There is a major scandal in the making revolving around anti-corruption measures, Iraqi sovereignty and White House access. Is anyone paying attention? The former Minister of Electricity under both Bremer and Allawi, Aiham Al-Samara’i, was sprung out of jail today by American plainclothesmen brandishing guns. Al-Samara’i, an American citizen and well-connected Chicago Republican, had been under detention for two months now, and was charged today on one of the six cases of corruption, embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds leveled against him by the anti-corruption arm of the Iraqi government. He was sentenced for two years inn this case under consideration, but before he could be hauled back to an Iraqi jail in the Green Zone, a group of armed Americans (probably private contractors hired for the jail-break) rushed the courtroom and overpowered the Iraqi Police. They then funneled him downstairs to the basement and exited the building.
There are press reports suggesting that Aihem Al-Samara’i may be within the confines of the American Embassy in Baghdad. It should be noted that after leaving office, Al-Samara’i took on the role of a mediator between some insurgent groups and the Americans, and has met in this capacity with National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and Bush’s advisor on Iraq, Meghan O’Sullivan. He may have had meetings with persons even higher up the chain. Time to check the White House visitation logs, people.
Allegations of corruption had been hovering around Al-Samara’i early on in his tenure at the ministry, but it was presumed that no one would touch him because of his connections in Washington. His arrest and subsequent prosecution was an incredibly positive milestone for anti-corruption efforts in Iraq. This latest incident, however, bodes very badly for all involved and will greatly embarrass Maliki’s cabinet.
Furthermore, it will be interesting to see who else will get implicated should Al-Samara’i actually end up serving time, and maybe striking some sort of deal with the prosecution to reduce his term.
Al-Samara’i, a Sunni Arab, was a leading Ba’athist among the Iraqi student community in Britain in the 1970s, and several of his security reports on his fellow students had surfaced within the archives of the Iraqi Intelligence Service. His brother-in-law was a member of the Ba’ath Party leadership but was purged and executed by Saddam in 1979, thus putting Al-Samara’i in bad odor with the regime.
Al-Samara’i is also a board member for several Arab-American groups.