Although like most Middle East hands in Washington I crossed paths with Chalabi a few times, but never quite understood what so captivated his admirers. He was a well-spoken, well-dressed man, a persuasive speaker, but I could never really envision him as leading Iraq. And in the end, though he held Cabinet positions, he never gained he political traction in Iraq that he had enjoyed in George W. Bush's Washington.
Chalabi was also at pains to explain the fact that he was a wanted man in Jordan following the failure of the Petra Bank he had founded; he insisted the prosecution was political, inspired by Saddam Hussein, and perhaps that was true.
Unlike some, I don't blame Chalabi for "causing" the US to invade Iraq; if I'd been an Iraqi Shi‘ite I'd have wanted a superpower to take out my enemy too. I blame the credulous neocons who believed everything Chalabi and the rest of his Iraqi National Congress said, and somehow mistook him for George Washington. The US is responsible for its own mistakes, and those who were surprised when he became a sectarian Shi‘ite politician instead of an author of the Iraqi version of the Federalist Papers, never understood Iraq or Chalabi, an Iraqi Shi‘ite from a wealthy background, married to a daughter of Lebanese Shi‘ite figure and Speaker of Parliament ‘Adel ‘Osseiran.