Monday, July 16, 2007

Bush, the Saudis, and the Iraqi insurgency

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It doesn't take a Michael Moore movie to work through the connections here:

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.

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.

Andrew Sullivan sums it up: "The Saudis, of course, are among the Bush family's closest friends, so we neither mention nor tackle this. The gulf between the reality in the Middle East and the president's account of it grows wider and wider."

See also Juan Cole, who reminds us that the vast majority of those fighting the U.S. in Iraq are... Iraqis, "nationalists of various stripes, whether religious or secular. They are Sunni. They haven't given fealty to Bin Laden and are not 'al-Qaeda.'"

(For more, see Taylor Marsh and the GTL.)

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