Another Colorful Janabi on Allawi’s List
So many questionable Janabis, so little time.
Saad ‘Assim Ahmed Al-Janabi is certainly a colorful man: he was allegedly funneling information to Saddam’s mukhaberat right up to the war of liberation. At the time, he allegedly became a CIA asset in mid-2002 in addition to his Ba'athist duties, and was handled by an ex-CIA guy called Whitley Bruner (of C&O Resources; had served as a spook in Baghdad and the West Bank) who at the time was apparently on contract for the agency to find a “few good Iraqi Sunnis.”
Bruner—who also allegedly recruited Palestinian security chiefs Mohammad Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub in the mid-1990s—retired from spookhood in 1997, but had cultivated some Iraqi Sunnis such as Hatem Mukhlis and Mudhar Shawkat in the days of the Iraqi opposition. He worked for C&O Resources, writing-up reports on developments in Washington for rich Arab sheikhs like UAE’s Information Minister, Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, and Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Hamad Bin Jassim Al-Thani. It was asserted in some circles that C&O could get you an appointment with then Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, in a breeze. The company's chairwoman, Sandra Charles, used to be a close associate of Armitage’s. A source had once told me that Bruner allegedly had contacts with Ghazi Kanan in Lebanon sometime in 2000-2001 through a Lebanese-American contact, Fadi Al-Agha. They supposedly discussed polishing-up Syria’s image in Washington.
Saad Janabi: a man of many loyalties...
Al-Janabi has the 11th slot on Ayad Allawi’s list for the province of Baghdad. He is estranged from his American wife, who is the mayor of some town in California, and had recently taken a younger Iraqi wife, according to family sources. He runs the Al-Janabi Group, which is apparently making a killing in construction contracts in Iraq. His Iraqi Republican Group ran in the last elections but failed to win any seats in the National Assembly.
The following account by Adam Daifallah, reporting from Baghdad on May 12, 2003 for the New York Sun “Lively Politics Starts To Stir In Baghdad”, is accurate:
And just down the road from the Hunting Club, a prominent Iraqi whose name is being mentioned with increasing frequency as a possible aspirant for a post-war political role Saad al-Janabi is holding meetings of his own in his Mansour mansion.
The New York Times reported this weekend that Mr. al-Janabi has formed his own political organization called the Iraqi Republican Group, and that he has been making introductions for Iraqis to staff from the office of Jay Garner, the man heading - at least for now - Iraq's postwar reconstruction efforts.
Whitley Bruner, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer in the Middle East, is advising Mr. al-Janabi. Mr. Bruner has a long history of involvement with various Iraqi opposition groups and has tried to cultivate alternatives to the Iraqi National Congress. He has been recently seen in both Baghdad and Amman, Jordan.
Mr. al-Janabi, like Mr. Chalabi, is just returning after living in exile. But according to a former high-ranking official from the Iraqi intelligence service, the Mukhabarat, Mr. al-Janabi was involved in corrupt business dealings with members of Saddam's family. And, the official said, Mr. al-Janabi worked with Iraqi intelligence, even while living in America.
The intelligence chief, identified as S.A., was a section manager of the Mukhabarat from 1984 until the end of Saddam's regime and has since given information to the Iraqi National Congress.
According to S.A., Mr. al-Janabi, while in Iraq, worked with Saddam's sons-in-law Hussein Kamel and Saddam Kamel and one of Saddam's cousins, Azzadin al-Majid, in a money-making scheme from 1991 to 1996 in which a government-owned cigarette company called Somar sold cigarettes exclusively to Mr. al-Janabi at bargain basement prices. With exclusive distribution rights for the product, Mr. al-Janabi became known as the "cigarette king" of Iraq and became very rich.
The cigarette exclusivity deal was justified by the regime, S.A. said, because it claimed Mr. al-Janabi would only sell the cigarettes inside Iraq and not on the Iranian black market.
He also said Hussein Kamel, then a powerful member of the regime but later assassinated in 1996 after defecting and then returning to Iraq, instructed the Iraqi ministry of trade to not allow the importation of any other brand of cigarettes. For a time, Somar were the only available cigarettes in Iraq, except on the black market.
After Mr. Al-Janabi moved to America in the mid-1990s, S.A. claims to have been asked by the Mukhabarat head office in Baghdad to try and get Mr. al-Janabi to work with them, subsequently sending two of his staff to meet with Mr. al-Janabi's father in Baghdad.
In 1998, S.A. said, a meeting took place in New York City between a Mukhabarat agent and Mr. al-Janabi.
Mr. al-Janabi could not be immediately reached for comment.