Coup rumors in Iraq Posted by: mcq
on Friday, October 13, 2006
David Ignatius lets us in on a badly kept secret. Rumors have been circulating in Iraq about a possible coup:
As the security situation in Baghdad has deteriorated over the past month, there has been growing talk among Iraqi politicians about a "government of national salvation'' — a coup, in effect — that would impose martial law throughout the country. This coup talk is probably unrealistic, but it illustrates the rising desperation among Iraqis as the country slips deeper into civil war.
The coup rumors come from several directions. U.S. officials have received reports that a prominent Sunni politician, Salah Mutlak, visited Arab capitals over the summer and promoted the idea of a national-salvation government and suggested, erroneously, that it would have American support. Meanwhile, top officials of the Iraqi intelligence service have discussed a plan in which Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would step aside in favor of a five-man ruling commission that would suspend Parliament, declare martial law and call back some officers of the old Iraqi army.
Frustration with Maliki's Shiite-led government is strongest among Iraq's Sunni minority, which dominated the old regime of Saddam Hussein. But as sectarian violence has increased, the disillusionment has spread to some prominent Shiite and Kurdish politicians as well. Some are said to support the junta-like commission, which would represent the country's main factions and include former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who is still seen by some Iraqis as a potential "strongman'' who could pull the country back from the brink.
What these rumors point to is a growing frustration among Iraqis concerning the level of violence they're experiencing and have been experiencing. What they want is someone to step forward and do what is necessary to stop it. As Ignatius points out, they're even ready for a "strongman" to take the reigns.
Of course a coup would murder nascent democracy in its cradle. Unfortunately, however, coups are as "Iraqi" as car bombers. The country has lived with coups for its entire existence. But the obvious "best case scenario" for Iraqi democracy obviously doesn't involve coups. So how to avoid one while addressing the problems that are leading to serious contemplation of such by various factions in Iraq?
Asked another way, are we fast approaching a point where a coup attempt becomes a matter of "when", not "if"? And "if" what should the US position be?
Ignatius goes through some options and scenarios which he believes might help stabalize the situation, and I assume, dampen any thoughts of a coup. I simply don't see the options he presents as those which would do much of either. However the one thing he does point to has some possiblity of helping the situation:
When you peel away the "stay the course'' rhetoric, the Bush administration's best hope seems to be for a federal solution in Iraq in which the central government devolves power to the Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni regions, oil revenues are shared equitably, the Iraqi army maintains order in unruly areas such as Baghdad and U.S. forces gradually pull back. The biggest problem with that strategy is that it would leave the Sunni Triangle as a lawless zone from which terrorists could operate freely. U.S. officials were encouraged by a summit in Baghdad last weekend of Sunni tribal leaders who might be able to contain al-Qaeda forces in their region. But such tribal strategies have failed in the past.
Maybe you leave it just like that and let the Iraqis deal with it once they've stabalized the rest of the country. But it is becoming clear, at least to me, that unless the Maliki government grows a pair, and grows them quickly, and begins to exert authority and the force necessary to quell the sectarian violence, it won't be around for long. The Iraqi people, at this point, want someone, anyone, to take charge. And if the present government won't do it and is taken down by a coup, it will put US forces in an untenable position and the US mission in Iraq in shambles.
Someone needs to sit down fairly quickly face-to-face with Maliki, et. al and have a real Dutch Uncle conversation about governing if they want to avoid this possibility. It is no longer time to gently ease the fledgling out of the nest to see if he can fly, it is time to put a boot in his rear, kick him out and make him fly.
Damn, I was going to write a post suggesting the same kind of approach. I probably still will, but if you are not going to write something as well as you do McQ it helps to at least have said it first.
Alas, even if Maliki wants to, he can’t. That’s the problem — it’s not a matter of will, it’s the political and societal realities of a divided society with an authoritarian heritage. The possibility of a coup also assures that the militias will do all they can to avoid giving up their weapons.
Face it, the fat lady is singing. Time to go. The US hopefully will learn some humility here — I suspect the "Iraq syndrome" will be even more powerful than the "Vietnam syndrome." http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm