twitter

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Saudi involvement in Iraq Overlooked

This is just part of a longer article at antiwar.com
Most commentators do not even not the disparity between US treatment of Iran's helping Shiites in Iraq and Saudi's aid to Sunnis and also their meddling in Kurdistan, a topic treated in the second half of the article.


The Royal Treatment: Saudi Involvement in Iraq Overlooked

by Dahr Jamail
Reporting on Iraqi benchmarks in mid-September, Bush and his team of Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker sought to pin some of the blame on Iran. Eschewing diplomatic language during his testimony, Crocker boldly said, "Iran plays a harmful role in Iraq." Gen. David Petraeus added that Iran is fighting a "proxy war" in Iraq by aiding Shi'ite extremists and providing weapons that are killing American troops.

Anyone doubting that Bush is not serious about taking on Tehran should note his words from last month: "We will confront this danger before it is too late." On September 17 the Telegraph reported that the Pentagon has already drawn up plans for massive airstrikes against 2,000 targets across Iran.

The great irony is that while these accusations towards Tehran are supported by thin evidence, plenty of evidence does exist that another of Iraq's neighbors, U.S.-ally Saudi Arabia, is supporting resistance groups in Iraq, and intends to continue to do so.

A Neighborly Mess: Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia
"Saudi Arabia has both the means and the religious responsibility to intervene [in Iraq]," wrote Nawaf Obaid, neoconservative ally and a former security advisor to the Saudi government, in a shockingly frank editorial for the Washington Post last November. He warned the Bush administration, sinking ever deeper into the quagmire of Iraq: "America must not ignore the counsel of Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. If it does, one of the first consequences will be massive Saudi intervention to stop Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias from butchering Iraqi Sunnis."

Obaid's warning, in response to talk of a possible U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, noted the current Saudi political stance "I am my brothers' keeper" towards fellow Sunni Arabs in Iraq. Clearly the Saudis do not consider all Iraqis their brothers, particularly the Shi'ites.

The editorial said, "As the economic powerhouse of the Middle East, the birthplace of Islam and the de facto leader of the world's Sunni community, constituting 85 percent of all Muslims, Saudi options are to provide Sunni military leaders (primarily members of the former Iraqi officer corps, who make up the backbone of the insurgency) with the same types of assistance – funding, arms and logistical support – that Iran has been giving to Shi'ite armed groups for years or to help establish new Sunni brigades to combat the Iranian-backed militias."

Obaid admitted that Saudi involvement in Iraq carried great risk and "...could spark a regional war but the consequences of inaction are far worse" and that his country "had pressed other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council...Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman – to give financial support to Sunnis in Iraq."

Arming the Neighborhood
In August, the Bush administration announced new arms packages for Israel and seven Arab nations comprising military equipment worth $20 billion to Saudi Arabia, over $30 billion in military assistance to Israel, and $13 billion to Egypt."

To some extent, the arms packages are an extension of the same policies that have been in place for years in the Middle East. For example since 1998, Saudi Arabia alone has received over $15 billion in U.S. weapons.

But these sales have had little impact in the region other than arming everyone to the teeth. In her article, "The Saudi Arms Deal: Congressional Opposition Grows," Rachel Stohl points out that "The United States has had little success in the past using arms sales to buy leverage in the region. "

From Washington's viewpoint the sale has two objectives: bucking up the Saudi-dominated six-member Gulf Cooperation Council and countering Iran's influence. But the sales will likely cause Iran to respond by boosting its arms caches.

A dangerous side effect of the sales is the addition of more arms into a region where each country has distinct objectives in the region and inside Iraq. The sales set the stage for Iraq to be the flashpoint for a potential proxy and/or regional war.

But most dangerously for Iraqis and U.S. troops, the sales reward a country that is providing an estimated 45% of all foreigners fighting U.S. troops and Iraqi government forces.

Destabilizing Iraq: The Saudi Role
A "clear" view of Iraq is now visible only through a blood-soaked kaleidoscope of contradictory and conflicting U.S. policies. While the Bush administration regularly lashes out at Syria and Iran for aiding militias and foreign fighters in Iraq, according to official U.S. military figures reported in the Los Angeles Times on July 15, about 45% of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia. Fighters from the kingdom are believed to have carried out the majority of suicide bombings in Iraq.

Who is to blame for the influx of fighters though? Gen. Mansour Turki, a spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry, however, blames forces inside of Iraq for the flow of Saudi human bombs into Iraq. If he is to be believed, "Saudis are actually being misused. Someone is helping them come to Iraq. Someone is helping them inside Iraq. Someone is recruiting them to be suicide bombers. We have no idea who these people are. We aren't getting any formal information from the Iraqi government." But Iraqis are quick to point the finger across the border. Lawmaker Sami Askari, an advisor to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, accuses Saudi officials of following a deliberate policy of sowing chaos in Baghdad: "The fact is that Saudi Arabia has strong intelligence resources, and it would be hard to think that they are not aware of what is going on."

Askari claims that imams at Saudi mosques regularly call for jihad against Iraq's Shi'ites and that the Saudi government had funded groups to cause chaos and bloodshed in Iraq's predominantly Shi'ite south.

But in large part this continues to be conveniently overlooked by the Bush administration so that massive arms packages can be sold to Saudi Arabia, access to the vast oil reserves continues unabated, and the Saudi royal family's long-standing connections to the Bush family remain unmentioned in mainstream circles.

There are the odd rare days, however, when the boat does get rocked.

Just days before the $20 billion arms package was handed to the Saudi monarchy, Bush administration officials voiced their anger at the "counterproductive" role of Saudi Arabia in Iraq. They accused Saudi Arabia of regarding Maliki as an Iranian agent and actively working to undermine his government and for offering financial backing to various Sunni groups inside Iraq.

Zalmay Khalilzad, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and presently the U.S. ambassador to the UN, wrote in the New York Times recently, "Several of Iraq's neighbors, not only Syria and Iran but also some friends of the United States, are pursuing destabilizing policies there."

But this is the exception rather than the rule. The cozy relationship between Washington and Riyadh continues, largely unscathed

No comments: