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Cancelled contract


The Los Angeles Times
continues to probe the Dale Stoffel-Joseph Wemple murders—and the tale grows more twisted at every step:

Soon after interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi took office last summer, he announced plans to create a tank division for the new Iraqi army.

The $283-million project was supposed to display the power of Iraq's new government. But under the guidance of a task force overseen by one of America's top generals, it has become another chapter in a rebuilding process marked by accusations of corruption.

The U.S. contractor working on the project repeatedly warned the task force headed by Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus that a Lebanese middleman involved in the deal might be routing kickbacks to Iraqi Defense Ministry officials. But senior U.S. military officials did not act on the contractor's pleas for tighter financial controls, according to documents and interviews.

"If we proceed down the road we are currently on, there will be serious legal issues that will land us all in jail," the contractor, Dale Stoffel, wrote in a Nov. 30 e-mail to a senior assistant to Petraeus.

Eight days later, Stoffel was shot dead in an ambush near Baghdad. The killing is being investigated by the FBI, according to people who have been interviewed by the bureau.

Since then, senior U.S. military officials have continued to work with the middleman, Raymond Zayna, who has taken over part of Stoffel's contract, documents and interviews show.

Although the U.S. military initially insisted that the Iraqi government was in control of the project, e-mails obtained by The Times show that Petraeus' task force supervised it.

The case raises concerns about the U.S. commitment to accountability in projects involving Iraqi money. The inspector general for Iraq's reconstruction recently criticized the failure of the former U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority to properly account for $8.8 billion in contracts issued using Iraqi funds.

A $24.7-million payment on the contract that was supposed to go to Stoffel is unaccounted for.

Through a spokesman, Petraeus declined to be interviewed, referring inquiries to the Iraqi Defense Ministry. Ministry officials did not respond to requests for comment.

This Newsweek story from last June describes the Princeton-educated general as "Iraq's repairman."

Reporter Rod Nordland writes: "Leadership is always a bit of a confidence game." One wonders: Exactly what sort of confidence game was General Petraeus playing with the likes of Raymond Zayna and Mohammed abu Darwish?

A source close to the investigation informs me that the shadowy Mr. Zayna turned up at a January 6 parade (pictured above) at the al-Taji military base showing off some of the refurbished tanks to Interim Premier Ayad Allawi—so clearly the guy's not keeping a very low profile (except to The Los Angeles Times).

Oh, and one other thing—al-Taji was the military base Stoffel and Wemple were leaving when their car was ambushed by "insurgents."

UPDATE: Michael at Reading A1 has assembled an impressive dossier on Lebanese money man Mohammed Issam Abu Darwish here. His contention, however, that Abu Darwish is aligned with the "Lebanese anti-Syria coalition" is called into question by this item from Lebanon Wire: " 'Syria saved Lebanon from being partitioned and  backed the process of liberating the south... ' Abu Darwish said urging an end to  hostile campaigns against Damascus."

Don't forget to sign the Free Bobby! petition.

Posted by Rodger on March 15, 2005 at 09:59 PM | Permalink


I suspect that the linchpin in this case is Muhammad abu Darwish, for whom Zayna may be a cutout. I've got a little dossier on him over at my blog. It's hard not to see CIA fingerprints all over this.

Posted by: Michael | Mar 15, 2005 11:25:37 PM

That's a nice catch on the Lebanon Wire item, Rodger. There's another one from a couple of weeks later here, headlined "Shiite ranks dominanted by political rivalries, dissent." Could that be a clue to the game being played by Gemayel via Darwish? Too deep for me. But the significant quote may come from the lead of the article you reference: "'There are signs of movement and action within the Shiite community aimed at changing the traditional equation whereby Amal Movement and Hizbullah are the monopolizing leadership of the 1.2 million-strong Shiite community,' said Ali al-Amin, Al Balad's expert on Shiite affairs."

Posted by: Michael | Mar 18, 2005 2:39:50 PM

Oops--careless about the link above. The second Lebanonwire piece is here.

Posted by: Michael | Mar 18, 2005 4:46:23 PM

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