A rumor is circulating among well-connected and formerly high-level Iraqi bureaucrats in exile in places like Damascus that a military coup is being prepared for Iraq. I received the following from a reliable, knowledgeable contact. There is no certitude that this plan can or will be implemented. That it is being discussed at high levels seems highly likely.
"There is serious talk of a military commission (majlis `askari) to take over the government. The parties would be banned from holding positions, and all the ministers would be technocrats, so to speak. . . [The writer indicates that attempts have been made to recruit cabinet members from the ranks of expatriate technocrats.]
The six-member board or commission would be composed of non-political former military personnel who are presently not part of the government OR the military establishment, such as it is in Iraq at the moment. It is said that the Americans are supporting this behind the scenes.
[I]t is another [desperate plan], but one which many many Iraqis will support, since they are sick of their country being pulled apart by the "imports" - Maliki, Allawi, Jaafari et al. The military group is composed of internals, people who have the goal of securing the country even at the risk of no democracy, so they say. "
Of course, that one contact of Juan Cole's is reporting that a military coup is being planned by a unspecified group of people, does not mean that a coup will be luanched today or tomorrow, or ever for that matter. Who knows how long various parties have been plotting to take over the Iraqi government? But in addition to Juan Cole's post, we have IraqSlogger reporting that an American firm is behind efforts to install Ayed Allawi in al-Maliki's place (via ThinkProgress and Spencer Ackerman):
The powerful Republican lobbying group of Barbour Griffith & Rogers is plotting an effort to displace Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and supplant him with former interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. IraqSlogger reported:
BGR’s work for Allawi includes the August 17 purchase of the Web site domain Allawi-for-Iraq.com.
In recent days, BGR sent hundreds of e-mail messages in Allawi’s name from the e-mail address DrAyadAllawi@Allawi-for-Iraq.com.
BGR’s staff is stacked with conservative operatives with extremely close ties to the White House. Its president is Bush’s former envoy to Iraq, Ambassador Robert Blackwill. Philip Zelikow, a former Counselor to Condoleezza Rice, serves as a senior adviser to the firm. Lanny Griffith, chief executive officer, is a Bush Ranger having raised at least $200,000 for Bush in the 2004 presidential election. And Ed Rogers, chairman and founder of the firm, has been a reliable political ally for the Bush White House.
Juan Cole's contact indicated that Americans support the effort to launch a military coup. But these reports don't match in a significant way, in that the plotters in Juan Cole's post appear to lump Allawi in with Jaafari and Allawi. The IraqSlogger piece only reports that there are plans afoot to supplant Maliki with Allawi, but Juan Cole reports that the plotters plan to overthrow the government and replace it with a military commission. There's no doubt in my mind that American supporters of the mission in Iraq would find either of these outcomes acceptable if they thought the end result was a government that favored our presence (especially since the clock is ticking on the supportability of the number of troops we have in Iraq) but it's difficult to imagine that either plot could be pulled off with ease. Allawi doesn't have much popular support in the country, and it's hard to imagine him leading a coalition to power in the government, short of being installed there in some type of forceful overthrow. It's even harder to imagine a military commission taking over; what would they command? Are the units that these ex-soldiers would command sufficient to launch a successful coup? The government is admittedly quite weak, but how would the Sunni and Shiite political parties react to this?
I honestly will be surprised if either of these plans is carried off. That doesn't mean that there aren't many American officials who would approve of such moves, so we should keep a very careful eye out for any more reports like these.