Allawi’s Muscle: The CIA-Controlled Iraqi National Intelligence Service
By Spencer Ackerman – August 24, 2007, 2:23 PM
Alleged billion dollar thief Hazem Shaalan isn’t Ayad Allawi’s only infamous friend. Allawi is also a close ally of the head of Iraq’s largest intelligence service — a man who takes his billions from Washington, not Baghdad.
On the ground in Baghdad is a sprawling intelligence operation called the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, or INIS. Only INIS isn’t really “National” at all. To the great chagrin of the Maliki government, it’s financed and controlled by the CIA. And its boss is a longtime Allawi friend and CIA asset, Muhammed Shahwani.
Who’s Muhammed Shahwani? He’s a former Iraqi military officer who, along with Allawi, helped plot a botched coup against Saddam Hussein in 1996. Despite the failure, the CIA considered him a valuable asset, largely on the strength of his considerable knowledge of Saddam’s military apparatus. In his memoir, ex-CIA Director George Tenet writes that when Shahwani returned to Iraq as part of “the Agency-sponsored Iraqi paramilitary group known as ‘the Scorpions'” he became “key to developing a strong network inside Iraq for the Agency.”
As a result, Shahwani, a member of Allawi’s Iraqi National Accord party, was an obvious choice to lead the CIA-created INIS. Throughout the Coalition Provisional Authority era and the Allawi regime that followed it, Shahwani was a reliable fixture — so much so that when the 2005 election saw Allawi’s government replaced by a Shiite coalition known as the United Iraqi Alliance, the agency decided that INIS was too valuable to hand over to the less-reliable UIA. (Concerns about sovereignty have their exceptions.) INIS had control over extensive files on Iraqis tied to the insurgency — and many others not suspected of crimes — and the UIA bristled when unable to get access to what it considered the rightful spoils of its electoral victory. “I prefer to call it the American Intelligence of Iraq, not the Iraqi Intelligence Service,” a Shiite parliamentarian and militia commander told reporters Hannah Allam and Warren Strobel.
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