Today's news of the arrest of an alleged group of coup plotters in Iraq's Interior Ministry comes as I am far north of Baghdad in Kirkuk. This is the town that's supposed to be the current Iraq hot spot, where Kurds and Sunni Arabs, along with Turkmen and Christians jockey for territory and power. But I found it surprisingly un-tense, and the provincial council members I met from different ethnic groups were surprisingly unified in the belief that there would be no explosion of violence here (that doesn't speak for terrorist groups like AQI who blew up a restaurant last week where every ethnic and religious group went for family meals.)

What struck me as so odd about the coup news was that I'd just talked until late Wednesday night with savvy Iraqi friends about how unliikely were the prospects of a coup. The country is fragmented politically and the army not strong or unified enough to stage a coup. And the main point: there are 150,000 U.S. troops in the country.

So it seems rather bizarre to imagine coup plotters who believed they could take over. It also seems strange that the arrests came when the Minister of Interior, who was cleaning out the ministry of bad apples, was out of the country. And they came just before upcoming provincial elections.

Prime Minister Maliki, whose party holds only 9 seats in parliament, is trying to burnish his image as a tough guy. Perhaps those arrested were really foolish enough to imagine they could take power with no army and with a superpower still militarily ensconced in the country.