A glimpse at how the sectarian conflict in Iraq will widen upon the departure of US troops, siphoning off money, arms, and personnel that jihadists could otherwise employ against nonbelievers. “Iraqi Shias angry at Saudi remark on Sunnis,” from AFP:
BAGHDAD – Iraq’s Shiite leaders on Thursday said they were angered by a Saudi Arabian official saying that Riyadh would support the violence-wracked country”s Sunni Arabs in the event of a US pullout.
Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki said: “We will not countenance any language interfering in Iraq on the pretext of defending sects.”
Saudi security expert Nawaf Obaid wrote in Wednesday”s Washington Post that withdrawal of US forces could see Saudi Arabia giving Iraq’s Sunnis funds, arms and supplies to counter Teheran’s alleged support for Iraqi Shiite militias.
Obaid is managing director of the Riyadh-based Saudi National Security Assessment Project and also the private security and energy adviser to the Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Turki Al Faisal.
If the United States leaves, Obaid wrote, “one of the first consequences will be massive Saudi intervention to stop Iranian-backed Shiite militias from butchering Iraqi Sunnis”.
In the southern holy city of Najaf, Mohammed Al Juburi, secretary general of the Shiite Fadhila party, reacted angrily to the article, saying: “This is a sectarian and un-Islamic statement.”
“We reject any interference in Iraq’s affairs, whether from Saudi Arabia or Iran,” he added.
Teheran is regularly accused of aiding militias linked to Iraq’s powerful Shiite politicians in the ongoing sectarian conflict with the members of the minority Sunni Arab community.
Sheikh Abdel Hadhi Al Daraji, an aide of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, called for an intervention by Riyadh by way of seeking a timetable for the withdrawal of US-led coalition troops from Iraq.
“We advise Saudi Arabia and the neighbouring countries to seriously work over the exit of the occupying forces first and to mend fences among politicians, both Shiites and Sunnis,” Daraji told AFP.
“I think the neighbouring countries, if they wanted to interfere in Iraqi affairs, such interference should be in favour of the whole nation and not one party or another,” he said.
“This is the grave mistake neighbours are making,” he added.
Obaid wrote that Saudi King Abdullah pledged to US President George W. Bush that he would not intervene, despite the rise in bloody sectarian reprisal killings between Iraq’s majority Shiites and minority Sunnis.
However, that would change if the US begins pulling its troops out, Obaid warned.
“Options now include providing Sunni military leaders… with the same types of assistance — funding, arms and logistical support — that Iran has been giving to Shiite armed groups for years.”
“Another possibility includes the establishment of new Sunni brigades to combat the Iranian-backed militias.”