'A military coup in Iraq led by officers once loyal to Saddam Hussein remains a "real possibility", according to the UK's serving ambassador in Baghdad.
John Jenkins yesterday issued the warning over the potential threats to Iraq's democratically elected government during his testimony to the Iraq inquiry in London. "If you look at the history of Iraq, the history of military coups in Iraq, you have to think that that is always a possibility - a real possibility - in the future," he said. "But I think where we are at the moment is much better than we thought it was going to be back in 2004-05.''
His assessment of the current political landscape in Iraq came as the inquiry prepared to enter a more politically charged phase of its evidence gathering. On Tuesday, Alastair Campbell, former Downing Street spin doctor, will take the witness stand in the first examination of the political decisions that led up to the war.
While Mr Jenkins stressed yesterday that the conditions in Iraq had improved and violence had abated, he told the inquiry that the establishment of democracy in the country was not a "done deal".
One of the main risks to political stability remained the cadre of senior Sunni officers in the Iraqi army with past ties to Saddam's Ba'ath party. This fear was reflected in the widespread belief in Iraq that Ba'athist factions were behind the most recent bomb attacks. "There is clearly a balance to be drawn between using the professional competence and experience of former army officers under Saddam to provide the backbone of the modern Iraqi security forces and dealing with the suspicions and fears of others that this is the reintroduction of irreconcilable elements of the Ba'ath party,'' Mr Jenkins said.'