Washington - An arrest warrant for Ahmad Chalabi is the latest turn in the unlikely saga of a figure who is skilled at winning support from those in power.
Born in Baghdad to an affluent banking family, Chalabi became well known in the United States after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, when he helped establish the Iraqi National Congress, an exile organization dedicated to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
On April 6, 2003, barely two weeks after the U.S. attack on Iraq began, the Bush administration showed its faith in Chalabi by airlifting him and several hundred armed supporters into Iraq. When the U.S.-led coalition formed an interim government, Chalabi was named to the Iraqi Governing Council, serving for a time as its president.
He also helped to revamp Iraq's financial sector and was made head of the committee supervising "de-Baathification," the purging of members of Hussein's political party from government. In that post, he had enormous influence over who could, and could not, get a job in the state-controlled economy.
When Chalabi visited Washington in January, he got the full VIP treatment, including a seat with First Lady Laura Bush at the president's State of the Union address and a kiss on both cheeks from Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.
Yet on the Governing Council, Chalabi continued a long-running rivalry with Iyad Allawi, now Iraq's interim prime minister. The two men, who battled for years as exiles, disagreed over de-Baathification, since Allawi believed that skilled members of the former regime needed to be drawn into the new society.
And this year, as it became apparent that some of the prewar intelligence provided by the Iraqi National Congress had been misleading, inflated or even fabricated, the group lost its $340,000 monthly stipend from the U.S. government.
As he looked to build a base of support, Chalabi made some contacts that alarmed the U.S. administrator of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, and other Americans. Although not known for his religious piety, he reached out to his fellow Shiite Muslims, in part because he had alienated the Sunni and Kurdish populations. He cultivated officials in the government of Iran, a country the Bush administration considers part of the "axis of evil.