Saudi Arabia And The Proxy War In Iraq


Much has been made of Iran's alleged supplying of weapons and bombs to Shi'ite factions in Iraq. Far less has been made of Saudi Arabia's apparent role in supplying weapons and funding to Sunni insurgents. And yet, as Saudi Arabia threatened to do, and as has been stated by the Iraq Study Group as well as by journalist, Seymour Hersh, this appears to be the case.

Mike McConnell, the new director of national intelligence, said there are funds coming from Saudi Arabia, an ostensible U.S. ally, to help Sunni insurgents in Iraq, while Iran is supporting the Shiite militias there.

McConnell's testimony undergirds U.S. concerns that the Iraq civil war could turn into a direct Saudi-Iranian confrontation, with American military forces caught between warring combatants for Islam's two dominant strains.

Separately, Brian Jenkins, a military expert with Rand Corp., a national security and foreign policy research organization, said: "What we already are seeing in Iraq is an emerging proxy war between Saudi-backed Sunnis and Iranian-backed Shia."

So we seem to have a proxy war taking place that involves three of the biggest oil producers on the planet. It wouldn't take much for this proxy war to escalate into the feared regional conflict that has been widely talked about. Needless to say Saudi Arabia's involvement in the Iraq quagmire is embarrassing for Bush who would prefer to blame Syria for supplying the Sunnis. Admission of the Saudi involvement had to be wrung out out of Mike McConnell by Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Levin asked McConnell during a committee hearing about the source of support for Sunni insurgents in Iraq.

McConnell replied: "There is some flow to the Sunni side in terms of funding and weapons and recruits."

Levin continued: "And what countries are those weapons coming from?"

McConnell: "Weapons could come from a variety of countries. Syria probably is one of the major places."

Levin: "What countries other than Syria could either weapons or funding for the Sunni insurgents come from?"

McConnell: The U.S. lacks "clear evidence that it's definitely coming from any one particular government. But there are indications that it could be a variety of countries around Iraq and also from private donors …"

Levin, interjecting: "What other countries besides Syria? You said that there's evidence that weapons or money for weapons is coming from a number of countries. The one you singled was Syria, but what other countries?"

McConnell: "What I was attempting to say is donors from countries around the area. One would be inside Saudi Arabia, as an example."

Just like the Iranian government, the Saudi government is denying any involvement in supplying the insurgents. Yet strangely, there are no US aircraft carriers threatening the kingdom, no sabre rattling at the UN and no Saudi diplomats have been kidnapped by the Americans. The kingdom seems to be able to do anything it wants with impunity, whether its torturing British citizens or being involved in corruption with BAE or even having known links to al Qaeda.

But Steven Simon, a senior member of the National Security Council during the Clinton administration, said Saudi funding of the Sunni insurgency "is one of those things that we dare not speak its name."

"There is a renewed desire to protect the U.S.-Saudi bilateral relationship," Simon said in an interview. "So you don't want to draw public attention to things they are doing that many observers might regard as counter to American interests."

Yes, quite.

Damit - I paid for £3.95

Damit - I paid for £3.95 for a copy of the New Yorker tonight and could have saved the money! 

There's more to this than

There's more to this than meets the eye. Things are getting mindbendingly complicated in Iraq, largely because of the coalition's confused position on the Iraqi government - we're at war with the Shi'a militias, while funding the ministers that are well known to command them. (And probably funding the militias too, although accidentally.)

I don't think it's safe to say that the Americans are definately against the Saudi activities - are they really willingly supporting the openly pro-Iranian Maliki government? I think they're probably looking for a good moment to declare his government pro-Iranian traitors and switch support to the Saudis. That moment could be when bombs drop on Iran - the press will be distracted by dramatic explosions and it's highly likely most factions of the Iraqi government would declare war on the USA first in that situation anyway. The Saudis have probably claimed that they've found some Sunni militias to back who aren't killing American troops, and that once 'Iranian meddling' (by which they probably mean all Shi'a politicians) is taken out the equation all this crazy anti-American business will disappear. Unlikely story, but hey, that never stopped the neocons believing what they wanted to hear before. They appear to actually think they can install a friendly regime in Iran, which is even more absurd.

The idea of a Saudi-backed strongman in Iraq handing Exxon free oil (however ludicrously improbable) has to be one the neocons would just love too much to disbelieve. Notice the spin department ain't mentioning democracy too much at the moment.

Just a theory...