This is from Juan Cole's Blog.
Bush certainly does emphasize Al Qaeda in Iraq and everywhere else. Al Qaeda seems to becoming a generic term for terrorists as Xerox machine for a copier! Al Qaeda in Iraq which certainly does have quite a number of adherents is probably mostly composed of Iraqis not foreign fighters. It is ironic of course that most of the foreign fighters that are in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia! Cole is wrong. The US has at least some Iranians in custody, the ones they snitched from a quasi-embassy in Erbil.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Few Foreign Fighters in Iraq;
Many are Saudi
Al-Maliki Says Iraqi Troops ready
Ned Parker of the LA Times reports that of 19,000 "insurgents" held by the US military in Iraq, only 135 are foreigners.
Think about that when you hear Bush say that the US is fighting "al-Qaeda" in Iraq or that "al-Qaeda" would take over Iraq if the US left. The foreigners just are not that important to the guerrilla war. Only .7% of detainees are foreigners, and unless they run faster than Iraqis, that is likely their percentage share in the "insurgency," too.
The US is fighting Iraqis in Iraq, who are nationalists of various stripes, whether religious or secular. They are Sunni. They haven't given fealty to Bin Laden and are not "al-Qaeda."
So you'd think after all the ink spilled on Iranian and Hizbullah contributions to the troubles in Iraq, that they'd be prominent among the foreign fighters, right? Wrong. It is not clear that the US has any Iranians at all in custody. There was a big deal made at the NYT about one Lebanese Hizbullah guy who may have been a freelancer.
So if they aren't from Iran, where are they from? Saudi Arabia--- 45%! Only 15% are from "Syria and Lebanon," and I'll bet you that all but one of those are Sunni. 10% are from North Africa, which is only about 14 guys. North Africa is Sunni.
That is, the numbers Parker pulled out of a US officer in Iraq demolish the entire image that the Bush administration and the Washington press corps has been presenting of the war.
Foreign "al-Qaeda" is almost irrelevant to it. Iran is entirely trivial to it. The Baathist, Allawi-dominated Syrian government is trivial to it. The Lebanese Hizbullah may not be involved at all, as an organization. Certainly it is not involved in any significant way.
Which country is providing a lot of foreign suicide bombers? US ally Saudi Arabia. Has any general or Bush administration official called a press conference to denounce Saudi Arabia? No. Has Joe Lieberman threatened it with a war? No. Everything is being blamed on Iran because powerful American special interests want to get Iran, regardless of the facts.
There isn't any significant cadre of foreign "al-Qaeda" fighters in Iraq if this is all we could capture. They can't take over the country because they are such a tiny group. Everything Bush and Cheney have said about the nature of the war and the supposed dangers of a US withdrawal is transparent falsehood.