One point about this Iraqi Interior Ministry raid conducted by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s forces. I noticed my reporting about it earlier today had a fair amount of credulity for Maliki’s position that the raid was meant to crush a coalescing neo-Baathist coup. Conversations with my friends Matthew Yglesias and Robert Farley helped me see a different spin on it: historically, many an effort at consolidating power under a strong leader in weak-state conditions comes with the pretext at crushing a coup by forces of the ancien regime. Ask the Jacobins. Ask the Soviets. Ask the Maoists.
I’m not saying that I know this is what’s happened. I absolutely don’t. It’s just something to be suspicious of, especially as, apparently, some of those arrested were Shiites, who make for unlikely Baathists. And the Interior Ministry is a real power center. The Los Angeles Times, I notice, adds this note of skepticism as well:
Western officials have described Maliki, a religious Shiite, as deeply suspicious of a coup by Iraqi security officers, many of whom are secular and nostalgic for the old Iraqi army. The prime minister has long sought to consolidate his power and control of the army and police. All security forces now report back to his office.
In the past, Shiite political parties have used the allegations of membership in the Baath Party to purge senior Iraqi officers from the Interior and Defense ministries. Many of those expulsions have been considered cover to settle political or personal scores.
Something to consider.