Only 10% of insurgents fighting in Iraq are foreigners

A new report states that only 10% of insurgents fighting in Iraq are foreigners - at least 90 percent of insurgents are Iraqis.

The study from the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) states that even though "no one knows the number of active and part-time insurgents, paid agents and sympathisers," they estimate there to be around 30,000 insurgents in Iraq, of whom some 3,000 are foreign fighters.

The report by the independent public policy research organisation focuses on the Saudi militants in Iraq, but says that the Saudi involvement in the Iraqi insurgency is overestimated. The biggest number of foreign fighters actually come from Algeria (600 or 20 percent of the 3,000), Syria (550), Yemen (500) and Sudan (450). They believe 350 or around 12 percent of the foreign insurgents are Saudi nationals.

However, the report points out that despite the number of Saudis being less than believed, they do have a greater impact: "Unlike the foreign fighters from poor countries such as Yemen and Egypt, Saudis entering Iraq often bring in money to support the cause, arriving with personal funds between 10,000-15000 US dollars.

Saudis are the most sought after militants; not only because of their cash contributions, but also because of the media attention their deaths as "martyrs" bring to the cause. This is a powerful recruiting tool." Saudi Arabia's wealth and well-developed press mean that Saudi deaths get much more coverage than those of fighters from poor countries, the study points out.

It lists Sunni nationalism as the main motivating factor for the insurgents and says all Saudi fighters are Sunni and tend to be employed and from middle-class families.

The CSIS report cites Saudi intelligence analysis which says 85 percent of Saudi militants who have gone to Iraq are not down on any government watch list as being al-Qaeda members or terrorist sympathisers. It concludes by saying that most of the Saudi insurgents in Iraq were "radicalised almost exclusively by the Coalition invasion," the AP reports.

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