In one of the least surprising developments of the year, the LA Times discovers that nearly half of the foreign militants in the Sunni insurgency come from Saudi Arabia. Some of us predicted this more than a year and a half ago–or at least something close to it.
The Times’ reporting does not take a stand on whether the Riyadh government is facilitating this. But read a little between the lines:
1) The only US source defending the government is an unnamed intelligence official.
2) The White House and the State Department refuse to comment on the story.
3) The spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry, a body not known for its commitment to Jeffersonianism, “defended the right of his citizens to travel without restriction.”
4) The article refers specifically to the Saudis’ engagement with Hamas as undermining US foreign policy efforts.
In one sense, it’s quite hard to blame the Saudis if they are facilitating the Sunni insurgency. The Saudi government’s legitimacy relies on Sunni fundamentalism. It’s chief oil-bearing region, in the northeast of the country, is heavilty populated with Shiites. A Shiite-dominated Iraq could be a threat its existence–or at least it’s not unreasonable for the Saudis to think so. They are thus sponsoring a counterweight to the Shiites.
But it is quite easy to blame a feckless and blinkered US administration for not seeing that this would happen, not making contingency plans for it, and insisting on the simplistic “good versus evil” formula of US foreign policy. On this issue, as on so many others, the administration is looking like a deer in the headlights–and American soldiers are dying as a result.