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Unintended Consequences | The Nation

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Unintended Consequences

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The Bush Administration is trying to place some of the blame for the insurgency in Iraq on Syria and Iran, arguing that they are not doing enough to stop foreign fighters from entering Iraq, and has even suggested that they may be aiding the insurgency. What role are Iraq's neighbors--including Saudi Arabia--playing in the Iraq War?

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“We are in the classic fog of war,” says Stephen Cohen.

Telhami

: The Bush Administration's emphasis on foreign fighters is a distraction. The vast majority (more than 90 percent) of the insurgents are Iraqis. Most of the expected insurgents killed or taken into custody are Iraqis. There is no lack of skill in the methods of war among Iraqis, and we know that there are sufficient munitions that have gone missing from Iraqi stockpiles to last the insurgency for many years. So the primary threat to the US presence in Iraq today is local, not international, even if it is also true that Al Qaeda terrorists have taken root there.

Cole

: The Administration's focus on Syria is invidious, since Sunni jihadists have infiltrated Iraq from Saudi Arabia and Jordan as well as Syria, and the Syrian border is probably impossible to police effectively. That the Alawi Shiite-dominated Syrian Baath Party would be eager to see the influence of radical Sunni fundamentalism grow on its borders is not plausible. The Syrians might be more effective in policing their borders if they were not afraid that the US would overthrow them if it were not tied down in Iraq. Practically speaking, reassuring Damascus on that score while pressing it to do a better job of intercepting the jihadis would be a better policy than simple saber-rattling.

Rosen

: It is absurd to accuse Iran of supporting a Sunni anti-Shiite insurgency against the only Shiite state in the region and one whose leadership is composed of many former dissidents with ties to Iran. I would also add that many of the foreign fighters in Iraq have come from Saudi Arabia and Jordan, which also supply much of the ideology of the mujahedeen in Iraq. The radical form of Islam that is encouraged in Saudi Arabia and that it supports in the Muslim world, from Bosnia to Somalia to Afghanistan, is indeed a threat both to more moderate local traditions and to world peace. Key Salafi leaders have also come from Jordan, including Zarqawi and several of his spiritual advisers who provide the theological justifications for his movement.

Cobban

: I find it rather ironic that the United States, which has no business being in Iraq, is concerned with the "interference" of Iraq's neighbors. Let's think for a moment. Which countries might have the most legitimate reasons to be concerned about the stability, well-being and general political orientation of the people of Iraq: its immediate neighbors--two of which have suffered in recent times from Iraqi aggression, and all of which have at least some populations with family and other fraternal links to Iraq--or a country 8,000 miles away, only a tiny proportion of whose citizens have any connection to Iraq at all?

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