Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why now?

If it isn't too much trouble, let's go back three months to September, when there was a round of coup-warnings coming from the government-coalition side ("let's hold our horses on this one," said Sam Parker, remember?), and try and see in hindsight what the Maliki gang's coup-phobia was, and is, all about, and in the process try and understand the timing for this week's wave of supposedly preventive arrests.

First, let's remember what a Supreme Council writer said last September by way of explanation of Adel AbdulMahdi's ruminations about a potential coup.
The warning that he issued is owing to his familiarity with the structure of the Iraqi army, which is assumed to be new and different from the [prior] army which carried out more than one coup--and [the warning is owing to] his knowledge that foreign advisers have convinced the Iraqi leadership to make use of the expertise of prior officers who had served under the government of the Baath party, not in operational leadership but in the areas of training and preparation, and thus persons suspected of Baathist thought are able to penetrate to important positions. And they have participated importantly in building up the military structure according to Baathist theory, and they trained them in the same ways, to have set loyalty to the army leadership, and this facilitates obedience and motivation to fight against the masses of the people on the orders of those leaders. And that is what happened in Khaniqin, where the attack brigade wreaked terror and chaos on a city that had been stable, with their attacks and insults against the people and the notables, pointing their machine-guns at the chest
In short: The reason for his anxiety was that "foreign advisers" have inserted ex-Baathists into the armed forces in influential positions."

Later in September, Haroun Mohammed wrote in his AlQuds alArabi op-ed of a particular case where the Americans had recruited an important former-regime officer, not to work directly with the Maliki government, but to act as a senior "adviser" to the Americans in the GreenZone. This naturally upset the man's former-regime colleagues who were holding out from any form of cooperation with the Americans, but it upset even more the Maliki government, intensifying the type of coup-phobia referred to above. And keeping that coup-phobia on the boil seems to have been part of the Americans' aim. Haroun Mohammed wrote:
The officer's return to Baghdad and his employment as an adviser to the American forces aroused an angry reaction from many of the officer's former colleagues, who said this damaged the reputation of the former Army, and said he was being used as a cats-paw by the Americans to frighten the authorities and hint at a direct threat against them.
This happened around June 2008, and within a short time of his arrival, the former officer had made progress arranging pension-payments to be made in neighboring countries for some former officers whose cases had been held up until then, and he also--writes Haroun Mohammed
drew up, according to what those close to him and those who sympathize with him say, a study that sets out the basic principles for the Iraqi army in the period immediately following the withdrawal of the American forces or part of them. And [they said] the study had the agreement of General Petraeus and Secretary Gates, and that work on it was proceeding.
LB at RoadstoIraq identified the former-regime officer as Raad alHamdani, a former Iraqi Republican Guard Commander. And she dug up what appears to be his study (which says among other things that the Iraqi army lacks unity of purpose, and even unity of command, being mainly a collection of sectarian militias), and links to it here. The conclusion reads like this:
Summary: Do the "current Iraqi armed forces" represent, or are they suitable, to be the basis and/or a replacement as a national Iraqi army to take the place of the occupation forces, maintaining domestic and external security for Iraq? Everything mentioned above in this study by way of information and analysis says, in answer to this question, no, not in the current political situation in Iraq and under the occupation. For this reason, the "reconstitution of a national Iraqi Army" is a pressing need.
The Haroun Mohammed piece referred to above was written in September 2008 and there have been publications since then that support this idea of Americans were threatening to work with the other side to "reconstitute" the Iraqi armed forces, given the failure of the Maliki-administration army to fulfill the functions of a national army, "under the current political situation in Iraq..." For instance, here, and here.

Needless to say, the recent wave of arrests, on this hypothesis, would seem to have been the result of another zag in the zig-zag American policy, this time by expressing their satisfaction with the signing of the joint-venture security agreement by perhaps withdrawing their support from the former-regime officers and their allies, whom they had been using as a threat.