Iraq: Saudi Culture Supports Terror
Newly released Wikileaks cables reveal the strained, even hostile relations between Iraq and its Gulf 'allies' in recent years - with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in 2008 accusing neighbors of funding proxy groups to foment violence and destabilize the country.
Detailed State Department cables on meetings between al-Maliki, General Petraeus, and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker also show how much influence the Americans had in Iraq, from security to oil production.
Meeting at al-Maliki's residence on April 14, 2008, a perturbed prime minister launched into an "impassioned" criticism of Iraq's Arab neighbors - Saudi Arabia in particular - and he questioned the need for an upcoming "Neighbor’s Conference."
"We have seen nothing positive from Iraq's neighbors: they did not reduce our debt, they did not return their embassies, and they have all interfered in our political, military and financial realms," al-Maliki told the Americans.
In a May 2007 cable, the prime minister told Petraeus and Crocker that: "Iraq's neighbors were conspiring to unseat him and destroy his country. While these nations' leaders publicly state their goodwill toward Iraq, Maliki said, they denounce him as a sectarian leader and finance his country's enemies in an attempt to foment civil war."
Petraeus told al-Maliki that Iran was a "particularly nefarious actor, using its intelligence agencies to support both Sunni and Shia militia activities in Iraq."
But contrary to Washington's traditionally pointed refusal to address its Gulf allies' prominent terror connections while focusing blame on Tehran and Damascus, Iraq's leader saved his most venomous comments for the House of Saud itself.
"If they (the Gulf Arabs) want to talk about violence, maybe we should have a conference about Saudi Arabia. Most terrorists here are Saudis ... The Saudi people have a culture that supports terrorism. The Saudi government cannot control it, and they cannot get rid of the terrorist institutions that are creating and funding terrorism."
Al-Maliki accused Saudi Arabia's external intelligence chief of fomenting sectarian conflict in Iraq and told American officials he would not remain silent about it.
"I told Vice President Cheney that (Saudi) Prince Muqrin is funding a Sunni army to oppose the Shia army ... I don't want to make threats, but if the Saudis keep saying things about me publicly, that I am Iran's man, then I can say things publicly about them as well," al-Maliki said.
The new Wikileaks cables come as Obama officials – Including now-CIA Director Patraeus – race forward with plans to complete a US troop pullout by year’s end despite continued instability and violence in Iraq.
While the US has considered leaving a token force of some 3,600 in Iraq as military advisers to the new regime analysts say the move is a sop to critics of the pullout that will have little pragmatic effect on the success - or rising specter of failure - for the Iraqi regime.
On Monday anti-American Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for a cessation of attacks on US forces in Iraq saying attacks would only resume if they remained in Iraq past the Obama administration's self-imposed deadline.