Saudi Arabia and Jordan Amass Troops on Respective Borders
On Thursday, the Sunni Kingdom of Saudi Arabia deployed 30,000 soldiers to its Iraq border. Iraqi troops had reportedly abandoned the area, leaving the Saudi side of the border vulnerable to infiltration.
Baghdad has denied the reports of the abandonment, claimed by al-Arabiya television network. Al-Arabiya said it had obtained satellite footage that showed that the 2,500 Iraqi soldiers who were originally tasked with guarding the border were instead in the Iraqi city of Karbala, far removed from the Saudi-Iraqi border. A video aired by the network showed soldiers telling the interviewer that they had been ordered to retreat from their posts without any explanation of why.
The Saudi Arabia-Iraq border is 500-miles long. Jihadis from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which has now changed its name to the Islamic State (IS), have seized much of the towns and cities near the border.
A state-run news agency said Thursday that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah had pulled out all the stops deemed necessary to protect his country from “terrorist threats.” The IS militants are able to move relatively freely between Syria and Iraq, and Abdullah hoped he could stop the same situation from occurring in his country.
The office of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki denied the charges: “This is false news aimed at affecting the morale of our people and the morale of our heroic fighters,” said Lieutenant General Qassim Atta. He said the Saudi-Iraq border was “fully in the grip” of Iraq’s control.
The Jordanian government has mobilized its military along its 112-mile border with Iraq. Jordan has reportedly sent heavy weaponry, along with armored personnel carriers and tanks, to ready its defenses for the seemingly imminent attacks coming from the Islamic State.
Some estimate that at least 2,000 Jordanian nationals have left their country and joined the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra radical Islamist groups.
On Tuesday, the Saudi government donated $500 million to the United Nations to help with the displaced Iraqi refugees. Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States said that the contribution would be disbursed into the UN coffers “as expeditiously as possible.” He said that the money would be used to help all Iraqis, and not just Sunni Muslims.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon thanked Saudi Arabia “for their generosity in contributing $500 million to the United Nations for lifesaving humanitarian assistance to the people in Iraq.”
The Saudis have previously been blamed for arming Sunni jihadis seeking to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Pundits have also pointed fingers at the Wahhabi Kingdom for fanning the flames and escalating further sectarian violence in Iraq.