October 12, 2006 Special Dispatch No. 1318

Saudi Arabia to Build Security Fence along Iraqi Border

October 12, 2006
Saudi Arabia, Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 1318

As part of its battle against terrorism, Saudi Arabia has recently announced a plan to build an 814-kilometer security fence along its border with Iraq. The project, which will take several years to compete, will also include the construction of military bases and checkpoints along the border. At present, the Saudi border-patrol maintains some 40 bases along the Iraqi border in attempt to stop the infiltration of drug and arms smugglers, wanted terrorists, and illegal immigrants from Iraq into Saudi Arabia. [1]

It should be noted that in 2004, Saudi Arabia began to construct a separation barrier along its border with Yemen. The barrier follows the international border as set out by the two countries in the 2000 Jeddah Border Treaty.

The following are details on the planned fence along the Saudi-Iraqi border:

Saudi Embassy Spokesman in Washington: We Are Concerned About the Possible Spread of the War in Iraq

Saudi Deputy Minister of Interior Prince Ahmad bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz said at a ministry conference that "the Saudi and Iraqi interior ministries have reached an understanding regarding joint [efforts] to secure the border between the two countries," and that "Saudi Arabia is working to construct a fence... which will provide tight security on the border." [2] The prince declined to provide details regarding the fence, but emphasized that it will not be a wall but only a system of "barbed wire fences with heat-sensitive cameras." [3]

Nail Al-Jubeir, a Saudi embassy spokesman in Washington, explained Saudi Arabia's motivation for building the fence, saying: "We are concerned about the possibility that the war in Iraq will spill over into Saudi Arabia and spread to the entire region. We want to make sure that people [involved in the fighting] will not turn to Saudi Arabia." [4]

Saudi Military Consultant: Army Bases, Barriers Will Be Constructed Along Border

Nawaf 'Obaid, head of the National Security Assessment Project, an independent research institute, said that "Saudi Arabia has begun to take the necessary steps towards building the security fence, which will be about 900 kilometers long. The construction of the fence is part of an array of security measures taken by Saudi Arabia... [According to] the Saudi plan for securing the northern border, the fence will be equipped with long-distance warning devices, and there will be bases and barriers along the border with Iraq." 'Obaid added that "the project will cost some $12 billion. Of this sum, $500 million will be allocated to the building of the fence [itself]... Construction will begin next year and, according to estimates, will be completed in five or six years." [5]

Saudi Deputy Minister of Interior: The Security of Iraq is a [Crucial] Component in the Security of Its Neighbors

In mid-September 2006, representatives from the interior ministries of Iraq and eight other Middle Eastern countries (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, Bahrain, Turkey, Kuwait, and Egypt) met in Jeddah for a three-day conference. The talks dealt with the necessity for cooperation between the participating countries in fighting terrorism and crime, including issues of border security and prevention of infiltration and smuggling. The participants also discussed the need to prevent "security breaches that destabilize Iraq, including terrorism, terrorism funding and infiltration of the Iraqi border." [6]

Saudi Deputy Minister of Interior Dr. Ahmad Al-Salem said at the opening session of the conference: "Terrorism is the largest challenge currently facing our nation. We Muslims are very frequently accused of [perpetrating] terrorism when we are [in fact] its victims, and suffer from it more than anyone else. What hurts us the most is that the deadly terror attacks are carried out by people who purport to be Muslims. Our enemies use this as an opportunity to harm our monotheistic faith and distort its image. Everybody knows that terrorism has nothing whatsoever to do with Islam... How can a Muslim raise a weapon against his Muslim brother?...

"The security of Iraq is a [crucial] component in the security of is neighbors, and affects them for good or for ill. Saudi Arabia, which has many border crossings to Iraq, therefore strives to tighten its control of the border, in order to prevent infiltration and smuggling, and in order to besiege the terrorists and pressure them to stop their terrorist actions that have [recently] intensified in Iraq." [7]

"The closing statement of the conference emphasized that the participating countries must "share information pertinent to combating terrorism, and invest more resources in... monitoring and controlling the borders and border crossings, in order to fight [the use of] forged passports, [and the phenomena of] infiltration and smuggling from and into Iraq." The participants also stressed the need to eradicate the terrorist groups "which threaten the security of Iraq and of [all] the countries of the region, and the need to strengthen the cooperation between Iraq and its neighbors in this context." The participants expressed their support for "a united, secure, stable and unified Iraq." [8]

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London) October 5, 2006.

[2] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London) October 5, 2006.

[3] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia) October 4, 2006; Al-Iqtisadiyya (Saudi Arabia) October 4, 2006.

[4] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), September 3, 2006.

[5], September 28, 2006.

[6] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia) September 18, 2006.

[7] Al-Yawm (Saudi Arabia), September 15, 2006.

[8] Al-Jazeera (Saudi Arabia) September 19, 2006.

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