“Its main objective is to try and make the border with Iraq safer, since Iraq
is no longer able to control its borders, since the invasion on the part of the
Coalition”. With these words Nawaf Obaid, counsellor for national security in
Saudi Arabia, presented the project for the defensive barrier that the Saudi government
wants to build on the border with Iraq.
During a meeting with the press which took place last Wednesday, Obaid also
foresaw that “the work will take 5 or 6 years to complete and above all it will
take more or less 12 billion dollars to cover the cost of this infrastructure,
which, in the end will be 900 kilometres long and will be fitted with electronic
sensors to intercept any attempted intrusion”.
A new wall,in fact, following the model of the one Israel is building, encroaching
on the Occupied Territories in Palestine, or of the one that the United States
are trying to strenghthen on the border with Mexico. The Saudi government however
has spent up to 2 billion dollars in the last three years to try and close that
border, which is too permeable, according to Saudi intelligence, and allows subversive
elements, as Obaid defines them, to enter Saudi Arabia and carry out attacks.
This is more or less the same charge that the United States bring against Saudi
Arabia and Siria: that they act as zone behind the line for the guerrillas who
fight against the Coalition forces. Obaid underlined how this initiative wants
to clear the field of all misunderstandings.
“It is we who suffer from the instability caused by the invasion of Iraq, not
the other way round. And the guerrilla fighters do not find refuge in Saudi Arabia,
on the contrary they come here to destabilize the Country”. The Saudi official
also specified that armouring the border is also aimed at stamping out smuggling,
illegal immigration and traffic in weapons, all of which have become unmanageable,
again since the invasion in 2003.
Wall against wall.
The decision of the Riad government seems to be an answer to the statements of
the US command which had calculated, last April, that one out of five foreign
guerrilla fighters arrested in Iraq was of Saudi nationality. From September 2005
to April 2006 US patrols in Iraq arrested 23 Saudi Arabians: yet another signal
of the end of the honeymoon between Washington and Riad, after the 11th September
2001. 15 of the 19 suicide attackers who sent the planes crashing against the
Twin Towers and the Pentagon were Saudi Arabians, Bin Laden himself is Saudi Arabian.
After 50 years marked by a cast-iron alliance, relations between the Usa and Saudi
Arabia have frozen. Particularly since, in March 2003, the USA decided to invade
Iraq, and Saudi Arabia firmly opposed the attack. Riad now tries, and has for
some time past, to show a very firm committment against international terrorism,
at the same time keeping the tone of the controversy against the USA high to try
and quash an internal opposition which is getting more and more aggressive, and
which accuses the ruling house of having been, and of still being, a vassal of
the United States. What is more, since the fall of Saddam, Iraq is in practice
governed by Shiites, who in Saudi Arabia are a harrassed minority. Riad fears
a domino effect at home, after the season of attacks which caused the death of
about 100 people in two years, and a raising of shields on the part of the Saudi
Shiites. The wall should therefore help to solve, at least in part, all these
problems, but historical precedents are not encouraging.