CHALABI’S LATEST….You remember Muqtada al-Sadr, right? Firebrand cleric, wanted for the murder of a rival cleric, took over Najaf and Sadr City, led a huge uprising that caused the deaths of thousands.

And Ahmed Chalabi, you remember him too, don’t you? Iraqi exile, darling of the neocons, received millions of dollars from the U.S., then fed us bad intel to promote the war.

I guess I’ve already given away the punch line, but guess who’s partnering up in the new Iraq?

Chalabi is a survivor. Snubbed by the Bush administration neoconservatives who once embraced him, and excluded from the interim government, he is building a grass-roots coalition of Shiite Muslim groups who lack a voice in the new Iraq.

At the same time, he’s reaching out to Iraq’s most prominent anti-American Shiite cleric, Muqtada Sadr, whose followers come mainly from Baghdad’s urban underclass and the impoverished south of the country. Political analysts here believe that the new approach will eventually win support from a significant segment of Sadr’s followers if Chalabi chooses to run for office ? and, as expected, Sadr chooses to wield his power from the pulpit instead.

Can the administration’s hawks pick em, or can they pick em? Short of a teamup with Osama, it’s hard to image how Chalabi’s betrayal of his longtime benefactors could be more complete.