London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Saudi Arabia is pushing ahead with plans to build a fence to block terrorists from crossing its 560-mile border with Iraq according to a report by the Associate Press (AP).
The barrier, which hasn’t been started, is part of a $12 billion package of measures including electronic sensors, security bases and physical barriers to protect the oil-rich kingdom from external threats, said Nawaf Obaid, head of the Saudi National Security Assessment Project, an independent research institute that advises the Saudi government.
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 sectarian violence from escalating to full-scale civil war between that nation’s Shiite majority and Sunni minority.
All of Iraq’s neighbors, including the Saudis, fear the violence could spill over the borders and threaten their own security.
Obaid told AP that the $1.8 billion spent since 2004 on shoring up Saudi border surveillance has sharply reduced the movement of militants heading into Iraq. He said the Saudi government is most concerned now with stopping infiltration into its own territory from Iraq.
“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, he said.