Baathist coup foiled in Iraq?

Reports are emerging that exiled Iraqi Baathists met in Damascus (a while ago, but not clear when) to plan a coup against the Maliki government that they believe would be welcomed by the US:

We have learned from authoritative sources based in Damascus that a group of approximately 400 former Iraqi military ex-officers (primarily cadre who are Baathist and secular non-Baathists) held a conference in the Syrian capital to coordinate efforts to carry out a coup d'état to topple the new Government of Iraq. While the source has impeccable credentials, the advisability and practicality of putting in place this conspiracy seems extreme. More particularly, the plan resulted from the strange certainty of some former Baathist officers and senior political officials that, once the coup was underway, the U.S. would support it -- reputedly because American officials, Baathists maintained, were fed up with the continued incompetence of the al-Jaafari/al-Maliki governments.

The belief of the ex-Baathists was that American officials were yearning for the Saddam Hussein era -- a period of vicious dictatorship, albeit without the instability currently eviscerating the country. The ex-Baathists viewpoint seemed underpinned by a report that the United States had once groomed a strong-man to take over the country in the wake of Saddam Hussein’s toppling. The rumour was that General Nizar al-Khazrachi, who had defected to Denmark in the run-up to the second Iraq War, had once been contacted by the Americans with an offer of a return to Iraq to lead a military-style government. The rumour was that the Americans had finally induced Khazrachi to return to Iraq, and set him up in a makeshift suite of offices at the Baghdad International Airport -- from where he could plot against the elected Government.

The Damascus group included some of the more well-known lights of the former Baathist regime, who fled the country on the eve of the war, to take up residence in Qatar, Jordan and other nearby countries. The conference was interrupted by news that the Americans had succeeded in killing the head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- and so the discussion quickly turned to the impact that killing would have on the Iraqi resistance. The tenor of the discussion resulted in a consensus that Zarqawi’s death would weaken the resistance, if only for a short time, until a more coherent leadership cadre could exert its influence. “The resistance is more broad-based than many Americans believe,” one attendee at the conference noted. “It may be that Zarqawi’s death will even strengthen the resistance, providing a rally point for increased numbers of fighters coming from foreign countries”.
I don't even understand how they thought this might work and how they thought they might get the Shia militias to cooperate...

Via Praktike.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.