- The erection of a 9000 km border fence around Saudi Arabia will dramatically reduce the threat of Al Qaeda terrorists crossing between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The porous mountainous border is an ideal crossing point for Al Qaeda terrorists and arms smuggling, a threat that has increased after the merger of Al Qaeda in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi government has awarded the European Aerospace Defense Systems (EADS) together with Saudi construction company Al Rashid a contract to build a 9000 km border fence around the country’s borders, at an estimated cost of US $3.5 billion.
The border fence through mountains, deserts and sea borders will provide visibility and operational awareness to Saudi Border Guard by the use of cutting-edge technology which includes installation of sophisticated radar systems along the extensive border.
Saudi Arabia has been the breeding ground for Al Qaeda operators and has been the target of Al Qaeda attacks. In addition, it has sizeable Shiite populations in the Eastern Province and the southern region of Najran, bordering Yemen.
The border with Yemen is particularly porous and poses the most serious immediate threat to the security of the Saudi kingdom, followed by the Iraqi border. However, due to the porous mountainous nature of the Yemeni border, and the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Yemen, erecting a border fence will undoubtedly enhance security. Al Qaeda has recently announced the merger between its Saudi and Yemen operations and has been reportedly setting up training camps in north Yemen, near the Saudi border. The current situation allows easy crossing between the two countries’, as well as arms smuggling. By building the fence, the joint operations of Al Qaeda will be dealt a sever blow.
As the Yemeni-Saudi border area is inhabited by large Shiite populations, with strong tribal family ties, the erection of the fence may cause a lot of discomfort amongst the local inhabitants on both sides of the border. However, the Saudi government attempted to pre-empt any problems with its Shiite population by improving relations with the Shiites of the Najran area, through granting state land to the residents and acceding to the demands of changing the governor of the region.
The erection of the fence along the Yemeni border will undoubtedly improve the security of the kingdom by isolating it from a rapidly collapsing security situation in Yemen.