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.
Nuri al-Maliki contradicted his Kurdish foreign minister on Saturday, insisting that if US troops withdrew from Iraq, the new Iraqi army and police could keep order. He did admit the desirability of further training and equipment. Al-Maliki has all along differed from his political allies on this point. When he became prime minister in late spring of 2006 he immediately said that Iraq’s army would be able to take over all security duties within 18 months. If he still believes that, as seems likely given his comments, that means he thinks they’ll be ready by January.
What gives a person pause is that al-Maliki’s Da’wa Party has no militia. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, has a paramilitary of some 15,000 or more Badr Corps militiamen. Al-Hakim, who is the one who should be confident of his troops, has repeatedly called for US soldiers to remain in Iraq. If the Badr Corps, the most disciplined and well trained Arab force in Iraq, cannot do the job in al-Hakim’s view, then the green and feckless Iraqi military certainly cannot. So it makes you think al-Maliki is engaging in wishful thinking.
The State Department is requiring personnel to wear body armor when going out to a restaurant inside the Green Zone, e.g. But our brave foreign service officers have to sleep in un-hardened structures that afford them no protection from incoming rockets. It is disgraceful and Congress should challenge Condi and Bush about this. Let’s write our congressional representatives demanding that our professional diplomats be afforded the basic decency of safe housing immediately.
McClatchy reports that 21 dead bodies were found in Baghdad on Saturday. It also reports violence in Basra and Diyala province I did not see elsewhere.
Reuters reports other civil war violence in Iraq for Saturday. Major incidents:
‘ BAGHDAD – Seven people killed and 15 others wounded by a car bomb near a petrol station in the busy Shi’ite district of Karrada in central Baghdad, police said.
BAGHDAD – Gunmen shot dead an Iraqi who worked as a translator for Reuters in Baghdad this week, his family said on Saturday. They asked for his name not to be reported out of fear of reprisals. . .
DIWANIYA – Five suspected insurgents killed by a U.S. air strike after they were spotted burying a roadside bomb near the southern city of Diwaniya, the military said.
SUWAYRA – Six bodies recovered from the Tigris river near Suwayra, 45 km (28 miles) south of Baghdad, including one that had been decapitated, police said. . .
BAQUBA – At least six suspected insurgents killed by a U.S. air strike on Saturday in a raid near Baquba, north of Baghdad, the military said. It said the fighters initially used several women and children as shields, but then released them.
JBELA – Eight Shi’ite men from the same extended family were shot dead in a pre-dawn attack in the mainly Sunni town of Jbela, 65 km south of the capital, police said.’