Friday, December 08, 2006

The Saudi insurgency

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Remember Nawaf Obaid? He's the former Saudi security advisor who, in a Post op-ed, claimed that Saudi Arabia would militarily protect Iraqi Sunnis if the U.S. withdrew from Iraq. The Saudi government denied the claim and Obaid was promptly fired.

But was he right? It may not matter. For it seems that the Saudis have already intervened in support of the Sunnis. And how are they doing that? By funding the Sunni insurgency:

Private Saudi citizens are giving millions of dollars to Sunni insurgents in Iraq and much of the money is used to buy weapons, including shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles, according to key Iraqi officials and others familiar with the flow of cash.

Saudi government officials deny that any money from their country is being sent to Iraqis fighting the government and the U.S.-led coalition.

But the U.S. Iraq Study Group report said Saudis are a source of funding for Sunni Arab insurgents. Several truck drivers interviewed by The Associated Press described carrying boxes of cash from Saudi Arabia into Iraq, money they said was headed for insurgents.

Two high-ranking Iraqi officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity, told the AP most of the Saudi money comes from private donations, called zaqat, collected for Islamic causes and charities.

Some Saudis appear to know the money is headed to Iraq's insurgents, but others merely give it to clerics who channel it to anti-coalition forces, the officials said.

So the question is, what does the Saudi government think of this? Is it actively trying to stop this flow of "private" money into Iraq? Or is it passively supporting the insurgency by allowing it to happen? (Consider Saudi complicity with respect to Osama bin Laden's private money.)

Obviously, the Saudi government can't openly support an insurgency that is not just anti-Shiite but anti-American -- the Saudis and the Bushies are close friends, after all -- but the support seems to be there nonetheless.

Maybe Bush should ask his good pal Bandar about this.

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