If you had to guess which country contributes the most foreign fighters to the Iraqi insurgency, you’d guess Iran, right? After all, the Bush Administration, specifically the vice president, is proclaiming far and wide that Iran is a nefarious force in the Iraq fight, and even Congress is censuring the oil-rich country for its complicity in killing Americans.
But the American saber-rattling points in the wrong direction. A Los Angeles Times report out today shows that more foreign fighters come from Saudi Arabia than any other country. “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,” writes the Times, citing official U.S. military figures provided by a senior U.S. military officer. The remaining 30%, presumably, houses Iran’s contribution. The officer also pointed out that half of the detainees in American detention facilities in Iraq are Saudi.
Saudi Arabia is an ally in the war on terror, of course, allowing us to keep military bases on the peninsula and cracking down (theoretically) on terrorists within its borders and future insurgents crossing its border into Iraq. But Saudis interested in joining the fight know there is a relatively simple path through Jordan and Syria and into Iraq. Both the senior military officer and a handful of Iraqi lawmakers the Times spoke with feel the Saudis can do more to stop future insurgents moving along this route.
A couple facts to keep in mind as you watch the administration raise the rhetoric with Iran while ignoring Saudi Arabia.
(1) The Saudis are the United States’ fourth largest oil importer, sending us 1.2 to 1.5 million barrels per day.
(2) Fifteen of the 19 hijackers in the September 11 attacks were Saudi.