How Long Can a Hapless Maliki Hang On?

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 1 month ago

Prime Minister Maliki today said that the execution of Saddam would help to undermine the insurgency.  Maliki’s statement should not be seen in the aggregate, as a position statement disconnected from the balance of events in Iraq.  President Bush’s insistence that he would not pull the troops out before the terrorists are defeated stands juxtaposed with the growing chorus of voices calling for change in Iraq, sooner rather than later.

Maliki’s government appears to be too weak to continue without the support of the current level of U.S. troop deployment, and even perhaps a larger deployment given that the U.S. has been forced to admit that its strategic plan to reduce the level of violence in Baghdad has failed.  The installation of a so-called ‘strong-man’ to regain control of Iraq has been floated in hushed circles, but it has been reported that the calls for a change at the top of the political landscape in Iraq are beginning to be heard in Washington.  David Ignatius, of the Washington Post, reported on the currently deteriorating situation in Iraq and the relation to the calls for a new regime:

The situation is deteriorating so fast that even radical militia leaders are said to be complaining about the anarchy. Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite firebrand who heads the militia known as the Mahdi Army, recently told a top official of the Iraqi intelligence service that “an increasing number of Shia death squads, operating under the name of his Mahdi Army, are Iranian pasdaran [Revolutionary Guards] staff officers and Hezbollah fighters, who are executing operational activities that he is not aware of, nor can he control,” according to one U.S. source.

Bush administration officials have been puzzling over why the coup rumors have become so widespread in Baghdad. One reason is that Iraqis remember the country’s history of coups, including the 1958 putsch that overthrew the monarchy and the one in 1968 that brought the Baath Party to power. Another explanation is America’s increasingly vocal frustration with Maliki and the perception in Iraq that he has been given a deadline to crack down on militias, or else. Finally, the rumors may reflect ongoing U.S. efforts to reach out to former Baath Party leaders and insurgents in an effort to stabilize the country.

An [unsourced] former CIA officer is reported to have said that there is Washington ‘buzz’ of a coup:

It’s being talked about in Washington. One scenario is, the Iraqis do it themselves, some Iraqi colonel who’s fed up with the whole thing, who takes over the country. And it would take the United States forty-eight hours to figure out how to respond, and meanwhile he’s taken over everything. The other side of the coin is, we do it ourselves. Find some general up in Ramadi or somewhere, and help him take over. And he’d declare a state of emergency and crack down. And he’d ask us to leave – that would be our exit strategy. It’s a distinct possibility. I’ve raised this with a number of foreign service and intelligence people, and most of them – remembering the days of the coups d’etat in the Middle East – say, “Hear, hear!”

Whether the threat of a coup is real or not, with such ‘buzz’ in Washington, the increasing violence in Iraq, out-of-control militias, and increasing pressure from the Bush administration, Maliki cannot appear to be a strong leader.


Comments

  1. On October 22, 2006 at 6:50 pm, Chris said:

    Coups, like war, often do not go as planned. They often have profound consequences. A United States coup in Iraq would further fuel Iran’s nuclear ambition. It would rub the Persians very poorly.

    There is no general who could take over Iraq in 48 hours. It would take Caesar 5 or 10 years.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Iraq and was published October 20th, 2006 by Herschel Smith.

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