Some may be surprised to learn the Iranian government had been co-operating with the US.
"[Since... the winter of 2001, Tehran had turned over hundreds of people to U.S. allies and provided U.S. intelligence with the names, photographs and fingerprints of those it held in custody, according to senior U.S. intelligence and administration officials. In early 2003, it offered to hand over the remaining high-value targets directly to the United States if Washington would turn over a group of exiled Iranian militants hiding in Iraq."
Saudis funding Iraqi Sunnis and Palestinian Sunnis in Lebanon's camps for Terror related schemes
- Private Saudi citizens are giving millions of dollars to Sunni insurgents in
Iraq and much of the money is used to buy weapons, including shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles, according to key Iraqi officials and others familiar with the flow of cash.
Saudi government officials know that money from their country is being sent to Iraqis fighting the government and the U.S.-led coalition, and have funneled more of Saudi monies through Syria's military Intelligence to help the insurgent's, and the infamous assassin Assef Shawkat is in charge of this covert Syrian/Saudi program, despite all the rhetoric and belligerent language coming from both capitals to hide their dirty dealings, and their solid assoCIAtion, in the White House Murder Inc.
But the U.S. Iraq Study Group report said Saudis are a source of funding for Sunni Arab insurgents. Several truck drivers interviewed by The Associated Press described carrying boxes of cash from Saudi Arabia into Iraq, money they said was headed for insurgents.
Two high-ranking Iraqi officials, speaking on condition of 96 because of the issue's sensitivity, told the AP most of the Saudi money comes from private donations, called zaqat, collected for Islamic causes and charities.
Some Saudis appear to know the money is headed to Iraq's insurgents, but others merely give it to clerics who channel it to anti-coalition forces, the officials said.
In one recent case, an Iraqi official said $25 million in Saudi money went to a top Iraqi Sunni cleric and was used to buy weapons, including Strela, a Russian shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile. The missiles were purchased from someone in Romania, apparently through the black market, he said.
Overall, the Iraqi officials said, money has been pouring into Iraq from oil-rich Saudi Arabia, a Sunni bastion, since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq toppled the Sunni-controlled regime of
Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Saudi officials vehemently deny their country is a major source of financial support for the insurgents.
"There isn't any organized terror finance, and we will not permit any such unorganized acts," said Brig. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, a spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry. About a year ago the Saudi government set up a unit to track any "suspicious financial operations," he said.
But the Iraq Study Group said "funding for the Sunni insurgency comes from private individuals within Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states."
Saudi officials say they cracked down on zakat abuses, under pressure from the United States, after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
The Iraqi officials, however, said some funding goes to Iraq's Sunni Arab political leadership, who then disburse it. Other money, they said, is funneled directly to insurgents. The distribution network includes Iraqi truck and bus drivers.
Several drivers interviewed by the AP in Middle East capitals said Saudis have been using religious events, like the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and a smaller pilgrimage, as cover for illicit money transfers. Some money, they said, is carried into Iraq on buses with returning pilgrims.
"They sent boxes full of dollars and asked me to deliver them to certain addresses in Iraq," said one driver, who gave his name only as Hussein, out of fear of reprisal. "I know it is being sent to the resistance, and if I don't take it with me, they will kill me."
He was told what was in the boxes, he said, to ensure he hid the money from authorities at the border.
The two Iraqi officials would not name specific Iraqi Sunnis who have received money from Saudi Arabia. But Iraq issued an arrest warrant for Harith al-Dhari, a Sunni opponent of the Iraqi government, shortly after he visited Saudi Arabia in October. He was accused of sectarian incitement.
Saudi Arabia is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. The Iraq Study Group report noted that its government has assisted the U.S. military with intelligence on Iraq.
But Saudi citizens have close tribal ties with Sunni Arabs in Iraq, and sympathize with their brethren in what they see as a fight for political control — and survival — with Iraq's Shiites.
The Saudi government is determined to curb the growing influence of its chief rival in the region,
Iran. Tehran is closely linked to Shiite parties that dominate the Iraqi government.
Saudi officials say the kingdom has worked with all sides to reconcile Iraq's warring factions. They have, they point out, held talks in Saudi Arabia with Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose militia is accused of killing Sunnis.
These officials say zakat donations are now channeled through supervised bank accounts. Cash donation boxes, once prevalent in supermarkets and shopping malls, have been eliminated.
Still, Iraq's foreign minister expressed concern about the influence of neighboring Sunni states at a recent Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo.
"We hope that Saudi Arabia will keep the same distance from each and all Iraqi parties," Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari later told the AP.
Last month, the New York Times reported that a classified U.S. government report said Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgency had become self-sufficient financially, raising millions from oil smuggling, kidnapping and Islamic charities. The report did not say whether any money came from Saudi Arabia.
Allegations the insurgents have purchased shoulder-fired Strela missiles raise concerns that they are obtaining increasingly sophisticated weapons.
On Nov. 27, a U.S. Air Force F-16 jet crashed while flying in support of American soldiers fighting Anbar province, a Sunni insurgent hotbed. The U.S. military said it had no information about the cause of the crash. Gen. William Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman, said he would be surprised if the jet was shot down because F-16's have not encountered weapons capable of taking them down in Iraq.
But last week, a spokesman for Saddam's ousted Baath party claimed that fighters armed with a Strela missile had shot down the jet.
"We have stockpiles of Strelas and we are going to surprise them (the Americans)," Khudair al-Murshidi, the spokesman told the AP in Damascus,
Syria. He would not say how the Strelas were obtained.
