Now the Saudis tool up for war
The White House line that Iraq’s extremists are all backed by Iran is a myth, writes robert fox
T his weekend, buyers from across the Gulf states and the Middle East will descend on a huge arms fair in Dubai. Sheikhs, emirs, princes and kings will be buying anything from specialised sniper ammunition by the ton, to the highest-tech surveillance gear and even the odd British Aerospace gunboat or Eurofighter.
The Arab world will use the International Defence Exhibition (IDEX), to tool up for a coming confrontation with Iran, and to arm Sunni insurgents to fight Iran's allies in Iraq, the Shia militias.
Even the Bush administration will now admit, under its collective breath of course, that Iraq is in the throes of a full-blown civil war between armed groups of its Sunni and Shia Arab communities, triggered a year ago by the destruction of the al-Laskar mosque in Samara, a revered Shia shrine.
‘The growth of Saudi and Jordanian support for the militants is one of the most worrying developments’
What the American authorities are reluctant to admit, however, is that there are signs that the Sunnis of Saudi Arabia and their allies - including Jordan - have been equipping and training Sunni extremists in Iraq for some time now. Critically, not all the weaponry and munitions have been used against the militants' Shia and Kurdish Iraqi enemies. Some of them - including lethal roadside bombs - have been aimed at US forces.
"The growth of the official and unofficial Saudi and Jordanian support for the militants is one of the most worrying developments," a senior British officer has told me privately after a visit to Iraq.
The Bush administration has kept mum about this while it tries to concentrate the minds of America and the world on their new public enemy number one, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the region's chief sponsor of terrorism and nuclear proliferation.
British strategic advisers to the Pentagon and the National Security Council report that, undeterred by their unfinished business in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Bush and
Vice-President Cheney are now intent on opening up a third front against Iran. Their argument runs that Saddam Hussein was bad and al-Qaeda even worse, but the threat to world peace now comes from Ahmadinejad. He must be stopped before he gets a nuclear weapon and uses it against Israel.
In Baghdad this week US forces have displayed 'shaped charge' roadside bomb kits - also known as EFPs (explosively formed penetrators) - which have killed 170 American service personnel in Iraq. This figure is surprisingly precise, in contrast to much of the rest of the American presentation: the officers and intelligence analysts would not give their names, and could not substantiate their claim that the deployment of the EFPs was sanctioned "at the highest level" of the Ahmadinejad regime.
It was also reported this week that a consignment of Steyr Mannlicher HS50 sniper rifles sold by Austria to the Iranian police force had ended up in the hands of Shia militias in Iraq. This was reported by the Daily Telegraph, but no one followed it up. The
Bush and Cheney are ramping up the case for an attack on Iran, just as they did before invading Iraq
innuendos – if not the facts – are clear: Bush and Cheney are ramping up the case for an attack on Iran, just as they did before invading Iraq.
David Kay, whose Iraq Survey Group torpedoed the claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, says: "If you want to avoid the perception that you've cooked the books you come out and make the charges publicly" - and, he might have added, you name your sources and define the quality of your information. Something the Bush administration has failed to do.
The Americans have also been coy about the threat to their helicopters. At least six are now admitted to have been downed by hostile fire, and the number could be as high as 50, including a Chinook loaded with dozens of troops. Who is doing this and how, the Americans will not say - for obvious security reasons. But the chances are that at least some of the helicopters have been downed by those Sunni extremist pals of Saudi Arabia and Jordan - which hardly helps the case for war against Iran.
FIRST POSTED FEBRUARY 15, 2007