Friday, October 20, 2006

A coup in the air


By Robert Dreyfuss
Asia Times

"The clock is ticking for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the hapless, feckless leader of the Shi'ite fundamentalist party al-Dawa. From Washington, London, Baghdad and other capitals come rumors that Maliki's government will soon be overthrown by a nationalist general or colonel or that he will resign in favor of an emergency "government of national salvation".

A coup d'etat in Iraq would put a period - or rather an exclamation point - at the end of the Bush administration's bungled experiment with democracy there. And it would open an entirely new phase in that country's post-2003 national nightmare. Would it result in the creation of a Saddam Hussein-like strongman to rule Iraq with a heavy hand? Or would it force the warring parties (Sunni insurgents, Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias and Kurdish warlords) to intensify the bloody civil war that is tearing Iraq apart? No one knows.

Still, whatever form it might take, a coup stands an excellent chance of making a horrible situation worse. Rather than toy with yet another misstep, the capstone in a seemingly endless series of errors in Iraq, the Bush administration - including the increasingly powerful "realist" anti-neo-conservative policy types now emerging in Washington - would do far better to start planning for a quick exit.

Even though a military coup might seem to some desperate policymakers a tempting option, it's one of those quicksand ideas. In a paper just written for the Middle East Institute, the sagacious Wayne White - who headed the State Department's intelligence effort on Iraq until last year - specifically warns that it's time for the US to "back off" in Iraq.

Whatever fantasies officials in Washington or Iraq may harbor, however, a coup in Baghdad would by no means be a silver bullet to end Iraq's anarchy. Quite the opposite, it might just add to the bloody unraveling of the country. The problem is, as one experienced Middle East hand told me, "In order to mount a coup, you have to have a state. And there is no state in Iraq." "

No comments: