By: Greg Mitchell
For years, polls have shown that very large numbers of Americans continue to falsely believe that some of the 9/11 hijackers came from Iraq. In reality, the overwhelming number hailed from the land of a U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia.
Now it turns out that Saudi Arabia is also home to the largest number of so-called “foreign fighters” in Iraq, despite administration efforts — aided by many in the media — to paint Iran and Syria as the main outside culprits there.
The Los Angeles Times reports today that 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.” Only 15% are from Syria and Lebanon; and 10% are from North Africa. This is based on official U.S. military figures made available to newspaper by the senior officer.
Nearly half of the 135 foreigners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq are Saudis, he said.
“Fighters from Saudi Arabia are thought to have carried out more suicide bombings than those of any other nationality, said the senior U.S. officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the subject’s sensitivity,” the Times’ Ned Parker writes. “It is apparently the first time a U.S. official has given such a breakdown on the role played by Saudi nationals in Iraq’s Sunni Arab insurgency.
“He said 50% of all Saudi fighters in Iraq come here as suicide bombers. In the last six months, such bombings have killed or injured 4,000 Iraqis.
“The situation has left the U.S. military in the awkward position of battling an enemy whose top source of foreign fighters is a key ally that at best has not been able to prevent its citizens from undertaking bloody attacks in Iraq, and at worst shares complicity in sending extremists to commit attacks against U.S. forces, Iraqi civilians and the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.”
Yet hardly a word has been directed at Saudi Arabia (which also drew relatively little criticism after 9/11) by the White House and Pentagon. Some observers suggest the Saudis are happy to have militants leave, which alleviates some of the threats in-country.
“U.S. officials remain sensitive about the relationship,” Parker explains. “Asked why U.S. officials in Iraq had not publicly criticized Saudi Arabia the way they had Iran or Syria, the senior military officer said, ‘Ask the State Department. This is a political juggernaut.’
“Last week when U.S. military spokesman Bergner declared Al Qaeda in Iraq the country’s No. 1 threat, he released a profile of a thwarted suicide bomber, but said he had not received clearance to reveal his nationality. The bomber was a Saudi national, the senior military officer said Saturday.”
The full story is at www.latimes.com.