via Juan Cole:
Iran is negotiating with Iraqi authorities to increase the number of pilgrims coming to Shiite shrines in Iraq from the present 500,000 to 2 or 3 million. You know, if 500,000 Iranians are passing through Iraq every year, and the US has never captured any of them under arms, then Iran can’t possibly be the source of many of Iraq’s problems. In fact, without the pilgrim revenue, Najaf and Karbala and Kadhimiya in Baghdad would be far, far poorer.
A treasure trove of guerrilla documents, according to the NYT, shows that 41% of the foreign jihadis in Iraq come from Saudi Arabia, which is also a major source of funding for them. Another big group comes from Libya, with Yemenis the third largest cohort. There were none from Lebanon, despite constant US accusations of Hizbullah involvement. Of the some 25,000 alleged insurgents in US custody in Iraq, only 390 are foreigners. 4/5s of the Iraqis and nearly all the foreigners are Sunni Arabs. (The US appears to have never captured a Shiite Iranian fighter in Iraq.) The statistics raise the question of why US military officials are always focusing on Iran and Hizbullah so much, when they clearly are not very much of the problem, while never, ever, mentioning the Saudi issue. The Guardian has more.
Update: This really highlights the mendacity of William Kristols remarks made last month:
We’re winning in Iraq. That is the absolute crucial precondition to having success in the broader fight against Islamic jihadism. … And I think we are going to have to be serious about dealing with both their [Iran’s] intervention in Iraq — which is now the only real threat, I think, incidentally, to relative success in Iraq…
Irancove @ November 23, 2007