popular resentment and civic frustration.

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Guest Mustefser
February 15, 2005

MEMORANDUM TO: OPINION LEADERS

 

FROM: GARY SCHMITT

 

SUBJECT: Robin Wright is Wrong

 

Yesterday, Washington Post senior foreign policy reporter Robin Wright’s analysis of the recent elections in Iraq (“Iraq Winners Allied with Iran Are the Opposite of U.S. Vision”) ran on the Post’s front page. As the title to the piece suggests, Wright’s claim is that Iraqis “went to the polls and elected a government with a strong religious base – and very close ties to the Islamic republic next door.” But about the only thing right in that sentence is that the Iraqis “went to the polls.”

 

 

First, the United Iraqi Alliance, the main Shiite coalition of parties, did well (48% of the vote and a small majority of seats within the new legislature), but not well enough to control formation of either the new government or the new constitution.

 

Second, because the Alliance did not win a decisive electoral victory, its constituent parties will have to form a coalition with either the Kurds and/or the Iraqi List, a party headed by current Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Both groups are secularist and fully cognizant of the need to build a federal system which will protect civic and minority rights. And that Shiites, too, seem cognizant of this need. Indeed, the announcement of the election returns had barely been made before each of the parties began working the phones to sound out deals with their potential political partners.

 

As the Washington Post’s own editorial today points out: “Fears that Iraq’s new government will be monopolized by pro-Iranian factions bent on religious rule seem unfounded.” Indeed, the one Iraqi Shiite most likely to push such a radical agenda, Moqtada al Sadr, received only enough votes to get 3 of the legislature’s 275 seats.

 

Of course, the working assumption behind Wright’s analysis is that the Shiites in Iraq are in bed with the Iranian clerics. But the evidence here is thin and more than offset by the following facts: the Iranians have never had much luck in directing the Iraqi Shiite political agenda; the Shiites in Iraq are a diverse lot with no one dominant political philosophy; the Iraqi Shiites fought on behalf of Iraq against the Iranian Shiites in the 1980’s; and the top Iraqi Shiite religious leader – Grand Ayatollah Sistanti – has made it clear time and again that the Iranian regime is not a model for post-Saddam Iraq.

No doubt, Iran will continue to try to play a hand in Iraqi politics. And, no doubt, there will be some in Iraq open to their doing so. But, right now, their hand is a weak one and, contrary to Ms. Wright’s analysis, it’s actually weaker today than before the elections.

 

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Guest Mustefser

Very serious development.. Mr. Alghadree, the head of the Syrian opposition party Aleslah, visited Iraq and had serious talks with different political parties.. He said that Aldoori is a regular visitor to Syria to change his blood and about two and half billion dollars were deposited by Saddam in the trading bank of Syria to finance the terrorists in Iraq..

 

 

 

وفي سياق متصل اتهم رئيس حزب" الإصلاح السوري" المعارض فريد الغادري خلال زيارته إلى بغداد السلطات السورية بدعم ما سماه الإرهاب. وقال الغادري الذي التقى عددا من المسؤولين وقادة الأحزاب والقوى السياسية العراقية إنه يسعى للإعلان عن إنشاء قاعدة لحزبه في العراق .

وزعم الغادري أن لديه أدلة حول وجود سوريين على الحدود العراقية لدعم النشاطات الإرهابية، مؤكدا في تصريح لـ"الوطن" أن نائب الرئيس العراقي السابق عزت الدوري يقوم بزيارات دورية إلى سوريا لمراجعة أحد مستشفياتها لتغيير دمه بين مدة وأخرى، كما أن الأموال التي تدعم الإرهاب في العراق حولها صدام حسين إلى البنك التجاري السوري قبل سقوط النظام، وتبلغ قيمتها نحو 2300مليون دولار ومن هذا المبلغ وغيره تمكن الدوري من تمويل الشبكات الإرهابية في العراق

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By JOE BOB BRIGGS, NEW YORK, USA.

 

 

Every decade or so, we should remind ourselves of who the Iraqis are:

 

1. Twelve-thousand years ago, they invented irrigated farming.They got to be so good at it that, today; they can still produce all

the food they need even when "sanctions" are imposed.

