Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- A Saudi security source and a source from the Iraqi Parliament have both expressed skepticism regarding a report that Saudis made up 45 percent of the total number of foreign insurgents active in Iraq.
“The number reported is incorrect and is greatly exaggerated,” stated the Saudi source. “We believe that the disbanded army is the real source of insurgence and the backbone of the situation there today.” These comments came in response to reports made by an American military official and a small number of Iraqi members of parliament that the majority of suicide bombers in Iraq today are Saudi. These comments also seek to dispel accusations made by Sami al-Askari, a top Maliki adviser, to the “LA Times”, that there is a deliberate Saudi attempt to spread chaos in Baghdad.
“The number of Saudis in Iraq is in considerable decline due to awareness campaigns in Saudi Arabia” said the Saudi security source. “The Saudis currently being used there are like fuses that are prone to ignite; They carry out suicide operations and not ones with a complicated strategic dimension.” The source underlined its remarks by saying that “three quarters of the Saudis who go to Iraq end up dead.”
When asked to cite the exact number of Saudis there, he responded by stating that he cannot guess the exact number, but preferred to speak in terms of “hundreds, not thousands.”
Meanwhile, an Arab security source stated to Asharq Al Awsat that Iran is the main Al-Qaeda recruiter in Iraq today, owing this to the recent escalation of the US-Iran standoff.
“There are definite reports of combatants on parade on the streets near Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone.” When asked about the combatants’ nationalities, the source responded by stating that “Alongside the Saudis, the most prevalent of Arab nationalities are Libyans, Tunisians, and Moroccans, in that order.”
For his part, Mithal Al-Alusi, a member of Iraq’s Council of Representatives and leader of the Democratic Party of the Iraqi Nation (DPIN), stated of the recent reports about the number of Saudi insurgents in Iraq that “This is greatly exaggerated and incorrect, as Arab insurgents of other nationalities are in Iraq in almost equal numbers. There are North Africans, Syrians, Sudanese, and Yemenis.” He said in a telephone call to Asharq Al-Awsat from Baghdad yesterday: ” What about Iran’s dangerous role in Iraq? It is a role that draws on intelligence heavily and whose agenda is to stagger the political process in Baghdad. It thus does not care who or what it kills or threatens. Everyone knows, Iran is playing an increasingly large role in Iraq, and it has contacts within it and outside of it.”
He continues to say: “The mentality that reigns in Iraq today is one that feeds on conspiracy theories. And the Iraqi government does not know how to handle the Saudi mentality. Even the recent delegation to Riyadh, was more of a partisan delegation than a general political one, it is as if they were trying to tell the Saudis that ‘we are the Shiaa majority, and you must listen to us'”
According to the “LA Times” 45% of foreign insurgents in Iraq are Saudi, while 15% are Syrian and Lebanese and 10% are North African.
An American military officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, stated that “Saudi combatants have carried out more suicide attacks than any other nationality of insurgents in Iraq.” He added, “Fifty percent of Saudi combatants here are suicide bombers, and in the last few months, their attacks have killed and wounded about 4000 Iraqis.”
Mansur Al-Turki, a spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior, said to the “LA Times” that “Saudis are being misled. There are certain parties helping them get into Iraq and helping them once they are in Iraq. There, they recruit them to become suicide bombers. We have no information on who these parties may be, as we do not get official information from the Iraqi government. Perhaps if we did get useful information from the government about the Saudis being arrested there, we could help.”
A CIA official from Washington, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity, said: “The insinuation that Saudi Arabia does nothing to stop the influx of Saudis into Iraq is ridiculous. People will always be able to cross borders. We can always ask: can more be done? But what are they supposed to do? Put guards in every 15 or 20 step?”
An official from Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs said yesterday, in response to the comments made by Al-Askari, that his ministry imposes heightened supervision and control on the mosques of Saudi Arabia. “They are strictly prohibited from discussing political and regional issues there,” he said, “and they are particularly prohibited from discussing sectarian issues.” Instead, according to this Saudi official, who preferred not to reveal his name, mosques regularly promote messages related to social issues and the like. “The accusations,” he concluded, “are untrue.”
A top US military official added: “Do the Saudis use every possible means? Of course not. We believe they need to make even more efforts. This goes for Iran, Syria and Jordan, as well. This should be directly treated by the Iraqi government.”
But Al-Turki, spokesman of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior, begged to differ and defended the right of fellow Saudis to travel without being bombarded with comments. “If you were to leave Saudi Arabia and go elsewhere you would notice that it is as if Saudis are being dragged into Iraq,” he said. “This is something we cannot solve. The only way to bar people from traveling is the information we can gather about them.”