Sunday, July 15, 2007

Why coddle the Wahhabis?

Good column by Stephen Schwartz: Who Is Responsible for the Mess in Mesopotamia?
It is considered impolite by many Americans to suggest that Al-Qaida in Iraq takes comfort in the antiwar acrobatics of American public figures, but why should such courtesy also be extended to the Saudi financiers of terrorism? How did the "W" word come to be effectively banned? Why do more journalists and other public figures not simply come out and explain the meaning and role of Wahhabism to the American people? Wahhabism is neither as appealing to Westerners as Communism once was, or as accomplished at manipulation of the public as Nazism. Saudi-financed extremism is the simplest thing in the Muslim world to explain, to contend with, and even to refute - as millions of moderate Muslims know.
Update: The Trib picks up the story today.

Update: July 27, 2007 NYT U.S. Officials Voice Frustrations With Saudis’ Role in Iraq
During a high-level meeting in Riyadh in January, Saudi officials confronted a top American envoy with documents that seemed to suggest that Iraq’s prime minister could not be trusted.

One purported to be an early alert from the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, to the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr warning him to lie low during the coming American troop increase, which was aimed in part at Mr. Sadr’s militia. Another document purported to offer proof that Mr. Maliki was an agent of Iran.

The American envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, immediately protested to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, contending that the documents were forged. But, said administration officials who provided an account of the exchange, the Saudis remained skeptical, adding to the deep rift between America’s most powerful Sunni Arab ally, Saudi Arabia, and its Shiite-run neighbor, Iraq.

Now, Bush administration officials are voicing increasing anger at what they say has been Saudi Arabia’s counterproductive role in the Iraq war. They say that beyond regarding Mr. Maliki as an Iranian agent, the Saudis have offered financial support to Sunni groups in Iraq. Of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month, American military and intelligence officials say that nearly half are coming from Saudi Arabia and that the Saudis have not done enough to stem the flow.

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