 

2. They invented writing.

 

3. They figured out how to tell time.

 

4. They founded modern mathematics.

 

5. In the Code of Hammurabi, they invented the first legal system That protects the weak, the widow and the orphan.

 

6. Five-thousand years ago, they had philosophers who attempted to list every known thing in the world.

 

7. They were using Pythagoras' theorem 1,700 years before Pythagoras.

 

8. They invented artificial building materials, some kind of pre-fab-crete stuff used to construct high-rise towers.

 

9. Ur, in southeast Iraq, is assumed to be the place where we all descend from.

 

10. They were the first people to build cities and live in them.

 

11. For thousands of years, they wrote the greatest poetry, history and "sagas" in the world.

 

12. Because they were great horse breeders, they invented the cavalry in war.

 

13. The Iraq Museum in Baghdad contains some of the most outstanding stone, metal and clay sculptures and inscriptions

created in the history of the world. Some of them are more than 7,000 years old.

 

14. The first school for astronomers was established by Iraqis. This is how the "wise men" got to be so wise. They knew how

to follow the star.

 

15. Beginning around 800 A.D., the Iraqis founded universities that imported teachers from throughout the civilized world to

teach medicine, mathematics, philosophy, theology, literature and poetry.

 

16. For the first 1,200 years of its existence, Baghdad was regarded as one of the most refined, civilized and festive cities

in the world.

 

17. Abraham, the father of Israel, is from Iraq.

 

18. Abraham, the father of Islam, is from Iraq.

 

19. Abraham, the father and "model" of Christian faith, is from Iraq.

 

20. Iraq is the second largest reserve of oil.

 

21. Iraq has the largest number of date palm trees in the world.

 

22. Iraqi wheat, rice, and meat are considered from the finest types in the world.

 

23. Iraq, has the biggest soft water/population ratio in the world, seven rivers.

 

24. Iraqis, have the highest percent of highly educated people.

 

25. Iraq, is one of the world's richest territories in historical sites and holy shrines.

 

26.Iraqis invented the wheel and will reinvent it !

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As in Iraqi saying, we don't want their help , we ask to block their harm!!

 

 

 

Rice Urges Arab States to Send Envoys to Baghdad

By STEVEN R. WEISMAN

Published: June 22, 2005

BRUSSELS, June 21 - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, joining a two-day international conference on Iraq, said Tuesday that she hoped more Arab nations would send ambassadors to Baghdad and upgrade their diplomatic missions to show support for the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government.

 

Skip to next paragraph

 

Forum: The Middle East

But her comments, spoken to reporters on her plane traveling here, came as European and Arab diplomats expressed impatience over Iraq's troubles and as other Bush administration officials expressed frustration over the slowness of the Arab countries, most of them Sunni-dominated, in providing debt relief to Iraq.

 

Arab diplomats said security concerns were the main reason most of Iraq's Sunni neighbors had not sent ambassadors to Iraq, noting that King Abdullah II of Jordan said last month that his country would send an ambassador when it was safe.

 

But the diplomats also said they remained concerned about Shiite influence in the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and, by extension, the influence of Iran, which is ruled by Shiite clerics.

 

To allay concerns about Shiite dominance, Ms. Rice said envoys of roughly 80 countries and leaders of the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund would urge Mr. Jaafari to reach out more to Sunnis and speed up writing a constitution that protects minorities.

 

"The international community is saying to the Iraqis that they should be as inclusive as possible, particularly with the Sunni community," Ms. Rice said. She said the Iraqis were committed to enshrining minority rights in the new constitution, "but it will be good to reinforce that with them through the international community."

 

Ms. Rice traveled to Brussels after working on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and after stops in Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to press for more democracy. She made clear that the United States wanted more worldwide support for the American-led efforts in Iraq.

 

"It is important that Iraqis receive political support from the region and from Arab states," she said, adding that "more diplomatic representation from the region" would be helpful. Only Egypt, she said, has sent an ambassador to Baghdad.

 

The Brussels meeting is the latest in a series of international conferences on Iraq in the last couple of years. Ms. Rice said it was "an opportunity to build really a kind of new international partnership for Iraq." But past conferences have produced mixed results, particularly in garnering economic aid and troops. The Defense Department reports that the number of non-American foreign troops has fallen to 21,000 after Spain and other countries pulled out, and many other countries plan to follow suit next year.

 

Financial support has been disappointing, some American and European officials say. An initial donors' conference in Madrid in the fall of 2003 brought pledges of more than $13 billion in aid over three years, but only $2 billion has materialized.

 

Part of the reason is security, which has hampered aid projects, but some countries remain uncertain about American efforts to pacify the country and spend American reconstruction funds. Of nearly $19 billion in economic aid appropriated by Congress in 2003, only about $7 billion has been spent.

