Are those ‘foreign fighters’ in Iraq Saudis?
As the fighting winds down in Iraq, the US has started muscling Syria on a number of issues — 1) having its own stocks of chemical weapons, 2) giving sanctuary to members of the Saddam Hussein regime, and 3) facilitating or at least not preventing Syrian nationals from going to fight against US forces in Iraq.
This evening CNN has been running live coverage of a firefight in which several snipers or paramilitaries were firing on US Marines near the Palestine Hotel. The CNN reporter on the scene is Rula Amin.
Just after 6:00 PM on the East Coast, Amin was having a back and forth with Wolf Blitzer about those foreign volunteers in the country to fight the US. During that conversation she said that the Saudi volunteers were a bigger deal or there in greater numbers than the Syrians. I don’t have down the precise language she used. But the basic point was clear: there are more Saudis there fighting us than Syrians.
(Wolf, buddy, why no follow-up?!?!)
Now, obviously I don’t listen to all the coverage out of Iraq, but I don’t think I’ve heard any word of Saudis there fighting against us (though it’s hardly surprising) and certainly not that they’re the most numerous group in the country. Amin’s only one reporter, of course. But her beat is the Middle East; you’d expect reporters on the ground to have the best handle on such an issue; and she said it like she was pretty sure.
This raises some interesting questions. Certainly, we don’t want any foreign fighters there shooting at our troops. But to the extent that they’re there and we find that they’re Syrians, that gives us reason and (figuratively speaking) ammunition for going after Syria. That, of course, is where the administration is looking right now. Finding Saudis there — from a geopolitical perspective — is much less helpful. If we were finding them there, it would not surprise me that we wouldn’t be making a big deal out of it. There are many folks in the administration — particularly at the DOD and OVP — who think the Saudis are at the heart of the problem we have in the region. But for the moment we need the Saudis and they know that. On the other hand, some of their allies outside the administration aren’t so constrained. So I’m curious if we’ll hear about this from those quarters — in the standard outlets where we hear from those guys.