Thursday, May 03, 2007

Saudi Arabia: Sunni insurgents tool up for Shia confrontation

The First Post
Online Daily Magazine
May 3, 2007

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. This 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.

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.

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