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Iraq war booster may become country's next prime minister

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The man who led the U.S. into a failed search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq could become the war torn country’s next leader. (Source: CNN) The man who led the U.S. into a failed search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq could become the war torn country’s next leader. (Source: CNN)

(CNN) – He had President George W. Bush’s ear, was a guest at a State of the Union address, and relentlessly campaigned for America to throw Saddam Hussein out under the premise that Iraq has the world’s deadliest weapons.

Ahmad Chalabi’s pronouncements, and the intelligence he fed U.S. officials influenced the Bush administration’s decisions to invade, and the information was spectacularly bogus.

Now, Chalabi is being talked about as a serious contender to replace Nuri al-Maliki as Iraq’s prime minister.

The very idea brings back bad memories for some American observers.

"This is a crazy world and I can't really believe this is a good leader for Iraq,” said Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institute. “On every single issue, he was either dishonest, self-promoting, or vengeful towards his various enemies, and I just saw nothing good in the man."

Chalabi had American military and political leaders thinking the Iraq War would be a cakewalk. Later, he was accused of tipping the Iranians off to American intelligence secrets, and effectively was banned from the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. He denied those claims.

Before the war, Chalabi was convicted and sentenced in a massive bank fraud case in Jordan and escaped to London.

In addition to credibility questions, there are concerns over how effective he’d be as prime minister.

During the war, Chalabi, who’s Shi’a, headed up the effort to push top Sunni leaders out of their jobs. But despite that, a spokesman for popular Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr told CNN that his followers – a key bloc in Iraq’s parliament – believe Chalabi’s a viable candidate who can work with Sunnis and unite the government.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey likes Chalabi, calls him courageous, and says in the current spiral of violence, there aren’t great alternatives.

"Iraq is disintegrating before our eyes. This is a total emergency situation,” Jeffrey said. “The only way out of this thing, and there's only limited chances of that, is for Iraq to find a replacement to Prime Minister Maliki. If he's the lowest common denominator, let it be. Let's give this guy a chance."

How does the Obama administration feel about Chalabi possibly becoming Iraq’s next leader? The White House and the State Department say it’s not the role of the U.S. to support any candidate.

Efforts to contact Chalabi for comment for this story were unsuccessful.

Copyright 2014 CNN. All rights reserved.

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