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BAGHDAD — Ahmad Chalabi, the smooth-talking Iraqi politician who played a role in persuading the United States to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003, has died. He was 71.
His secretary confirmed to NBC News early Wednesday that Chalabi had suffered a fatal heart attack. His death was also reported by state TV.
Chalabi, a secular Shiite politician who lived in exile for decades, was a leading proponent of the invasion to remove Saddam from power. He provided false information indicating that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Many in the Bush administration had viewed him as a favorite to lead Iraq after the 2003 intervention.
The consensus of intelligence experts has been that these contacts never led to an operational relationship, and that consensus is backed up by reports from the independent 9/11 Commission and by declassified Defense Department reports,as well as by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, whose 2006 report of Phase II of its investigation into prewar intelligence reports concluded that there was no evidence of ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. intelligence officials on Friday said Ahmed Chalabi, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council with ties to senior Pentagon officials, gave intelligence secrets to Iran so closely held in the U.S. government that only "a handful" of senior officials know them.
May 20, 2004 - U.S. soldiers raid Chalabi's home and offices of the Iraqi National Congress. They are investigating 15 members of the INC for offenses including fraud and kidnapping. U.S. officials accuse Chalabi of passing information about military operations in Iraq to Iran. Chalabi denies these charges.
August 8, 2004 - Arrest warrants are issued in Iraq for Chalabi and his nephew Salem. Ahmed Chalabi has been charged with counterfeiting currency while his nephew has been charged with murder. An Iraqi court later throws out the charges.
August 2009 - U.S. military intelligence links Chalabi to Shiite terrorists responsible for a 2007 attack on seven Marines and to ties with Iran.
Dandolo and The 4th Crusade
A Crusade had been in the planning stage since 1199. Originally conceived of by Count Tibald of Champagne who died in 1201, whereupon Boniface of Montferrat succeeded Tibald as the Crusade leader. Pope Innocent III, who was elected Pope in 1198, gave the Crusade his blessing. The original plan of the Crusaders was to land an army in Egypt. However, Venice had a trade relationship with Egypt and did not wish for this relationship to be threatened. The Crusaders arrived in Venice and contracted the Venetians (who overcharged) for a fleet three times larger than was necessary. The Crusader army itself arrived in 1202 and was smaller than expected. The Crusaders now had no way to pay off the debt. Seeing an opportunity, Dandolo convinced the Crusaders to assist Venice to in conquering the city of Zara which was now under Hungarian control (and thus a Christian city). Dandolo, who was in his mid-nineties, accompanied the fleet.
Zara fell in November of 1202. Despite the plunder and economic gain of Zara, the wealth gained was still insufficient for the Crusaders to break free from their debt. Furthermore, Boniface received a letter from the Pope condemning the attack and excommunicating the Venetians. However, Boniface refused to publish the letter. The Crusaders needed a way out.
The Byzantine Connection
Isaac II of Byzantium was deposed by his brother Alexius III in 1195. Isaac’s son, who would later be known as Alexius IV, made his way to the Kingdom of Swabia in order to gain support to restore his father to the throne. Alexius IV made contact with the Crusaders in Zara, where the fleet was staying for the winter. Alexius IV conspired with the Crusaders, offering them an army of ten thousand soldiers and two hundred thousand marks. The Crusaders were originally eighty thousand marks in debt, such a large amount of wealth was too hard to pass up. The Crusaders decided to set sail for Constantinople to restore Isaac II throne. Unfortunately, the Pope knew in advance of the plan to divert the Crusade to Constantinople. The Pope sent another letter to Boniface. In it, he forbade any attack on Constantinople and ordered his earlier letter published immediately. However, the Crusader fleet had left Zara before the letter could arrive.
The Crusader fleet entered the Bosporus early in 1203 and camped across the straights from Constantinople. Though the Byzantines had a fleet, it was in no shape to fight the Venetian fleet. The Emperor’s brother-in-law, the Admiral of the Byzantine fleet, grew rich selling off the equipment of the Byzantine navy, reducing it to a horrible and unprepared state.
First, the Crusaders sent an emissary into the city in an attempt to proclaim Isaac II as Emperor. However, peaceful attempts to restore Isaac failed. The Crusader fleet then landed its army at Galata, a suburb across the Golden Horn harbor, the inlet to Constantinople. The Fleet could not enter the Golden Horn due to an immense fifteen hundred foot iron chain which was protected by a tower. However, the Byzantines launched a botched attack against the Crusader camp, which saw the Crusaders gain control of the tower. It was then that the Venetian fleet entered the harbor and scaled up the city walls. Emperor Alexius III fled the city across the Bosporus. Alexius III’s own people turned around and proclaimed Isaac II and his son Alexius IV the Co-Emperor’s of Byzantium. Isaac II however was in a depleted mental capacity and not fit to rule, this forced his son to handle the Empire’s affairs.
Alexius IV was unable to pay off his debt to the Crusaders and finally he and his father were deposed by the Byzantine’s themselves who then turned hostile toward the Crusaders. This forced the Crusaders to take matters into their own hands. Here, Dandolo exceeded his capacity as a mere contractor for transporting an army to its destination. It was decided by a council of Venetians and Crusaders that in the new order, which would replace the Byzantine Empire, six Venetians and six Crusaders would choose an Emperor and that if the Crusaders were elected to the Emperorship, the Venetians would appoint a Patriarch and visa versa. Though an old man, Dandolo preferred to be in the forefront of the fighting. Armed with the gonfalon of St. Marks, Dandolo stood at the bow of his galley encouraging his men as they made their landing. The Crusaders finally gained complete control over Constantinople on April 13th, 1204. In the following days, the Crusaders pillaged the city. Priceless relics were carted off to Venice never to be returned. The Crusaders then turned their attention to establishing a new order in Byzantium.
Though a candidate, Dandolo had no interest is becoming Emperor and he distrusted Boniface. With Dandolo’s support, Count Baldwin of Flanders became the Emperor of the new Latin Empire in 1204. Dandolo took the title “lord of the fourth part and a half of the whole empire of Romania” which corresponded roughly to the amount of Byzantine lands gained by the Venetians. Indeed, Dandolo was more interested in the land he could gain for Venice. Among the new lands gained were Crete, Albania and Islands in the Aegean Sea which were consolidated into the Duchy of the Archipelago. Dandolo also ensured that Venice gained dominant trading rights in important harbors along Mediterranean trade routs. After the 4th Crusade, Venice became the dominant Maritime power in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.