by Jim Emerson
President Obama announced last week that American forces will leave Iraq by the end of the year. The decision was made when the administration failed to secure a Status of Forces agreement with the Iraqi government. Intelligence data has revealed that former Ba’athist political and ex-military officers were planning a coup to regain power they once had before Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
Sunni leaders are becoming concerned that once the Americans leave the Shiite population will retaliate against them for past grievances. During Saddam Hussein’s oppressive reign the Sunnis ruled the larger Shi’ite population as members of the Ba’ath Party.
As reported in the New York Times, the late Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi supported former Iraq Ba’ath Party officials to overthrow the new Iraqi government. As reported, “Hussein Kamal, Iraq’s deputy interior minister, said the plot included agitators spread throughout the country’s south and just north of Baghdad, and had been planning “terrorist operations and sabotage” after the withdrawal of the United States military.”
This is the latest twist to the Iraqi government’s concern that the Sunni Ba’athists and former military officers will use the occasion of the American withdrawal to stage a coup. Iraqi Intelligence uncovered the plot and had estimated that more than 300 suspects have been planning and organizing activities to disrupt the political process. Aware of the plot, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered the arrest of former Ba’ath officials to disrupt any plot the Ba’athists may have had.
Fear is growing among the Sunni population that the rounding up of former Ba’athists is no different from the purges of Saddam’s reign. Despite the all the talk of reconciliation among the Iraqi tribes, there is still an undercurrent of sectarian resentments. Sunni leaders are becoming concerned that once the Americans leave the Shi’ite population will swiftly move to retaliate against them and settle some old scores.
With Iran next door putting pressure on the Shi’ite population to purge the Sunnis and Christian population, this is not just the stuff of another crazy conspiracy theory. Iran still remembers the Iran-Iraq war.
Once American troops are gone, anything can happen.
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This article originally appeared on CoachIsRight.com and is reprinted with permission.