 

In addition, efforts to clear up Iraq's $110 billion in debt have stalled after making early headway. Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III negotiated forgiveness of about 80 percent of Iraqi debt held by the so-called Paris Club of leading industrial-nation lenders. But that amounted to only about $40 billion of the total it owes.

 

Much of the rest of the debt is held by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Persian Gulf countries. They have resisted forgiving the debt because of disputes over how much is owed and an uneasiness that Iraq will become a Shiite-dominated country influenced by Iran.

 

Ms. Rice said Tuesday that there would be talks in Brussels about debt but probably no new agreements. An aide traveling with her said the conference was "a coming out party" for Mr. Jaafari, but Arab and European diplomats said the real challenge lay in a series of tight deadlines facing Iraq.

 

Since the Jan. 30 elections, which were boycotted by most Sunnis, the constitution-writing process has been fractious and slow. A committee to write the charter has only recently been formed, and it is supposed to finish the job by Aug. 15 so it can be ratified by Oct. 15 and elections can be held by Dec. 15.

 

On a side issue, Ms. Rice said she had "no intention" of meeting any envoy of Iran, which might send a delegate.

 

Last fall, at an Iraq conference in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was seated by his hosts next to the Iranian foreign minister and had to make small talk, much to his irritation.

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Guest Mustefser

While reading this Article , put in mind that the first two ministers who were accused of corruption, are Shia!. A comment to Minister Berwari who accuse the committe of being politically driven!

 

 

Iraqis Tallying Range of Graft in Rebuilding

By JAMES GLANZ

Published: June 24, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 23 - Allegations of widespread corruption have dogged the Iraqi government since the invasion in 2003, when billions of dollars for reconstruction and training began pouring into the country. Many programs had far less impact than expected, but persistent rumors that money was being siphoned by corrupt officials were largely impossible to pin down.

Now, an office originally set up by the American occupation to investigate corruption in Iraq has accumulated the first solid estimates of the problem. The results are likely to fuel the most pessimistic concerns over where the money has gone.

 

The abuses range from sweetheart deals on leases, to exorbitant contracts for things like garbage hauling, to payments for construction that was never done.

 

Since it began doing business in earnest last July, the office, now run by the Iraqi government and called the Commission on Public Integrity, has looked into more than 814 cases of potential wrongdoing, producing 399 investigations that were still open at the end of May. So far, arrest warrants have been issued for 44 Iraqi government employees.

 

The open cases include investigations into several ministries in the government of the former prime minister, Ayad Allawi, and warrants for two of his ministers, said Ali al-Shabot, spokesman for the commission, who provided the data during interviews this week.

 

The cases touch not just the executive branch but sprawl across provincial and city governments. Mr. Shabot declined to give extensive details on individual cases, citing pending litigation. But a check with some agencies that have sent complaints to the commission disclose some apparent rackets that would not surprise anyone familiar with governmental corruption in the west, especially big-city corruption.

 

In one case, said Mazin A. Makkia, head of the Baghdad City Council, the cost for a garbage-hauling job shot up fivefold in one year, even though the original contract was already far overpriced. In cases involving American money, Mr. Makkia said, the council is looking into what appear to be phantom rebuilding projects - expenditures that have left a paper trail but no trace on the landscape of the city.

 

"It's so clear where the money goes," he said, smiling wearily.

 

But beyond suggesting that contractors and city officials had enriched themselves, Mr. Makkia said he would not point fingers until the investigations were completed.

 

The commission, formed by the former chief American administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, is legally allowed to investigate governmental corruption as far back as 1968. But many of the most prominent cases concern the Allawi government, prompting the former prime minister to claim that political bias is at work, a charge the commission stoutly denies.

 

"We are not targeting the ex-prime minister," Mr. Shabot said. "It's not true and it's incorrect."

 

Other cases reported, especially in a nation whose health-care system is stretched far beyond its limits, raise eyebrows even among the most cynical observers of official graft. In Kut, a city in the south, an official is accused of taking kickbacks in a case involving a public hospital that was improperly leased to a well-connected private cooperative for 1,000 Iraqi dinars (about 70 cents) a year, said Abdul Jaleel al-Shemari, the deputy health minister.

 

Yet another involves possible overpricing and incorrect technical specifications on a large shipment of ambulances from Canada, Dr. Shemari said. The two former cabinet officials in Dr. Allawi's government are also suspected of manipulating contracts of various kinds.

 

"They've wasted the public money," said Mr. Shabot of those officials, whom he identified as the former minister of labor, Layla Abdul Lateef, and the former minister of transportation, Louay Hatem al-Eris. "Misuse of authority," Mr. Shabot said, ticking off the charges. "Misusing their post for personal interest."

