An American Iraqi at the center of recent fraud accusations that involve President Obama is running for upcoming parliamentary elections in Iraq.
Aiham Alsammarae previously served as Iraq’s U.S.-appointed electricity minister, a position he allegedly used to attempt to pass massive financial deals to Chicago bundler Tony Rezko, a convicted criminal who was a fundraiser and key point man over the years for Obama.
Alsammarae told reporters in Jordan last week he had quietly traveled to the Iraqi city of Samarra, where he said he has secured support from local tribal leaders who can deliver more than 20,000 votes in upcoming elections. He said he needed about 50,000 votes to secure a parliamentary seat.
“We have to do it the Obama way,” Alsammarae was quoted as saying about his election plans. “We are trying to send a message of change. We will clean up the system.”
Alsammarae previously generated controversy when he delivered a June 2008 press conference in Amman in which he called for escalated attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq.
He stated during that event: “The [insurgency] in Iraq is a legitimate resistance [movement], and it is against occupation, and any resistance in the world against occupation is considered legitimate, and I hope that the [insurgency] continues and avenges the Iraqi people and I look forward to expanding its political agenda.”
Following those comments, President Obama donated $2,300 to charity after it was revealed his presidential campaign accepted a donation from Alsammarae for the same amount.
Obama’s ties to Alsammarae, however, go deeper.
Obama tied to Iraqi government fraud?
As WND reported, Obama’s senatorial office engaged in six months of negotiations with a company controlled by Rezko to lobby the U.S. government to push through a nixed $50 million contact to train Iraqi security personnel at a site in Chicago.
The contract was awarded to Rezko’s company while Alsammarae, a long-time, close Rezko friend, served as Iraq’s electricity minister.
Alsammarae also awarded another Rezko-controlled operation as part of a $150 million contract to construct a 250-megawatt electricity plant in Iraq.
Alsammarae later was arrested by Iraqi authorities for bilking the coalition government out of some $650 million. He was sprung from prison under questionable circumstances in 2006 and escaped from Iraq, where he was wanted until recently for questioning with regard to major financial crimes.
The information raises questions into the nature of Obama’s relationship with multiple deals made by Iraq’s Electricity Ministry while Alsammarae was in charge. Obama has ties to the recipients of several of the massive contracts Alsammarae handed out.
While he was the electric czar of Iraq for the Coalition Provisional Authority from mid-2003 until mid-2005, Alsammarae granted the $50 million contract to train Iraqis to guard electrical plants to Companion Security, a start-up reportedly controlled by Rezko, his partner Daniel Mahru and a front man, Daniel Frawley, a former Chicago policeman. Frawley has multiple civil-court judgments against him for his alleged failure to pay millions in outstanding bills.
The plan was to fly about 150 Iraqis to a site in Illinois for security training, which reportedly would include the use of AK-47 assault rifles.
The contract with Rezko’s group was signed April 18, 2005, one month before Alsammarae left his governmental post.
But Iraq’s new electricity minister aborted the deal, complaining the Companion contract was too expensive, according to a U.S. embassy official in Baghdad who spoke earlier this year to the Chicago Sun-Times.
In the spring of 2006, Frawley and his company reportedly reached out to Chicago politicians, including Obama and former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, to bring pressure to revive the deal, arguing the business would be good for the state.
Blagojevich’s office and Illinois Homeland Security reportedly helped by offering an Army depot in Savanna in western Illinois as a site for Companion to conduct the Iraqi training.
Frawley then reportedly reached out to Obama, who in 2006 was a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, engaging in six months of dialogue petitioning the Illinois senator to write a letter introducing the Rezko-connected Companion company to senior Iraqi officials. Frawley met with Seamus Ahern, who runs Obama’s Moline, Ill., office.
But Obama, who has denied doing political favors for Rezko, later claimed he did not know Rezko was involved with Companion.
Obama’s office declined to help about the same time Rezko was indicted on charges of fraud.
Obama’s senatorial spokesman Ben LaBolt said, “The Senate staff had two meetings, one conference call and sporadically e-mailed with representatives of Companion Security about their request for Sen. Obama to write a letter introducing the company to senior officials in the Iraqi government.”
LaBolt said Obama declined to help in the Companion deal, because “that is not the kind of action Sen. Obama usually takes for individual companies, and our staff concluded on that basis to decline the requested assistance.”
LaBolt claimed Obama was not aware of Rezko’s connections to the security firm.
LaBolt did not explain how Frawley could have survived the routine vetting of a petitioner by the U.S. Senate office staff when it was a matter of public record that his company was controlled by Rezko.
The nixed Iraqi government deal opens questions into the nature of Obama’s relationship with agreements made by various associates with Iraq’s Electricity Ministry while Alsammarae was in charge. Obama has ties to both Alsammarae and the recipients of several of the massive contracts he handed out.
Alsammarae, a dual Iraqi-U.S. citizen, arrived in the U.S. in 1976 and currently lives in Chicago and travels frequently to Amman, Jordan, where he maintains a residence despite still being wanted in Iraq.
Alsammarae has described himself as a close friend to Rezko, a former top confidante and fundraiser for Obama. Alsammarae and Rezko had been friends for nearly 30 years, since the two were classmates at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
As WND reported, Alsammarae posted more than one-third of Rezko’s jail bond last year, putting up as surety his $1.9 million Chicago home and two other properties.
Alsammarae contributed the maximum allowable donation of $2,300 to Obama’s campaign, sending money six times last January, February and March.
As electricity minister, Alsammarae not only granted a Rezko firm the $50 million security-training contract but also approved a contract with another Rezko company, Rezmar, to construct a 250-megawatt plant in the Kurdistani city of Chamchamal.
In another connection to Obama, when Alsammarae was jailed in Iraq in 2006, his Chicago-based family reportedly contacted Obama’s U.S. Senate office for information. Obama’s office passed a written request to the State Department about Alsammarae Oct. 16, 2006, and received a reply from the U.S. consul in Iraq about a week later. The reply was forwarded by Obama’s staff to Alsammarae’s daughter.
It wasn’t immediately clear how Alsammarae landed his electricity-ministry job. He was an outspoken critic of the U.S. military campaign in Iraq and publicly has supported Hussein.
In August 2000, Alsammarae, a board member of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, appeared in Washington alongside celebrities such as Martin Sheen and British politician George Galloway at a demonstration against U.N. sanctions on Saddam’s regime.
American political insiders suggested to WND that Alsammarae received major insider help in securing his U.S.-brokered Iraqi government position. Unconfirmed reports point to Alsammarae’s previous Baathist background as being a factor in his elevated status in post-Saddam Iraq.
Alammarae was accused in a federal filing during the Rezko federal corruption trial of being the recipient of a $1 million bribe from Rezko to deliver the original Companion deal. No charges have yet been filed, though the accuser is Daniel Mahru, the former partner in the Companion deal.
Alsammarae was the only cabinet-level Iraqi official to be convicted and jailed for misusing money during his time in office. Last April, Alsammarae made an appearance on CBS’ “60 Minutes” to defend his troubled conduct in Iraq and in the U.S.
An Interpol warrant for his arrest, issued in 2007 at the request of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government, was taken down after Alsammarae was forgiven for some parts of his conduct by an Iraqi legislative initiative, according to Arabic-language Iraqi criminal-court documents obtained by WND and translated into English.