Thursday, 19 July 2007

Foreign Fighters and Small Arms

If you blinked you may have missed the fact that the U.S. Senate unanimously voted 97-0 to declare that Iran was at war with the United States. Now it might strike one as a little odd that a country should declare that another country had declared war on it. But thus are the ways of American politics, where hype trumps reality and then all the resources of a hyper-power are used to twist and shape reality to conform to the hype.

The Senate saw fit to issue a declaration of war on behalf of Iran based on a dodgy newspaper article that itself was an unquestioning repetition of information given to the reporter by unnamed defence officials which attributed attacks on American forces in Iraq to Iran. Needless to say its another step closer to what is widely perceived as an inevitable American attack on Iran. Not that the United States hasn't already launched a major campaign of terrorism against Iran already.

All this hooplah came while U.S. military officials were busy pointing out that 45% of all foreign fighters in Iraq are Saudi, and most of the funding for the insurgents comes from Saudi Arabia as well. Most suicide bombers, whose deadly attacks have killed scores of Americans and thousands of Iraqis are also from Saudi Arabia. If the Time interview with a leading Iraqi bomb-maker was anything to go by, Saudi Arabia is also the source of high-tech gadgetry that the insurgents are using to defeat American mine-sweepers and IED detectors and neutralisers. And lets not forget that the recent report on insurgent media by Radio Liberty showed that the largest number of visitors to insurgent and Islamist websites come from Saudi Arabia.

To quote the LA Times in this excellent story:
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.

So just to keep things in perspective about foreign fighters in Iraq, there are a big bunch of Saudis, a smaller bunch of Syrians and Lebanese, a few Jordanians and North Africans... also there are 160,000 Americans and 185,000 armed civilian contractors employed by the Americans. Number of Iranians? None?

At least the Americans have stopped blaming the Chinese for their woes in Iraq. Perhaps because it may have been too hypocritical even for the Americans to be calling on the Chinese to limit their arms sales while being the only country in the UN General Assembly to oppose a treaty to limit and monitor arms sales in a 139-1 vote last year. Still it shouldn't surprise us given that John Bolton, Bush's appointee to the UN first made his mark on the international stage as the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control by sinking the modest proposals of the 2001 UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms while declaring that gun ownership was a national way of life in the U.S. and that the uninhibited production and export of weapons is a national right.

Incidentally Moinuddin Haider, the Pakistani representative at the same conference fawningly supported the American position and reiterated that carrying small arms was a proud cultural tradition in Pakistan, while paradoxically also saying that Pakistan was a victim of small arms proliferation and was trying to "stamp out" this threat to state stability (recent events have shown just how effective that has been).


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