 

Ms. Lateef, who had to submit to a police raid on her house, declined through a relative to comment. Mr. Eris was believed to be traveling abroad and could not be reached.

 

The former housing minister, Omar al-Farouk al-Damluji, said in an interview that he was also the target of an investigation by the commission and he professed his innocence

In past statements that were often little noticed at the time, the head of the commission, Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, has also hinted that Dr. Allawi's ministries of defense, interior, electricity and health may be investigated. The issue of corruption was brought to Western attention this week during an international meeting in Brussels, when Hussain al-Shahristani, the influential deputy speaker of the National Assembly, said that corruption had reached "disastrous proportions" since 2003 and that some countries had been unwilling to send financial aid as a result. Dr. Shahristani made his comments to Reuters.

Few Iraqi officials deny that corruption at some level is a fact of life in their government. Even Dr. Allawi concedes that when he was in office, he ordered corruption investigations into three of his own ministers after receiving complaints.

 

All three of the ministers are among those that have been mentioned as targets or potential targets of the commission, Dr. Allawi said in an interview. But he said he had insisted that the investigations be secret, unlike the practice at the commission, which has occasionally spoken freely to the Arab press.

 

Dr. Allawi said that during his tenure, he was appalled to learn of the commission's investigation into Mr. Damluji from a radio report. Then, after he stepped down, there was the raid on Ms. Lateef's house.

 

"Do you know what they did?" Dr. Allawi said. "They sent police to break into her house. You know, it reminded me of Saddam's days. And her neighbors, and most of them are ministers, they came to her rescue."

 

Dr. Allawi, a secular Shiite politician and member of the opposition in a National Assembly dominated by a Shiite party with a heavy clerical influence, insists there is more than a slight political tinge to the commission's work. But as an independent body, the commission did not change personnel with the arrival of the new government, possibly weakening that claim.

 

Mr. Shabot also points out that the commission can only investigate allegations and collect evidence, ultimately referring criminal cases to the courts. Many cases originate with inspectors general in the ministries and are sometimes sent back to the same officials if an administrative rather than a criminal punishment is called for. Nearly 130 cases have been handled in that way, Mr. Shabot said.

 

But Dr. Allawi and his supporters question the assertion that there is no bias. While the makeup of the commission has not changed, a number of inspectors did come in with the new government, said Nesreen M. Siddeek Berwari, the public works minister under both Dr. Allawi and the current government. She says those officials have shown political bias in their work. The new inspector in her own ministry is a Shiite closely linked with the new government, said Ms. Berwari, a Kurd who is under no suspicion of wrongdoing.

 

The new inspector has so far focused almost exclusively on cases involving Sunni Arabs and Kurds, she said, illustrating what she sees as a larger problem with the commission.

 

"I'm afraid that the current cases are politically motivated," Ms. Berwari said. "The new question - how uncorrupt is the public integrity office?"

 

<<

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Today in his routine Bi-weekly news confrence, the spokesman to PM Aljaafree, expressed his wondering on how it is possible that the head of Egyptian empassy in Baghdad would leave his place alone! Yesterday Aljaafree also raised his concerens.. However Dr. Kubba went further to suggest that he might be in contacts to some insurgence groups.. Dr. Kubba advice was that in such cases, the embassidor should at least notify the Iraqi government..

 

When he asked by an Iraqi reporters to comment on President Bush speach that US prefer to fight terrorists in Iraq, Dr. Kubba reply was complying to Dr. Aljaafree ealier this week. He said that it is true and it is our message to the world and specially the neighboring countries. If you leave Iraq facing the terror alone, you might end up facing the terror in your capitols soon!!

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Guest Mustefser
صحيفةأميركية: حكومة علاوي أنفقت 300 مليون دولار على الرشاوي

الثلاثاء 19/7/2005 راديو سوا- قال مسؤولون عسكريون عراقيون وأميركيون إن وزارة الدفاع العراقية أنفقت أكثر من 300 مليون دولار في صفقات غير قانونية لشراء أجهزة ومعدات غير صالحة وقديمة ودفع رشاوى، فيما وصفوها بأنها شبكة فساد واسعة تفشت في الوزارة في عهد حكومة إياد علاوي. جاء ذلك في تقرير نشرته صحيفة Knight Ridder على موقعها الالكتروني وأضاف أن تلك الأجهزة والمعدات عرضت حياة أفراد القوات الأمنية العراقية إلى الخطر في حربهم ضد الجماعات المسلحة.

