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U.S. officials -- and quite a few others -- knew of plans for a coup last weekend against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, Saddam seems to have been among the cogniscenti. Led by Wafiq Samaraii, who headed Iraqi intelligence during the Gulf War but later lost his post in a purge, the plot was to be carried out by major sections of the Iraqi military, with simultaneous attacks mounted in both northern and southern Iraq. First reported by The New York Times this morning, the coup would have united Iraq's main opposition group with army contingents and Kurd and Shiite forces throughout the nation. Instead, during the attempt over the weekend, key Kurdish forces declined to attack, and Samaraii found he had overestimated his influence on army leaders. "They were way ahead of themselves in terms of what they could accomplish," says TIME Washington correspondent Douglas Waller of the coup leaders. "This whole attempt was fairly poorly planned and telegraphed ahead of time. Even journalists knew about it." As for Samaraii, he got out just in time, fleeing across the border into Syria.