Saudis' role in Iraq insurgency outlined
Sunni extremists from Saudi Arabia make up half the foreign fighters in Iraq, many suicide bombers, a U.S. official says.
BAGHDAD — Although Bush administration officials have frequently lashed out at Syria and Iran, accusing it of helping insurgents and militias here, the largest number of foreign fighters and suicide bombers in Iraq come from a third neighbor, Saudi Arabia, according to a senior U.S. military officer and Iraqi lawmakers.And what about our friends the Saudis?
About 45% of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia; 15% are from Syria and Lebanon; and 10% are from North Africa, according to official U.S. military figures made available to The Times by the senior officer. Nearly half of the 135 foreigners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq are Saudis, he said.
Fighters from Saudi Arabia are thought to have carried out more suicide bombings than those of any other nationality, said the senior U.S. officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity. It is apparently the first time a U.S. official has given such a breakdown on the role played by Saudi nationals in Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgency.
He said 50% of all Saudi fighters in Iraq come here as suicide bombers. In the last six months, such bombings have killed or injured 4,000 Iraqis.
The situation has left the U.S. military in the awkward position of battling an enemy whose top source of foreign fighters is a key ally that at best has not been able to prevent its citizens from undertaking bloody attacks in Iraq, and at worst shares complicity in sending extremists to commit attacks against U.S. forces, Iraqi civilians and the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.This has resulted in Professor Bainbridge asking a very serious question or two.
Saudi leaders in early February undercut U.S. diplomacy in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute by brokering, in Mecca, an agreement to form a Fatah-Hamas "unity" government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And King Abdullah took Americans by surprise by declaring at an Arab League gathering that the U.S. presence in Iraq was illegitimate.
U.S. officials remain sensitive about the relationship. Asked why U.S. officials in Iraq had not publicly criticized Saudi Arabia the way they had Iran or Syria, the senior military officer said, "Ask the State Department. This is a political juggernaut."
It makes one wonder whether the case for regime change in Saudi Arabia was (and is) a lot stronger than the one for regime chane in Iraq. Certainly, it suggests that countering Wahhabism should have been Bush's first priority. It'll also add fuel to the fire of conspiracy theories, like this one:Both then-president Bush and the current president have had personal and deep financial ties with the Saudi royal family. Author and journalist Craig Unger documents $1.4 billion that has “made its way” from the Saudi royal family to “entities tied” to the Bush family, according to Unger’s controversial book "House of Bush, House of Saud.”
Unger contends that the documented oil holdings and affiliations of both Bush presidents has led to a policy of inaction in the post-Sept. 11 world.
“There is a fundamental piece of logic missing in the American conversation ... the Saudis played a big role in terrorism, that the Bushes have very, very close to the Saudis both in business terms, personal terms, and in public policy. And it has a resulted in a non-cracking down in the Saudi role on terror,” said Unger, who lives only blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood.
As my friend and partner The Gun Toting Liberal points out even some of the wingnuts are upset with Bush over this.