Saudis plan 560-mile fence across border with Iraq to keep out extremists

Saudis plan 560-mile fence across border with Iraq to keep out extremists
September 27th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Saudis plan 560-mile fence across border with Iraq to keep out extremists

Saudis plan 560-mile fence across border with Iraq to keep out extremists
Media: The Associated Press
Byline: By JIM KRANE
Date: 27 September 2006

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates_In a sign of regional concern over terrorism,
Saudi Arabia is pushing ahead with plans to build a fence along its entire
900 kilometer (560 mile) border with Iraq to prevent terrorists from
entering the kingdom from the chaotic northern neighbor.

The barrier, which will likely take five to six years to complete, is part
of a US$12 billion (?9.4 billion) package of measures including electronic
sensors, bases and physical barriers to protect the oil-rich kingdom from
external threats, said Nawaf Obaid, a security adviser to the Saudi

The ambitious project reflects not only concern over terrorism but also
growing alarm over the situation in Iraq, where U.S. forces are struggling
to prevent Sunni-Shiite violence from escalating to full-scale civil war.

All of Iraq's neighbors, including the Saudis, fear that violence could
spill over the borders and threaten their own security.

For the Saudis, those threats could come from Saudi militants returning home
to continue the struggle against the pro-U.S. monarchy or from Shiite
extremists seeking to stir up trouble among the country's Shiite minority.

Since 2004, Saudi Arabia has spent about US$1.8 billion (?1.4 billion) to
shore up its defenses along the border with Iraq.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have long complained about Saudi extremists
crossing into Iraq _ mostly through Syria _ to join the battle against
American and coalition forces.

However, Obaid said improvements in border surveillance had sharply reduced
the traffic heading north.

"More importantly, the main issue is to seal the border on the Iraqi side
since there has been almost no (Iraqi security) presence since the U.S.
invasion," Obaid said.

In addition to political extremists, the Saudis want to prevent drug
smugglers, weapons dealers and illegal migrants from using Iraq as an avenue
into Saudi Arabia, Obaid said.

U.S. officials in Baghdad declined to comment on the Saudi plan, saying it
was a bilateral matter between the two governments.

The spokesman for Iraq's Interior Ministry, Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf,
said Iraqi officials had heard of the Saudi plans to improve border security
"and we thank them for it."

"If the Saudis want to build border defenses to stop the infiltration of
terrorists, they can do that to protect their borders," he said.

Obaid said contracts for work on the fence, expected to cost about US$500
million (?391 million), have not been awarded and work is not expected to
begin before next year.

Although the government in Riyadh has not released complete details of its
plans, security experts familiar with the project said it would include
electronic sensors and ultraviolet cameras capable of detecting any attempt
to breach the fence.

The fence will not be electrified, but it will have sensors capable to
alerting security forces if anyone tries to cut through the links, the
experts said on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to
speak about the project to media.

The Middle East Economic Digest, a regional news magazine, reported this
month that the Iraq portion would contain a double-lined fence with 135
electronically controlled gates, fence-mounted ultraviolet intruder
detection sensors, buried radio detection sensors, and concertina razor wire
along the entire, mostly desert frontier.

U.S. officials said last April that Saudis were among the top five
nationalities among foreign fighters captured by coalition forces in Iraq.

Twenty-three Saudis were arrested in Iraq between September 2005 and April,
compared with 51 Syrians and 38 Egyptians, U.S. officials said earlier this

Obaid said the Saudi government was more concerned with infiltration into
its own territory.

Al-Qaida's Saudi-born leader, Osama bin Laden, has made no secret of his
opposition to the Saudi monarchy because of its ties to the Americans.

The Saudis are especially sensitive to the possibility of unrest among the
country's Shiite minority because it is centered in the oil-producing east
of the country.

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