Ahmad Chalabi, a controversial Iraqi political leader who had helped persuade the United States to invade Iraq in 2003, died in Baghdad Tuesday. Chalabi died at the age of 71, and the cause of his death was identified as a heart attack, the New York Times reported, citing the country’s state-run news network.
Chalabi, who was the son of a prominent Shiite family in Iraq, was closely associated with several journalists in the U.S. and U.K., the neoconservative American advisers for President George W. Bush and several Iraqi exiles, most of whom were being paid to procure intelligence about Iraq’s former president Saddam Hussein, the New York Times reported.
The Times' report also added that Chalabi had taken millions of dollars from the CIA and had promoted evidence indicating Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. However, as soon as the Bush administration found out that the evidence from Chalabi may have been fabricated or exaggerated, they distanced themselves from him.
Although Weapons inspectors had later found that Hussein had ended the weapons program years before the American invasion of Iraq, Chalabi had denied supplying wrong information.
"I respond by saying it's always more important to look to the future than to the past," Chalabi said, during a U.S. visit in 2005, according to CNN. Chalabi was also accused of revealing top-secret information about U.S. code-breaking capabilities to Iran, but he denied the allegations.
Despite his reputation taking a hit in the U.S., Chalabi had continued to gather power in his home country. In 1992, he had formed the Iraqi National Congress, which was the aegis of several other opposition groups in the country, and had held the posts of deputy prime minister and oil minister. Last year, he was also expected to succeed former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, CNN reported.
Sheik Humam Hamoudi, the first deputy speaker of the Iraqi parliament, reportedly said that Chalabi’s death was a "big loss" to the country, and called him "an example of perseverance and dedication."
"Our national and political arena has lost a prominent figure who dedicated his life to serve the country," Hammoudi said, according to the Associated Press.
"He was one of the most seasoned and pioneering politicians. Chalabi worked for a democratic, liberal Iraq," Muwaffak al-Rubaie, a Shiite lawmaker told AP. "I am glad he died peacefully."