A few more notes on the Iraq Study Group
The Wall Street Journal today (no link, sorry):
By Greg Jaffe and Neil King Jr.Robert Zelnick in the Christian Science Monitor:
WASHINGTON -- Senior U.S. military commanders in Baghdad, eager to shift the fight in Iraq to that country's army, are advancing a plan that could more than double the number of American troops involved in training Iraqi soldiers.
The tentative plan, which calls for breaking up some big U.S. combat units into military-training teams, reflects a major shift in U.S. tactics, and meshes with one of the key recommendations of a high-profile report released Wednesday by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
The new approach isn't expected to require a marked change in the overall number of American troops in Iraq. But it would increase the number involved in advisory roles to as many as 10,000, from the current 4,000, senior military officials said.
Two additional items bear mention. First, the ISG gives short shrift to the Kurdish autonomy issue and the inclusion of the oil-rich territory of Kirkuk in Kurdish lands. Blithely, the group proposes postponement by one year of a referendum on Kirkuk, constitutionally mandated to occur in 2007. When I visited the area in August, two senior American officers warned that the Kurds would go to war rather than surrender Kirkuk. They argued, too, that the pro-American Kurds were a much better strategic bet than a Shiite-led Iraq strongly influenced by Iran. Even as a nominal part of an Iraqi state, their freedom is worth US protection.The AP:
But the U.S. Iraq Study Group report said Saudis are a source of funding for Sunni Arab insurgents. Several truck drivers interviewed by The Associated Press described carrying boxes of cash from Saudi Arabia into Iraq, money they said was headed for insurgents.
Two high-ranking Iraqi officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity, told the AP most of the Saudi money comes from private donations, called zaqat, collected for Islamic causes and charities.
Some Saudis appear to know the money is headed to Iraq's insurgents, but others merely give it to clerics who channel it to anti-coalition forces, the officials said.
In one recent case, an Iraqi official said $25 million in Saudi money went to a top Iraqi Sunni cleric and was used to buy weapons, including Strela, a Russian shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile. The missiles were purchased from someone in Romania, apparently through the black market, he said.