Thursday, July 19, 2007

Foreign Fighters in Iraq

The LA Times had a "gotcha" story on Sunday in which they tried to refute administration claims that the regimes in Iran and Syria are intimately involved with helping the foreign fighters that have made up the overwhelming majority of suicide attacks in Iraq. Their big scoop is that about half of the fighters in US custody come from Saudi Arabia and not Iran or Syria.
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.
Well, a couple things about this. First, half of the foreigners in US custody are Saudi. That doesn't really mean half of ALL foreign fighters are Saudi. Maybe US forces broke a particular terrorist cell made up mostly of Saudis who knew each other or came to Iraq together. It really doesn't tell us much. Second, and more important, the first paragraph correctly describes the administration's argument: that Iran and Syria help the insurgents - with training, financing, supplies, base of operations and transit across the border into Iraq. The second part of this paragraph doesn't really address the first part though. They tell us the nationality of these fighters: about half Saudi. No one's saying, however, that the fighters are all Iranian and Syrian, just that they've been at the forefront of helping these fighters.

The question they don't address here at the beginning of the argument is where the terrorists are coming from immediately before they enter Iraq? Is it the two countries with the longest border neighboring Iraq? That would be Iran and Syria. Certainly, the fighters come from elsewhere besides these two countries - even as far away as Europe. But when they get to the Middle East, where do they go? Which government gives them the supplies, money, safe haven and their mission? Once we find out who these countries are, it would seem more logical to prevent these states from continuing to support these terrorists rather than relying on tracking every would be terrorist down in every country (not that we don't do that too - but we don't only do that).

Well, the LA Times articlee gives us a profile of an average Saudi terrorist in Iraq. Guess how he came into Iraq? Guess whose border he crossed - certainly not despite any attempt on that country to prevent such smuggling across their border.
The fighter, a young college graduate whose mother was a teacher and father a professor, had been recruited in a mosque to join Al Qaeda in Iraq. He was given money for a bus ticket and a phone number to call in Syria to contact a handler who would smuggle him into Iraq.
Of course, it takes until the end of the article before they decide to mention this. What else did this individual do while in Syria that we don't know about? It would be great if the Saudi government stopped promoting radical Islam and endorsing these kinds of mosques, and if we were a little less chummier with the Saudis (and I don't just mean Bush). It would be equally as great, not to mention more productive in stemming the flow of terrorists into Iraq, if the Syrians and Iranians stopped giving support, and turning a blind eye to others who give support to these terrorists.


Post a Comment

<< Home