Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

CIA 'ROCKSTARS' To Headline Iraqi Elections Gig

Two brothers who had worked closely with the Central Intelligence Agency in the run-up to the Iraq war are campaigning and fielding candidates for the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections. Ghandi Muhammad Abdel-Karim Kasnazani and his brother Nehru are contesting seats in the Nineveh and Diyala provinces respectively, and their Coalition of Iraqi National Unity electoral list (number ‘552’) is on the ballots in several provinces. The Kasnazani brothers, Sunni Kurds, are not fielding candidates in any of the three Kurdish provinces or the disputed region of Kirkuk--their traditional base. It is unclear whether the laws set down by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq prohibit siblings from running on the same list.

Nehru Kasnazani is a large man...

Ghandi and Nehru, whose father, Muhammad Kasnazani is the head sheikh of Kasnazani Qaderi Sufi order, are the ‘two brothers’ that were referred to in Bob Woodward’s book, Plan of Attack (Simon & Schuster paperback edition 2004.) Their father was codenamed by the CIA as ‘the Pope.’

Here are some relevant segments from the book:

P 302-303
“So rare, so mind-blowing were Tim’s informants that the CIA gave them the crypt or secret designation DB/ROCKSTARS. (DB was the designator for Iraq.) Tim was now paying the two brothers $1 million a month for ROCKSTAR intelligence. The
brothers seemed to spend the money in about six days, so Tim would offer several hundred thousand more if they provided really good intelligence.

“Swimming in a sea of $100 bills, the ROCKSTARS were buying up weapons on the black market that the [Patriotic Union of Kurdistan] was also trying to buy. The Pope, his two sons and their followers were guests of the PUK, and Tim was running their agent network without the PUK’s knowledge. The PUK leaders were growing increasingly suspicious as members of the religious groups started dressing in military uniforms and running around well-armed. Who are all these religious people playing army?”

Although Ghandi and Nehru’s association with the agency in the northern Iraqi town of Kalachualan was widely known even at that time, their status as CIA assets was only alluded to in the public domain at first in a New York Times story (written by Edward Wong) on August 21, 2005:
Martin van Bruinessen, a professor of Islamic studies at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, said that in the 1970’s and early 80’s Sheik Kasnazani, with the backing of Saddam Hussein, led a militia against the Kurdish forces of Jalal Talabani, who is now Iraq’s president.

Sheik Kasnazani then established himself in Arab Iraq, increasing his following and acting as a middleman for Mr. Hussein’s oil sales. He became close friends with Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, now Mr. Hussein’s most-wanted aide.

But the sheik had a falling-out with Mr. Hussein shortly before the American-led invasion. In a measure of his lasting power, he was able to flee to the Kurdish capital of Sulaimaniya, where he now lives under Mr. Talabani’s protection. From there, the sheik almost certainly helped the United States plan for the invasion of Iraq, said Mr. Bruinessen, who suspects that Sheik Kasnazani was a valuable informant whom C.I.A. officers called "the pope."


Kasnazani dervish 'rockstars' combine heavy metal (not the music, but rather daggers and skewers) with Muslim chanting...

The patron of the Kasnazanis was the Sufi-leaning Vice-President Izzet Al-Douri, who is still at large and recently issued a statement denying reports of his demise. They were given prime real estate to set-up dervish lodges in Dora, Kirkuk and Hai Al-Jami’a. However, in the late-1990s, a third brother, Malas, felt so emboldened by the family’s links to the Ba’athist regime that he forged Saddam’s signature on a document allowing the family to sell oil products to the Kurdish enclave that was then protected by an American enforced no-fly-zone. When Saddam was told of this, he had the three brothers imprisoned and sentenced to death. Their father tried to intercede with Al-Douri, who refused to be involved, citing the dictator’s wrath. Sheikh Muhammad then turned to a Kurdish Communist politician living in Baghdad, who had been a minister in a Ba’athist-Communist coalition government in the late 1970s. This ex-minister, who has Sufi ties of his own, managed to get the Kasnazani family a reprieve, according to sources familiar with the incident. The father and his three sons relocated to northern Iraq, where they were welcomed by anti-Saddam Kurdish strongman, Jalal Talabani.

Some more interesting segments from Woodward’s book:

P 305
“Tim knew the intelligence assets hung by a thinner thread. The primary guy in
the PUK with the inner circle connections, who had helped recruit the ROCKSTARS,
was an alcoholic, and Tim had paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars so he had all the booze he wanted. The ROCKSTARS wouldn’t meet with Tim unless the PUK man approved or was there. So Tim found himself acting as an alcoholic counselor. Every Sunday morning it seemed Tim would go sit with him.

“The man had a litany of complaints. “I want to quit,” he would say regularly. “I hate you.” He complained he was not being paid enough. “You don’t have any respect for me.” Tim had to sit for hours with the man, who was working behind the back of the PUK, which was a kind of blessed organization in his family. Out poured all the resentment and self-loathing, magnified by a huge drinking problem.”
According to two informed sources, the ‘alcoholic’ PUK official was none other than Helo Ahmed, Talabani’s brother-in-law.


Talabani attended a toga party in Mecca two days ago...

At least one document captured from the mukhaberat archive in Baghdad that I’ve been privy to suggests that Ghandi and Nehru was operating as double-agents for Saddam while in the service of the CIA. The CIA’s ROCKSTARS operation climaxed on March 19, 2003 when President George Bush ordered the so-called decapitation strikes against a stretch of farmland in Dora in southern Iraq where Saddam and his sons, Uday and Qusay, were believed to be hiding in a bunker, according to information supplied by the Kasnazani network. Not only were the top ‘heads’ of Iraq absent from the location, but no physical signs of bunker were found upon inspection of the site after the war.

Since then, the Kasnazanis—who are still believed to be CIA assets—tried to find a footing in Iraqi politics. They ran in the last election, predicting to win 20 seats, but failed to garner even one. The portly Nehru even became the benefactor of several sports associations in Baghdad, and claimed the honorary chairmanship of the famed Air Force Soccer Club. He also publishes a daily newspaper in Baghdad called Al-Mashriq ("The Sunrise"), that is considered one of the better financed papers in Iraq and has a modest circulation in the Jordanian capital Amman as well.

The Kasnazani family is now in the construction business, having won major contracts on American military bases, according to Iraqi business sources.

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