Saddam's army had Strelas; it is not known how many survived the 2003 war. The Strela is a shoulder-fired, low-altitude system with a passive infrared guidance system.
The issue of Saudi funding for the insurgency could gain new prominence as the Bush administration reviews its Iraq policy, especially if it seeks to engage Iran and Syria in peace efforts.
Bush's national security adviser,
Stephen Hadley, wrote in a recent leaked memo that Washington should "step up efforts to get Saudi Arabia to take a leadership role in supporting Iraq, by using its influence to move Sunni populations out of violence into politics."
Last week, a Saudi who headed a security consulting group close to the Saudi government, Nawaf Obaid, wrote in the Washington Post that Saudi Arabia would use money, oil and support for Sunnis to thwart Iranian efforts to dominate Iraq if American troops pulled out. The Saudi government denied the report and fired Obaid.
As George Bush escalates the new cold war begun by his father, the attention of his planners is moving to the Middle East. Stories about the threat of Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction" are again appearing in the American press, this time concentrating on Saddam Hussein's "new nuclear capability". These are refuted by the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose inspectors have found no evidence that Iraq, in its devastated state, has a nuclear weapons programme.
The distraction, however, is vital. The only weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East are in Israel, an American protectorate. What is not being reported is that, as Israel's hawks fail to put down the Palestinian uprising, their leader, Ariel Sharon, may well remove the country's nuclear arsenal from its nominal strategy of "last resort".
This prospect is raised in the current Covert Action Quarterly (www.covertactionquarterly. org), by John Steinbach, a nuclear specialist whose previous work includes the mapping of deadly radiation hazards in the United States. He quotes Israel's former president Ezer Weizman: "The nuclear issue is gaining momentum [and the] next war will not be conventional." From the 1950s, writes Steinbach, "the US was training Israeli nuclear scientists and providing nuclear-related technology, including a small 'research' reactor in 1955 under the 'Atoms for Peace' program". It was France that built a uranium reactor and plutonium reprocessing plant in the Negev desert, called Dimona. The Israelis lied that it was "a manganese plant, or a textile factory". In return for uranium, Israel supplied South Africa with the technology and expertise that allowed the white supremacist regime to build the "apartheid bomb".
In 1979, when US satellite photographs revealed the atmospheric test of a nuclear bomb in the Indian Ocean off South Africa, Israel's involvement, writes Steinbach, "was quickly whitewashed by a carefully selected scientific panel, kept in the dark about important details". Israeli sources have since revealed "there were actually three tests of miniaturized Israeli nuclear artillery shells". It was at Dimona that the heroic Mordechai Vanunu worked as a technician. A supporter of Palestinian rights, Vanunu believed it was his duty to warn the world about the danger Israel posed. In 1986, he smuggled out photographs showing that the plant was producing enough plutonium to make 10 to 12 bombs a year, and that at least 200 miniaturized bombs had been built. Vanunu was subsequently lured to Rome from London by Mossad, the Israeli dirty tricks agency. Beaten and drugged, he was kidnapped to Israel, where a secret security court sentenced him to 18 years in prison, 12 of which were spent in solitary confinement, in a cell barely big enough for him to stand.
Steinbach says that, whatever "deterrent effect" the founders of the Israeli nuclear programme may have intended, "today, the nuclear arsenal is inextricably linked to and integrated with overall Israeli military and political strategy". While Israel has ballistic missiles and bombers capable of reaching Moscow, and has reportedly launched a submarine-based cruise missile, "a staple of the arsenal are neutron bombs [which are] miniaturized thermonuclear bombs designed to maximize deadly gamma radiation while minimizing blast effects and long-term radiation - in essence designed to kill people while leaving property intact". http://www.covertactionquarterly.org/
These are the same "limited" nuclear weapons the Reagan administration seriously considered using in Europe and which Ariel Sharon's zealots may use as a "demonstration" that they have no intention of relinquishing the occupied territories.
"Arabs may have the oil, but we have the matches," said Sharon before he became prime minister. Steinbach says such a threat could be used to compel the Bush administration to act exclusively in Israel's favor were it to waver in the face of growing international support for the intifada. Francis Perrin, the former head of the French nuclear weapons programme, wrote: "We thought the Israeli Bomb was aimed at the Americans, not to launch it at the Americans, but to say, 'If you don't want to help us in a critical situation [when we] require you to help us . . . we will use our nuclear bombs'."
Israel used this blackmail during the 1973 war with Egypt, forcing Richard Nixon to resupply its badly shaken military. The Israeli nuclear threat is seldom raised in this country, in parliament and the media, and is a non-issue in the United States. This is in line with a news agenda on Palestine that is still set by Israel. However, since the election of Sharon, who has presided over massacres of Palestinian civilians since 1953, this may be changing. Television pictures from Gaza and the West Bank ought to leave little doubt that Israel is a terrorist state, with a policy of state murder.
One of the most impressive critics of his own government I met in Israel more than 25 years ago is Israel Shahak, then professor of organic chemistry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Bergen-Belsen death camp. As Israeli society becomes more and more polarized, Shahak's courage and wisdom endure. Three years ago, he said: "The wish for peace, so often assumed as the Israeli aim, is not in my view a principle of Israeli policy, while the wish to extend Israeli domination and influence is." He added this prophecy, of which all but one element has so far proved correct: "Israel is preparing for war, nuclear if need be, for the sake of averting domestic change not to its liking [and is] clearly prepared to use, for the purpose, all means available, including nuclear ones."