Who Contributes the Most Foreign Fighters to Iraq?

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


If you had to guess which country contributes the most foreign fighters to the Iraqi insurgency, you’d guess Iran, right? After all, the Bush Administration, specifically the vice president, is proclaiming far and wide that Iran is a nefarious force in the Iraq fight, and even Congress is censuring the oil-rich country for its complicity in killing Americans.

But the American saber-rattling points in the wrong direction. A Los Angeles Times report out today shows that more foreign fighters come from Saudi Arabia than any other country. “About 45% of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia; 15% are from Syria and Lebanon; and 10% are from North Africa,” writes the Times, citing official U.S. military figures provided by a senior U.S. military officer. The remaining 30%, presumably, houses Iran’s contribution. The officer also pointed out that half of the detainees in American detention facilities in Iraq are Saudi.

Saudi Arabia is an ally in the war on terror, of course, allowing us to keep military bases on the peninsula and cracking down (theoretically) on terrorists within its borders and future insurgents crossing its border into Iraq. But Saudis interested in joining the fight know there is a relatively simple path through Jordan and Syria and into Iraq. Both the senior military officer and a handful of Iraqi lawmakers the Times spoke with feel the Saudis can do more to stop future insurgents moving along this route.

A couple facts to keep in mind as you watch the administration raise the rhetoric with Iran while ignoring Saudi Arabia.

(1) The Saudis are the United States’ fourth largest oil importer, sending us 1.2 to 1.5 million barrels per day.

(2) Fifteen of the 19 hijackers in the September 11 attacks were Saudi.

Just saying. For more, see here and here.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest