Coup d’etat in Iraq: Rumors, Chances

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Morad Veisi

Coup d’etat is a rooted tradition in contemporary Iraq and now rumors on a coup has spread over the entire country. After vice- president and senior member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Adel Abdul Mahdi, President of the Autonomous Kurdish Government of Iraq, Massoud Barzai is the second person who has expressed concern over the outbreak of a coup d’etat in Iraq.

Quoting certain informed political sources, the Iraqi newspaper al-Bayaneh al-Jadideh wrote that everything is possible in this respect and occurrence of a coup would not come as a surprise. Some analysts believe that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has prepared a scenario for launching a military coup d’etat in Iraq and is waiting for proper political and security conditions to go for it because a military government would guarantee permanent and durable presence of the United States in Iraq. Under such government grounds would be prepared for signing security agreements in various fields and above all in military and security fields with Iraq. If the current government further opposed the security accord, the possibility of overthrowing it in a white coup d’etat exists.

Under these conditions Massoud Barzai has announced that if the situation continues in this direction it is possible for the army to take over, especially after the Americans withdraw. But he assured that no coup would occur as long as American troops stayed in Iraq.

The concern voiced by Barzani and Adel Abdul Mahdi is both a sign of the common concerns of the Kurds and religious Shia Muslims (the main pillars of the current Iraqi state and government) and a sign of their differences of view.

Both Kurds (the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) and religious Shias (Hizb ul Dawa and Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) are concerned that the remnants of the Baathist organization in Iraq would overthrow the present government with the support of Arab countries and even the United States and replace it with a government ruled by pro-US and pro-Arab states military.

From the viewpoint of Kurds and religious Shias, elements that might be used in this coup d’etat are a network of political and partisan currents opposing the government as well as special paramilitary units and intelligence and security services out of the government control.

According to this hypothesis, parties such as the Accord Front comprising three Sunni Arab groups and Sunni figures such as Saleh Motlaq, Adnan Daliki, Khalaf Alyan, and even Tariq al-Hashemi and the al-Iraqi Front (Shia) led by Ayad Alawi and Baathists close to the United  States would form the political body of this probable coup.

In the intelligence and security section, the Iraqi government is suspicious mainly about the intelligence service under the control of Mohamamd Shahwani. The network was established at the time of Saddam’s fall and with the direct guidance of the Americans and outside the control of various post-Saddam governments. Most of its agents are the intelligence and security cadre of Saddam’s intelligence with strong anti-Iran tendencies.

In the military section, the main concern is focused on the anti-terrorism special unit known as Unit 36 which is out of the control of the Iraqi government and is under the command of US army generals. It has even arrested and still arrests senior officials by attacking ministries. Some Iraqi officials have voiced concern over the return to the army of former Baathist officers and have announced that these forces get their orders from American generals rather than being under the command of the Iraqi government.

The Iraqi government and state are of the viewpoint that the intelligent services of Arab states including those of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have masterminded the coup plot and have taken over its behind the scene activities, logistics and financial backing .

The Shia Muslims present in al-Maliki’s government believe that the present government is not the government desired by the United States and the US is after establishing a government more supportive and obedient to and bringing to power people such as Ayad Alawi.

The Kurds also maintain that the joint Kurdish-religious Shia government is not the government desired by the Arab states and they have a high incentive for overthrowing the present government and replacing it with a new one comprising Sunni Arabs close to the Arab states and Shia Muslims such as Alawi.

Despite this, the difference between the Kurds and Shia Muslims present in this government is that the Kurds including Barzani speak of another kind of coup d’etat and it is a gradual and apparently legal and joint Shia-Sunni Arabs coup against Kurds inside the government.

Barzani’s statement indicates that the Kurds are concerned about their diminishing role in the army and government and about the increasing role of Malki’s (Shia) as the prime minister and Abdulqader Obeidi (Sunni) as the Defence Minister. Also, the recent developments in Kirkuk and Khanaqin have added to their suspicion on political-military plot of Arab Iraqis against the Kurds. Within the framework of this suspicion, Barzani announced that the role of the Kurds has been marginalized in the Iraqi army and commandership of the army should not be delegated to one person. Some people think they can rule alone and although the Kurds are the real partners in the political trend and government some decisions are made without their consultation. We should be assured that the Army would not be used as an instrument to settle political disputes and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces or the Defence Ministry should not provoke the army against civilians, he said. Barzani also noted that they should not make decisions about the army alone but the decision should be made through consultation and under the supervision of the parliament.

These statements directly target and accuse al-Malki and General Obeidi in connection with the recent events in Khanaqin because the Kurds believe the Arabs in Iraq intend to take position against the Kurds in Kirkuk and Khanaqi in a collective move.

The important point in all these rumors and equations is that the tradition of coup d’etat is deeply rooted in Iraq and the possibility of resorting to this political way of change exists there. The military continues to have a strong tendency of monopolizing political power and the mechanisms to obstruct them have not been institutionalized and above all the differences of views as well as different and contrasting interests of political, ethnic and religious currents have intensified the existing gaps in the structure of Iraqi sovereignty. The explicit and implicit groupings have intensified and the Kurdish-Arab and Shia-Sunni gap still exists in Iraq potentially. All these factors have caused the occurrence of a coup d’etat in Iraq to seem more probable although it would not succeed as easily as the previous coup d’etats.


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