وتطرقت الصحيفة إلى صفقة شراء مروحيات من بولندا بقيمة 100 مليون دولار اتضح فيما بعد أنها قديمة وتفتقر إلى ابسط المقومات المطلوبة، فضلا عن صفقة شراء ناقلات أشخاص مدرعة للجيش العراقي لم تستخدم أبدا لاعتبارها تشكل خطرا على حياة الجنود بسبب اكتشاف مشاكل فنية كبيرة بعد وقت قصير من تجريبها.

وأشارت الصحيفة إلى تصريحات سابقة لوزير الدفاع الحالي سعدون الدليمي أكد فيها إقالة الأشخاص المشتبه بتورطهم في تلك الفضيحة وإخضاع مسؤولين سابقين في وزارة الدفاع إلى التحقيق.

ووصف الدليمي في تصريحاته تلك شبكات الفساد بأنها الحضن الذي يرعى الإرهاب، مضيفا قوله أن عدم محاربة الفساد يعني عدم محاربة الإرهاب على حد تعبيره.

 

 

 

Iraq seen wasting $300 million on substandard military equipment

 

By Hannah Allam

 

Knight Ridder Newspapers

 

 

 

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The Iraqi Defense Ministry has squandered more than $300 million buying faulty and outdated military equipment in what appears to be a massive web of corruption that flourished under American-appointed supervisors for a year or longer, U.S. and Iraqi military officials said this week.

 

 

Vendors are suspected of vastly overcharging for substandard equipment, including helicopters, machine guns and armored vehicles, and kicking back money to Iraqi Defense Ministry buyers.

 

 

The defective equipment has jeopardized the lives of Iraq's embattled security forces and exposed a startling lack of oversight for one of the country's most crucial rebuilding projects.

 

 

Officials of Iraq's recently elected government have fired the main suspects in the scandal, and several former defense overseers are under investigation for possible criminal charges, Iraqi Defense Minister Saadoun al-Duleimi said in an interview this week.

 

 

"I view corruption as an incubator for terrorism," said al-Duleimi, who took office in May and isn't implicated in the scandal. "If you can't defend against corruption, you can't defend against terrorism."

 

 

The suspected fraud slowed progress in training and equipping Iraqi forces, whose performance against deadly insurgents is the key gauge for when the U.S. military can begin withdrawing its 135,000 troops from Iraq. Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus is the senior U.S. officer in charge of training and equipping Iraqi forces. He declined to comment on the allegations, saying it was a matter for the sovereign government of Iraq to resolve.

 

 

Al-Duleimi said investigators are looking at more than 40 questionable contracts that allegedly sent a huge chunk of the ministry's annual budget into the pockets of senior Iraqi defense officials and their foreign business partners.

 

 

Other Iraqis familiar with the cases said there may be more fraudulent contracts involving many more millions of dollars.

 

 

Investigators are looking at purchases dating back to the June 28, 2004, transfer of sovereignty from American administrator L. Paul Bremer III to the caretaker government of U.S.-backed Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Many Iraqi administrators hired under Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority kept their jobs after the handover of the ministry, but after that the U.S. military no longer had the final say in awarding contracts.

 

 

However, Americans still ran the show behind the scenes, said several Iraqi bureaucrats involved with the ministry at the time. It's implausible to them that U.S. officials, who held daily briefings with Iraqi defense chiefs, didn't catch wind of the alleged wrongdoing.

 

 

 

 

"It seems hard to understand to an outsider that this stuff could go on under our noses and Americans wouldn't know anything about it. But, clearly, we didn't know everything," said a U.S. military official familiar with the events. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss an open investigation.

 

 

The official said American advisers had warned the government about some suspicious activity, but they weren't aware of the extent of the problem. In his words: "When the $300 million figure came out, jaws hit the floor. We had no idea the numbers were that high."

 

 

The official emphasized that it wasn't U.S. taxpayer funds involved in the alleged corruption, though he added that commanders have had to dip into American money to correct the losses and keep Iraqi training on track. He said it was hard to rein in Iraqi officials who had grown accustomed to having cash thrown at them in the confusing first months of the war, but added that there was no other way to get things done when there was no banking system and concerns were mounting over security.

 

 

"Maybe you heard a rumor that a certain guy's a crook, but you still needed equipment for the Iraqis and he could get them by the end of the month. What do you do?" the official asked. "We are not operating in a black-and-white situation here. This is a gray, gray world we work in."

 

 

 

In one case, a team of Iraqi defense inspectors traveled to Poland to check on what they understood to be a fleet of refurbished transport helicopters that cost the government more than $100 million. What the inspectors found were 24 Soviet-era helicopters, each about 30 years old and way past its prime. Disgusted, the Iraqi team refused the aircraft and returned to Baghdad empty-handed, with neither helicopters nor the money paid up front for them.

 

 

"You could say the helicopters were out of order," al-Duleimi said.

 

 

Other disastrous purchases include a shipment of sleek MP5 machine guns, costing about $3,500 apiece, that are now believed to be Egyptian-made knockoffs worth $200 each on the street, according to American and Iraqi officials familiar with the contracts under scrutiny.

 

 

 

 

In another case, defense officials bought expensive armored personnel carriers to protect Iraqi troops on trips through perilous areas. The vehicles leaked so much oil that they broke down after only a few miles. Eventually all were parked as too dangerous to use, the officials said.

 

 

 

 

Many of the deals were brokered by former Iraqi exile Ziad Tareq Cattan, who was hired by the CPA in 2004 and quickly rose from district councilman to be the Iraqi defense ministry's chief weapons buyer. Cattan, who oversaw the ministry's acquisitions, logistics and infrastructure portfolio, was known as a man who flew around the world spending millions of government cash with little accountability.

 

 

Defense officials said he sometimes submitted scraps of paper as receipts for multimillion-dollar weapons deals and was notorious for charging a 10 percent "finder's fee" for the contracts he negotiated.

 

 

"There is no doubt he took advantage of opportunities," said John Noble, senior Western adviser to Iraq's defense ministry. "Certainly millions, possibly even hundreds of millions" of dollars were lost through Cattan's business ventures, Noble said.

 

 

Cattan was fired last month. U.S. military officials said he'd tried to flee the country, but was stopped. Knight Ridder obtained a copy of an Iraqi court's arrest warrant filed against him July 7 on charges related to abuse of an employer's funds. The warrant ordered Cattan "to the aforementioned court as soon as possible."

 

 

Cattan phoned Knight Ridder on Thursday, saying he was in Irbil, the capital of the semiautonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. In an hour-long phone interview, Cattan said the accusations against him were made up by Americans angry that he questioned their training procedures for Iraqi troops and by newly elected Shiite Muslim leaders jealous of a rival Sunni Muslim in such an important ministry post. He denied taking a 10 percent finder's fee for contracts.

 

 

 

 

Cattan said he spent 27 years in Europe before returning to Iraq two days before the war began in 2003. He said he was handpicked by Bremer's CPA and was flown to Washington in January 2004 for special training in rebuilding the Iraqi Defense Ministry.

 

 

"We assisted this ministry when Bremer was here. We built this ministry with our hands," he said. "We built this army from zero to 100,000."

 

 

Cattan was kept on after the return of sovereignty put Allawi, a secular Shiite, in charge of the government. But all along, Cattan said, it was Americans who controlled the defense ministry's purse strings and weapons procurement. He said it would have been impossible for him to commit the alleged fraud with American generals managing every aspect of the ministry.

 

 

"We could do nothing in the ministry without decisions from the generals," Cattan said. "We couldn't move a single soldier from east Baghdad to west Baghdad without their permission. We had to ask them, to plead with them for one machine gun."

 

 

Cattan said he traveled to France, Poland, the United Arab Emirates and other countries to buy high-quality weapons for the new Iraqi force. He acknowledged the helicopter debacle, saying he'd asked his Polish friends to replace the rusty aircraft with newer models. But he said it was Americans - not Iraqis - who wasted money on other outdated equipment for the country's nascent forces.

 

 

"A lot of our soldiers were killed because they were given old AK-47s and were told to go fight in Fallujah," Cattan said. "The guns would work for a few minutes and that was it."

 

 

While friendly with the Allawi government, Cattan said, he found himself suddenly persona non grata under the more conservative Shiite leadership of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who came to power after the January elections. He said al-Jaafari's Shiite-dominated administration resented his efforts to bring disaffected Sunni Arab tribesmen and clerics into the government, so officials drummed up the corruption charges to get rid of him.

 

 

 

 

Cattan said he plans to return to Baghdad next week to answer charges in the arrest warrant. He said he looks forward to continuing his work on rebuilding Iraq and hasn't ruled out running in the next elections.

 

 

"They want to destroy my reputation, destroy my position," Cattan said. "If they have one document that shows one cent of corruption, show me. They can prove nothing."

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