London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Iraqi political and security sources in Baghdad have spoken of their fears of either a military coup taking place in Iraq or a militant Shiite militia overthrowing the government.
An Iraqi official, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat from Baghdad, revealed that “important Iraqi political leaders have strengthened the security of their headquarters, offices, and homes” adding that they have also “restricted their movements both inside and outside of Baghdad.” The source claimed that this came “following advice or warnings from Iraqi security and US [military] commanders in Iraq.”
The Iraqi official, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said that “we are not ruling out a military coup taking place especially as the political history of Iraq is full of military coups, and in light of the decision of the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi armed forces, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to surround Baghdad with military forces…and to exclude other leaders from positions of direct responsibility of the movements of the army, as well as the arrest of senior officers in Baghdad, Mosul, Diyali, Tikrit. This gives rise to fears of a military coup in the event of al-Maliki not being able to remain as prime minister.”
The Iraqi official also warned against “the chaotic political and security situation, and the power struggle that is taking place between political leaders” saying that this could “give senior officers in the Iraqi army the justification to carry out a coup under the pretext of protecting the political and security situation, not to mention that many officers feel marginalized following the introduction of military officers that they believe are unworthy of Iraq’s military history.”
For his part, an Iraqi security source, also speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, revealed that “US forces have given orders for US officers to join certain important military units in Baghdad as advisers…due to fears of an attempt to overthrow the government.”
The security source who was speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone from Baghdad yesterday also said that “the armed forces and the security forces are now on a state of alert, and there is a dangerous division in the structure of the Iraqi army and security services caused by sectarian and political loyalties” adding that “the army and the security forces have become completely politicized.”
The security source also revealed that “there is a clear conflict between the former Iraqi army officers that have obtained high military ranks due to their studies at military academies and their long history of service, and the young officers that have obtained high rank due to their political or sectarian affiliations.”
The source added that “we hear labels in the army such as ‘Saddam’s army’ or ‘Bremer’s army’ and this is the most dangerous thing that the Iraqi army is [currently] facing.”
In this regard, officials in the al-Furat al-Awsat region which includes Babil, Karbala, Najaf, al-Muthanna, and Qadisiyah, have confirmed the presence of the Iran affiliated Asaib Ahl al-Haq group there, and that the group is preparing to carry out an armed and organized coup in the capital Baghdad and the country’s central and southern provinces following the withdrawal of US troops, revealing an alliance between Asaib Ahl al-Haq and the Hezbollah movement in Iraq [Kataib Hezbollah], which has previously exchanged information with Al Qaeda.
Asaib Ahl al Haq is an armed group led by Sheikh Qais Khazali that split from the Sadrist trend after Moqtada al-Sadr announced an end to armed operations in Najaf in 2004. Sheikh Khazali, who currently resides in Iran, played a major role in the Mahdi army’s battle with the US forces over Najaf, allowing him to build bridges of trust with Iran and split from the Sadrist trend.
The security source, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that “security information confirms that the Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al Haq is preparing to carry out an armed coup in the capital of Baghdad, and the al-Furat al-Awsat region following the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, if the situation dos not go the way Iran wants it to.”
He added “Asaib Ahl al Haq has allied with Hezbollah movement in Iraq which is classified as a terrorist group and which also has ties with the terrorist Al Qaeda organization.”
In a statement issued by Asaib Ahl al Haq two weeks ago, the group claimed responsibility for armed operations in Najaf, Baghdad, Maysan, Basra, Dhi Qar, against US forces. Asaib Ahl al Haq leader Qais Khazali was released from custody earlier this year in return for hostages, including British contractor Peter Moore.
For his part, a high ranking Iraqi official, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, sad that “we are monitoring any figures that are breaking the law, and we have names and information about some figures who will be arrested shortly.”
As for whether Asaib Ahl al Haq are capable of overthrowing the government, the high ranking official said “Asaib Ahl al Haq are not capable of carrying out an armed coup, and the Iraqi security forces are strong and are today capable of confronting all armed groups.” He added “Asaib Ahl al Haq is a local organization, not a strategic one, and we are working to eliminate this group by tracking its movements via our intelligence sources that have been able to infiltrate such groups that act outside of the law.”