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Friday, September 23, 2005 

Foreign insurgents in Iraq count for less than 10% of the actual number, report says.

As barbaric as the resistance or insurgency is in Iraq, don't let yourself be fooled that they are all foreign militants who have traveled to Iraq to commit jihad against the yanks.

The US and the Iraqi government have overstated the number of foreign fighters in Iraq, "feeding the myth" that they are the backbone of the insurgency, an American thinktank says in a new report.

Foreign militants - mainly from Algeria, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia - account for less than 10% of the estimated 30,000 insurgents, according to the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

The report came as President Bush said a pullout of US forces would embolden America's enemies, allowing the Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden "to dominate the Middle East and launch more attacks on America and other free nations".

The report says the presence of foreign fighters is cause for alarm "particularly because they play so large a role in the most violent bombings and in the efforts to provoke a major and intense civil war". The CSIS disputes reports that Saudis account for most of the foreign insurgents and says best estimates suggest Algerians are the largest group (20%), followed by Syrians (18%), Yemenis (17%), Sudanese (15%), Egyptians (13%), Saudis (12%) and those from other states (5%). British intelligence estimate the number of British jihadists at about 100.

The CSIS report says: "The vast majority of Saudi militants who have entered Iraq were not terrorist sympathisers before the war; and were radicalised almost exclusively by the coalition invasion."

The average age of the Saudis was 17-25 and they were generally middle-class with jobs, though they usually had connections with the most prominent conservative tribes. "Most of the Saudi militants were motivated by revulsion at the idea of an Arab land being occupied by a non-Arab country. These feelings are intensified by the images of the occupation they see on television and the internet ... the catalyst most often cited [in interrogations] is Abu Ghraib, though images from Guantanamo bay also feed into the pathology."

In terms of fighters entering Iraq, Syria is clearly the biggest problem, the report says, but preventing militants from crossing its 380-mile frontier with Iraq is daunting. "Even if Syria had the political will to completely and forcefully seal its border, it lacks sufficient resources to do so." Oil-rich Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has spent $1.2bn (£670m) over the past two years and deployed 35,000 troops in an effort to secure its border.

During the past six months this has led to the capture of 63 Saudis trying to cross into Iraq but also 682 Iraqi intruders and smugglers. The smuggling included explosives destined for Islamist groups in Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries.

It's good to see that this report destroys quite a few myths and repeated statements from the USuk coalition. They've blamed Syria constantly for the amount of fighters entering Iraq, while they know full well that Syria is unable to control its border. That's just one consequence of the humiliation Syria has gone through over the past few years, as Bashar al-Assad has seen power slip away from him. The days of hoping that he would be a reformer have long since passed. The possibility of the forthcoming UN report into the assassination of Rafik Hairi pointing the finger directly at Syria could be the catalyst which results in the regime collapsing. With all its problems in the Middle East at the moment, it's not something which the United States will instantly cheer and relish.

Also destroyed is the presumption that it is mainly Saudi fighters who have been fuelling the insurgency. Turns out that the highest percentage is most likely Algerians, who are well versed in rebellion, having fought against the state and then each other. It's also the same country which Britain is currently negotiating with, in the aim of deporting "extremists" there.

Most of all though, it shows that the vast majority of fighters are from within Iraq itself. Whether it is former Ba'athists, disillusioned Sunnis or radical Shias is a moot point. These are not just terrorists, they are those who have been against the occupation from the beginning. It's easily forgotten that the beginning of all the problems in Fallujah was when soldiers indiscriminately shot at protestors after they had took over a school as a base, not when the contractors were lynched.

The war in Iraq has been a disaster. That this can still not be admitted, or that ministers still profess that things are getting better is shameful. If anything, the electricity and water supply is now worse than under Saddam. It took a lot of propaganda, disinformation and lies for the war to be "justified". It will take the truth for withdrawal of all foreign troops and end of the occupation.

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