Interesting. Earlier I noted that American helicopters appear to be getting downed at a much faster rate of late. Now I see that at a press conference today, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Peter Pace said that “ground fire … has been more effective against our helicopters in the last couple weeks.”
So what’s going on? A friend passes on to me this AP story from early December, which notes that …
Private Saudi citizens are giving millions of dollars to Sunni insurgents in Iraq and much of the money is used to buy weapons, including shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles, according to key Iraqi officials and others familiar with the flow of cash.
Saudi government officials deny that any money from their country is being sent to Iraqis fighting the government and the U.S.-led coalition.
But the U.S. Iraq Study Group report said Saudis are a source of funding for Sunni Arab insurgents. Several truck drivers interviewed by The Associated Press described carrying boxes of cash from Saudi Arabia into Iraq, money they said was headed for insurgents.
In one recent case, an Iraqi official said $25 million in Saudi money went to a top Iraqi Sunni cleric and was used to buy weapons, including Strela, a Russian shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile. The missiles were purchased from someone in Romania, apparently through the black market, he said.
This is a thin reed in itself. But it does suggest at least a possible connection. And it points to a disconnect in much of the charges we’ve been hearing about Iranian meddling in Iraqi affairs. Most of the US troops that are getting killed are getting killed in actions against Sunni insurgents. Not all. But still most, I believe. That’s led some anonymous administration officials to speculate that the Iranians are actually supplying both the Shia and the Sunnis in an attempt to foment as much chaos as possible and to make the country ungovernable. That’s certainly possible. Iran wouldn’t be the first country to pursue such a Machiavellian approach. But a much cleaner explanation — what Occam’s Razor suggests — is that the people supplying the Sunnis are people who support the Sunnis. And that trail does lead directly south into Saudi Arabia. But it’s not nearly as convenient.