Report: Saudis, Iran could back insurgency groups in Iraq

Tuesday, May 6, 2003

An Iraqi insurgency against the United States could be supported by a range of Middle East neighbors.

A new report envisioned that Iraq's neighbors could provide the financial support for a range of insurgency groups meant to ensure foreign interests and undermine U.S. efforts to introduce democracy in Iraq. The study said the foreign support could result in a confrontation between Iraq's Shi'ite majority and Sunni Muslim minority.

The report did not elaborate. But U.S. officials have accused Iran of seeking to dominate the Shi'ite majority while expressing concern that Saudi Arabia has been funneling money to support Sunni clerics. Turkey is believed to have been providing weapons and aid to Turkmens in northern Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported.

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The Washington Institute for Near East Policy did not rule out that Middle East allies of the United States would contribute to Iraqi insurgency groups after the fall of President Saddam Hussein. The institute said in the report that all of Iraq's neighbors want to ensure influence in a post-Saddam Iraq.

"Iraq's neighbors could decide to provide support to resistance groups," the report said. "Iran has a history of such activity, and Turkey, Syria, and Saudi Arabia could choose to become involved as well."

Authored by retired U.S. government intelligence analyst Jeffrey White, the report listed several sources of resistance to the U.S. military presence in Iraq. They include former government officials, tribal elements, and ethnic and religious groups.

"Moreover, the enormous amounts of cash in Iraq some of which has disappeared during looting suggest that financing resistance might not be a problem," the report said. "The country is also awash in small arms, light crew-served weapons and explosives, the ideal instruments of armed resistance."

The report said resistance appears to have been organized in such major cities as Baghdad, Karbala, Mosul and Tikrit. Most of the leadership of the ruling Ba'ath Party disappeared and could be fomenting unrest that will lead to attacks on U.S. forces.

The greatest danger to U.S. forces in Iraq, the report said, is the prospect of Shi'ite-Sunni insurgency. The report envisioned local and regional resistance, but said the prospect of a nationally-organized insurgency appears remote in the short-term.

"The largely Shi'i south, with its extension into Baghdad, is the most probable candidate for organized regional resistance," the report said. "National resistance that is, resistance by one or mores groups operating across the country and with similar objectives seems less likely than regional resistance. Only the prolonged presence of coalition forces or extended political instability are liable to create an environment in which national resistance could become a real problem. Nevertheless, the potential for Sunni-Shi'i cooperation needs to be monitored."

The report recommended a U.S. effort to repair Iraq's damaged infrastructure, establish the basis for stable self-governance, and plan for the withdrawal of coalition forces. The United States, however, must first ensure "effective policing and intelligence services to identify and root out dangerous opposition groups: in other words, a political police force."

"This will be a delicate task in a country that has been terrorized by its police and security services for over thirty years, so the coalition must be prepared to take over these responsibilities for some time." the report said. "In addition, the Iraqi authorities must develop the capability to intervene with whatever force is required to disrupt or eliminate armed resistance. Again, and for largely the same reasons, this responsibility will initially fall on coalition forces."

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