Who is backing the Iraqi insurgency?

No one would say that the Iraqi insurgents are waging the most technologically sophisticated war in history, but you don’t kill 2,000 American soldiers without some outside military assistance. But where is it coming from?

To the Bush Administration, the answer is obvious: Syria. That is at least the ostensible reason why the United States has taken such a hard line on Damascus. But there is reason to believe that the White House’s argument is as honesty-challenged as…well…everything else.

Syria’s interest in supporting a successful Sunni insurgency is tepid, to say the least. The Syrian regime is of, by, and for the minority Alawite sect, and represses a Sunni majority. It hardly has an interest in fostering Sunni radicalism. Indeed, Hafez al-Assad’s brutal 1982 slaughtering of 30,000 people in the city of Hama was largely driven by his desire to crush Sunni militancy.

So let’s look around the neighborhood to see who else has an interest in this. Who shares a border with Iraq?

Jordan? Hardly. The Hashemites depend upon American military and economic support to keep them in power.

Kuwait? Ditto, except for the “economic” part.

Iran? The mullahs want to see a stable and supportive Shiite client state in Baghdad.

Turkey? Are you kidding me? While they want a strong central government in Iraq, Ankara isn’t about to support a fundamentalist Sunni revolt next door–especially when they are trying to enter the EU.

So who else is there? Hmmm….oh yes: that huge, Sunni fundamentalist, oil-rich kingdom to Iraq’s south, which is terrified of Shiite power and not coincidentally shares a very long–and very unguarded–border with Iraq.

At the same time that this administration cozies up to the powers that be in Riyadh, those same powers may very well be planning the death of thousands of American soldiers.

None of this is confirmed, of course, but the Saudis have a good way of spreading money around Washington to keep unfavorable news out of the media. If it does come out that Sunni insurgents are getting hefty sums from the Saudi Interior Ministry, you heard it here first.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.