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Iraq: Saudis Vow Greater Cooperation On Security

BAGHDAD, July 16, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Iraqi national security adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i says that nearly half of the foreign militants targeting U.S. and Iraqi security forces and civilians are from Saudi Arabia. Al-Rubay'i recently visited Saudi Arabia to hold talks with officials there about curbing the flow of militants into Iraq.

RFE/RL Radio Free Iraq correspondent Imad Jassem spoke with al-Rubay'i on July 13, the day after he returned to Baghdad, to ask him about Saudi militants' role in the insurgency.

RFE/RL:
Dr. al-Rubay'i, you recently returned from Saudi Arabia. What is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's position regarding the Saudi militants?

Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i:
We have agreed with our brothers in the kingdom with those responsible, that Iraq and the kingdom are together in one trench in fighting terrorism and the "takfir" [declaring other Muslims apostates] ideology in the region as a whole and in Iraq in particular. Our Saudi brothers have promised that they will support Iraq on security matters, and we will exchange intelligence information and information on the movement of funds.

It is no secret that more than 50 percent of suicide car bombers in Iraq, and those using explosive vests, are of Saudi origin. Our Saudi brothers have promised us that they are working effectively to stem this flow. We are definitely not saying that the Saudi government is involved, but we do say that those individuals are still Saudis, and it is the Saudi government's duty to stem this flow.

RFE/RL:
You have previously stated that there were some fatwas [religious edicts] that have had a direct effect on the Iraqi street. Can the Saudi government play a part in stemming or decreasing the flow, and have they promised to do so?

Al-Rubay'i: This matter definitely occupied a very large portion of the discussions. The brotherly officials have a degree of authority over such [fatwas] and in controlling the [fatwas] that are not issued by the religious institutions. However, the problem is that those who claim to be scholars are those who are issuing these [fatwas], and they are outside the Saudi religious institutions. They use the Internet, and other broadcast and publication means.

RFE/RL: Are they operating from within Saudi Arabia?

Al-Rubay'i: Of course, they are within Saudi Arabia, but they are not a part of the religious establishment. They are individuals claiming to be [religious] scholars. The Saudi officials also pointed out that if we have particular names, or particular [fatwas], we should provide them with [such information] and they will take appropriate action.

RFE/RL: That was with regard to Saudi Arabia. Will there be a role for Saudi Arabia to play in reducing the so-called export of large numbers of terrorists from other neighboring countries, and not only from Saudi Arabia, in view of the Saudi influence throughout the region? Have you reached agreement on these aspects?

Al-Rubay'i: We believe that the kingdom has vast experience, and has achieved major accomplishments during recent years, in its fight against terrorism, extremism, and the takfir trend. We are benefiting from, and making use of, the experience gained by the kingdom in its fight against terrorism. Of course, movements of funds and individuals, and the organizations within the kingdom or elsewhere in the region, or in Iraq, require us to exchange information because we are in the same trench.

RFE/RL: Regarding foreign efforts, are there any plans to extend foreign activity, or in the economic sphere, such as with regard to economic and political cooperation, in addition to the security field? Have you agreed on any specifics?

Al-Rubay'i: The kingdom has a pivotal, and very strong strategic position, not only in the [Persian] Gulf region, but also throughout the Arab world and the Islamic world, and in the international arena. We are trying to utilize this position and this [clout], in addition to the kingdom's religious standing, and its influence in Iraq, to attract certain elements into the political process, to encourage them to take part in the political process. We have discussed the political aspect in detail; we presented the progress made by [Iraq's] national-unity government, the developments that have taken place in building the Iraqi armed forces, the taking over of security responsibilities in the governorates, and in the armed forces.

RFE/RL: There have been certain statements by certain former Saudi officials regarding support for a particular sect in Iraq, that is to say, support for the Sunnis in Iraq, in view of what they called the injustice with which they have been dealt during this period in Iraq. Has there been any change in this regard?

Al-Rubay'i: We explained that it is not in the interests of either the kingdom or Iraq to have an outside perception that the kingdom is supporting one group or one component at the expense of the other components. Our brothers in the kingdom are extremely interested in preserving the unity, sovereignty, and the independence of Iraq. They want a strong Iraq, an Iraq free from regional interference. In fact, that is what we felt from the kingdom's officials, and it is something that is precious to us and is in complete accord with our views.

Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org



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