Saudis & Iran battle over corpse of Iraq
- Saudis and Iran prepare to do battle over corpse of Iraq
By Philip Sherwell
12/02/06 "The Telegraph" -- -- The gulf's two military powers,
Sunni-Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, are lining up behind their
warring religious brethren in Iraq in a potentially explosive
showdown, as expectations grow in both countries that America is
preparing a pull-out of its troops.
The Saudis are understood to be considering providing Sunni military
leaders with funding, logistical support and even arms, as Iran
already does for Shia militia in Iraq.
The strategy outlined in an article last week by Nawaf Obaid, a
senior security adviser to the kingdom's government risks spiralling
into a proxy war between Saudi and Iranian-backed factions in the next
development in Iraq's vicious sectarian conflict.
Saudi Arabia, America's closest ally in the Arab world, is considering
backing anti-US insurgents because it is so alarmed that Sunnis in
Iraq will be left to their fate military and political at the
hands of the Shia majority.
However, a Saudi government spokesman said yesterday that Mr Obaid's
view "does not reflect the kingdom's policy, which uphold the
security, unity and stability of Iraq with all its sects."
President George Bush sent vice-president Dick Cheney to Riyadh last
weekend after the Saudis demanded high-level talks about their
concerns. They told him Iran was trying to establish itself as the
dominant regional power through its influence in Iraq, Lebanon and the
Saudi fears were strengthened as it emerged that some senior US
intelligence officials are urging the Bush administration to abandon
stalled attempts to reach a compromise with Sunni dissidents and adopt
a controversial "pick a winner" strategy instead, giving priority to
Shia and Kurd political factions.
The proposal is also known as the "80 per cent solution" since the
Sunnis, who ruled the country under Saddam Hussein, comprise just 20
per cent of Iraq's 26 million population. It has been put forward as
part of a crash White House review of Iraq strategy. Its backers claim
that ambitious attempts to woo anti-US Sunni insurgents have failed,
and now risk alienating Shia leaders as well, leaving the US without
strong political allies in Iraq.
As the frenzy of diplomatic activity intensifies, the Iraq Study
Group, a bipartisan panel of foreign policy experts, this week plans
to recommend the US withdraws nearly all of combat troops by early 2008.
Although President Bush continues to insist he will not tie US policy
to timetables for withdrawal, the panel's recommendations will fuel
the belief that a major US pull-out will be under way soon.
The issue was at the fore yesterday when 40 people were killed and
more than 80 wounded after three car bombs exploded in Baghdad. The
attacks came after US and Iraqi forces raided insurgent strongholds in
the city of Baquba.
In Teheran, Iranian leaders have made clear that they believe they are
the big winners from America's involvement in Iraq. "The kind of
service that the Americans, with all their hatred, have done us no
superpower has ever done anything similar," Mohsen Rezai,
secretary-general of the powerful Expediency Council that advises the
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamanei, boasted on state television recently.
"America destroyed all our enemies in the region. It destroyed the
Taliban. It destroyed Saddam Hussein The Americans got so stuck in
the soil of Iraq and Afghanistan that if they manage to drag
themselves back to Washington in one piece, they should thank God.
America presents us with an opportunity rather than a threat not
because it intended to, but because it miscalculated. They made many
Iran also watched with pleasure as America, Britain, France and
Germany failed to persuade Russia and China to sign up to a package of
sanctions against Iran in a draft United Nations Security Council
resolution. The West wanted to punish Tehran for pushing ahead with
banned uranium enrichment for its nuclear programme. The US is now
drawing up plans for a diplomatic "coalition of the willing" to pursue
sanctions outside UN auspices.
The Iraq Study Group is also expected to recommend opening dialogue
with Iran and Syria over Iraq, a move being resisted by hardliners who
rule out talks with two regimes that are fomenting violence. However,
in a break with previous policy, Mr Bush will meet tomorrow in
Washington with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for
the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a party closely tied to Iran.
The talks are part of US efforts to strengthen links with Shia
politicians and to undercut the influence of Moqtada al-Sadr, the
firebrand cleric and militia leader on whose support the prime
minister Nuri al-Maliki depends.
The meeting will fuel Sunni fears they are being sidelined even though
the White House also announced plans for future talks with the
country's Sunni deputy prime-minister.
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