Saturday, September 24, 2005

Behind the scenes...GWOT

Well, not exactly "behind the scenes" since international news stories are involved, but they may as well be with so few of the public connecting the dots.

John Burgess at Crossroads Arabia points to a couple of items that look related to me. They both have to do with Saudi Arabia one way or another, both relate to the war in Iraq, and both represent either new information or a change in policy...

First, a report from CSIS (The Center for International and Strategic Studies) breaking down the categories of foreign insurgents in Iraq by country of origin. (I suppose it is fair to say that the "flypaper" strategy seems to be attracting extremists from all over the Middle East, even if the dynamic is multiplying rather than reducing the number of recruits to their cause.) John Burgess summarizes the report nicely, but urges readers to read the original completely. I don't have that much concentration. I am very pleased with his summary.

From the report:

...the study estimates that there are 3,000 fighters. Those fighters come from all around the Arab and Islamic worlds. The largest component of these fighters come from Algeria (600 or 20%), followed by Syria (550 or 18%), Yemen (500 or 17%), Sudan (450 or 15%), Saudi Arabia (350 or 12%), Egypt (400 or 5%), and other countries (150 or 5%).

The Saudi involvement in the Iraqi insurgency is overestimated, but does have an impact that goes beyond the number of insurgents involved: "Unlike the foreign fighters from poor countries such as Yemen and Egypt, Saudis entering Iraq often bring in money to support the cause, arriving with personal funds between $10,000-$15,000. Saudis are the most sought after militants; not only because of their cash contributions, but also because of the media attention their deaths as "martyrs" bring to the cause. This is a powerful recruiting tool. Because of the wealth of Saudi Arabia, and its well developed press, there also tends to be much more coverage of Saudi deaths in Iraq than of those from poorer countries." On the question of motivation and public support, the report asserts "If one talks about the sources of broader public support for the insurgency, Sunni nationalism seems to be the strongest contributing factor fueling the unrest."

Another snip that caught my eye:

Extremism and terrorism are not particularly expensive. They also can cloak their identity under a host of religious and charitable covers, or exploit "arm chair militantism" throughout the Arab and Islamic world. No amount of Saudi, US, or international activity to limit fund transfers, or activities like money laundering, is going to halt a substantial flow of money and weapons to terrorist and extremist groups. As long as religious extemism, and Arab and Islamic anger, ac as a strong political and ideological force, enough private money will flow to allow such groups to continue to function and act. This is particularly true when, as in the case of Iraq, they can exploit significant popular sympathy and support.

I do recommend reading John Burgess' whole post. It's not too long, well-written and full of content.

The Saudis, it seems, are doing all they can (those kings and princes who run the country) to keep home-grown insurgent wannabes inside their borders. Think about that for a moment. Our allies, the Saudis -- representing anything but democratic idealism, whose connection with the US is a nakedly market-driven pragmatism -- are assisting the US in a hot war for "freedom and democracy" in Iraq! Go figure. Plus ça change plus c'est la même chose.

The second item is more interesting than the first.
From Asharq Al-Awsat the following story.

Saudi citizens detained at the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay will soon be released and handed over to the Saudi authorities, as talks between US officials and their counterparts in the Kingdom reach the final stages, Asharq al Awsat has learned.

Ahmad Mazhar, head of a team of lawyers hoping to return the detainees to Riyadh told Asharq al Awsat his country had taken large steps towards ensuring its 121 detainees are handed back. He hoped US/Saudi discussions would conclude after the last details are agreed on and indicated that the Saudi government had been in constant contact with Washington since learning Saudi men were being held at the military base in Cuba.

Meanwhile, the US government and the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) discussed how to end the hunger strike [What? Hunger strike? Who knew? Who reported? Who cared? Everyone knew it wasn't going to work, right?] started by a number of detainees, mostly from countries of the Persian Gulf , on the 8 th August, in protest at their continued incarceration without trial. Dr. Amer al Zamaly, advisor to the ICRC on Muslim affairs, told Asharq al Awsat the international organization was closely following the hunger strike and greatly concerned about their health condition. He called upon Washington to ensure the prisoners' health did not deteriorate further and insisted the reasons behind the hunger strikes needed to be addressed. Al Zamaly also said the US government needed to understand the harsh psychological and physical conditions the detainees were suffering from which cause depression, hopelessness, a range of illnesses and epidemics.

With conflicting reports on the number of prisoners on hunger strike, al Zamaly indicated that discussions between the ICRC and the US military authorities were under way to determine how many men were refusing food. Guantanamo's second in command also responsible for the heath care of the detainees, had revealed 87 men were on hunger strike, in what is the largest strike since the detention center opened in 2002.

Currently, 520 men are detained in Guantanamo Bay, some for over three years, following the US war on terror. Several men have refused food and water in the past to protest against their continued incarceration without access to legal counsel and trial in US federal courts.

That's more information than has been spotlighted anywhere in this country by either the much-maligned MSM (that would be mainstream media) or their well focused maligners from the blogworld. I can't believe this all comes as a big surprise. Events like this have to have been in the diplomatic works for some time. Maybe they will catch the importance in a day or so.

Reducing the prisoner population at Gitmo from 500 plus to less than 400 looks like big news to me. [Aside: In light of the other story, I would not like to speculate about the fate of those 121 "detainees" (I guess that is different from "PUC's") getting to go "home".]

If I were a conspiracy nut, I might say this was to divert attention from the abuse story that just broke. I expect there are those in Washington who wish that Time Magazine story had been competing with two hurricanes instead of breaking after the intensity of storm reporting was easing off.

Ar we getting poised for mid-term elections? I hear the vice-president had to have both knees operated on today, no doubt from too much prayer time. (I know - cheap shot. Too good not to put it in.)
Waiting for the spin machines to crank up.
Interesting times. Veeery interesting.

Once again...IRYD.

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