The jihadist group that just changed its named to the Islamic State having declared a caliphate already controls numerous border crossings on Iraq’s western borders with Syria and Jordan and the Saudi Arabia’s worry that they may turn south having announced their intention to reach Rome.
While that’s a bit of a stretch the 500-mile Saudi-Iraq border is porous at best and Saudi Arabia having bred a number of jihadis of their own is fearful of their northern neighbors possibly bringing their “death to all” attitudes into the Saudi Arabia.
Of that 500 miles, a good deal of it border Anbar province which is the center of the Islamic States power in Iraq which is almost entirely under control of the group or their allies, the Sunni Arab tribes that live there.
Saudi Arabia in the years since the Gulf War of 90/91 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, has not seen much of an incursion into its territories since Saddam’s forces invaded the town of Khafji before being sent packing by U.S. airstrikes and Saudi troops. They have had issues in the south where the country has a border with Yemen which has had two long-running insurgencies. One by jihadists and another by a Shia breakaway movement.
Iraqi troops withdrawing from Saudi Arabia border
Saudi television news channels have been broadcasting the fact that it appears Iraqi troops have left the southern border with Saudi Arabia in recent days.
The move seems, at least on the surface, a little contradictory as Saudi Arabia has often been accused of funding the Islamic State insurgency which it publicly denies despite evidence to the contrary.
While the Islamic State controls access to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, they seem content to stay out of each country for now. It’s largely believed that a move into either country would, in effect, be crossing a “red line” that would almost certainly see U.S. intervention immediately.
Saudi Arabia, like much of the world, would be quite happy to see Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki step down having alienated the Sunni Arab minority in Iraq.