by Aram Roston, investigative producer
Efforts to combat endemic corruption in Iraq have suffered a "disastrous" blow, American officials tell NBC News. The well regarded top anti-corruption fighter in the Iraqi government, whose investigations have exposed graft and fraud throughout the Maliki administration, has submitted his letter of resignation and is now in America. Judge Rahdi Hamza al-Rahdi ran Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity for more than three years and earned the respect of American law enforcement officials.
Now he tells NBC Nightly News that if he returns to Iraq he believes he'll be killed because of his investigations. He tells NBC Nightly News' Lisa Myers that while he does not believe Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki is corrupt, he believes much of his cabinet is. He says the prime minister protected his political constituents from investigation. Judge Radhi also tells NBC News he believes the U.S. government should stop supporting the Maliki government.
The news comes at an important time, just a week before General David Petraeus is to make his long awaited report on the effectiveness of the military "surge" in Iraq.
American officials believe Radhi will apply for political asylum in the U.S., an irony given that the U.S. is supporting the very Iraqi administration which he is seeking protection from.
Lashing back against Judge Radhi earlier this week, Prime Minister Maliki accused Judge Radhi of corruption, and an Iraqi parliamentarian tells NBC News there are 50 charges against Radhi. American officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say they put no credence in the Iraqi charges, and say they believe Judge Radhi in the dispute.
Radhi had opened investigations at the top levels of various ministries in Iraq, including the Ministry of Oil, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Transporation, and the Ministry of Health.