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Fencing In Iraq Is Always A Solution

But we already tried that and decided to invade instead. Image: The Israel/Palestine barrier. Photo courtesy of AFP.
By Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Oct 04 2006
Saudi Arabia's leaders don't agree with President George W. Bush that there is hope in Iraq; they are fencing off the entire country. Overlooked Sunday by almost the entire U.S. media apart from a short combined dispatch in The Washington Times, the Saudis have invested a third of a billion dollars in building a 550-mile fence to try and cut off Iraq from their own country.

The Saudi move is a strategic decision of far-reaching importance with many lessons and implications. It follows the relative success the Saudis have enjoyed by building a similar, though shorter, security barrier-fence along their southern border with Yemen to cut down on the 400,000 illegal immigrants who cross it every year looking for work in the far more prosperous Saudi state. That fence, Saudi security authorities also believe, has made their efforts to prevent the infiltration of revolutionary Islamists through Yemen far easier.

The fence also is a testament to the under-appreciated strategic genius of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He defeated the suicide bomber onslaught of the Second Palestinian Intifada that killed more than 1,100 Israeli civilians by building a much criticized security fence and barrier to cut off Palestinian Authority-controlled areas from Israel and the parts of the West Bank that it still held.

Sharon's approach was ferociously criticized as much from the right as from the left -- but it worked. The Saudis have now implemented the security fence policy on their two most sensitive borders, and India has fenced off the border along the Line of Control with Pakistan -- a move that Indian security authorities believe has cut mujahedin guerrilla infiltration by as much as 90 percent.

The Indians have also been constructing another security fence all the way around the Muslim nation of Bangladesh on the other side of their country to prevent Islamist guerrilla infiltration from that direction.

The London Daily Telegraph reported on its Web site Sunday that the new Saudi security barrier "will be equipped with ultraviolet night-vision cameras, buried sensor cables and thousands of miles of barbed wire (and) will snake across the vast and remote desert frontier between the countries."

In these respects it sounds strikingly similar to the $1.2 billion, 700-mile security barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border that the U.S. Congress voted funding for last week.

Like the proposed Saudi barrier, the U.S. one is intended to protect against illegal immigration and Islamist infiltration. And the U.S. one, too, is going to be equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance technology.

Nawaf Obaid, director of the Saudi National Security Assessment Project, told the Telegraph: "Surveillance has already been stepped up over the past 18 months. But the feeling in Saudi is that Iraq is way out of control with no possibility of stability. The urgency now is to get that border sealed: physically sealed."

The report of the new Saudi project was published only the day after an angry President George W. Bush tried to refute the widespread view that the declassified parts of the new National Intelligence Estimate in Iraq concluded that the war there was essentially lost and that it was fueling Islamic extremism around the world.

But the fact that the Saudis have transformed their national defense strategy to focus on building the fence shows that Riyadh believes the critics are right.

Indeed, over the past two years, senior Saudi government officials and security analysts have repeatedly told United Press International that their greatest concern is that the chaos in Iraq could spill over into their own country, where they have been enjoying unprecedented success in smashing al-Qaida and keeping it repressed and demoralized. Saudi security forces have hunted down and killed at least five successive al-Qaida directors of operations in their country over the past three years.

As the Telegraph report noted: "The fence is a fresh sign that key allies of the United States in the Middle East are resigned to worsening violence and the possible break-up of Iraq, where American intelligence agencies said (last) week that the continuing conflict fueled global terrorism."

"If and when Iraq fragments there's going to be a lot of people heading south and that is when we have to be prepared," Obaid told the newspaper.

The Telegraph said that the fence was expected to be competed relatively quickly -- within the next two years. It said that the project was currently on schedule to be operational by "the early summer of 2008."

The Telegraph report predicted that the new fence would "revolutionize border security." It said the new fence border system would consist of "two metal barriers running 100 yards apart, lined with barbed wire at the base and top. On the Iraqi side, alarms will notify patrols if an intruder attempts to scale or cut through the fence. Between the two fences will be yet more barbed wire, piled in a tall pyramid."

The barrier will also be packed with the most advanced surveillance equipment, the newspaper said. And it will also be defended in depth. "Behind the line of the fence, command and control centers with heliports would provide bases for troops to respond to any alert," the report said.

The Telegraph said the fence was currently expected to be completed on schedule by the summer of 2008, less than two years from now, at an estimated cost of around $300 million.

The fence suggests that the Bush administration is in line with strategic thinking in other nations in looking to its new border fence with Mexico to be relatively effective. But the president and his administration appear to be whistling in the wind if they think Iraq will stabilize soon. The Saudis are betting their entire strategic doctrine on the assumption that it will not.

Source: United Press International

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Washington (UPI) Oct 04 2006
The Iraqi government late Tuesday recalled an entire national police brigade from northwest Baghdad for complicity with death squads, a U.S. official said Wednesday. "I don't know what degree any of the leadership knew, but there is clear evidence that there was some complicity in allowing death squad elements to move freely when in fact they were supposed to have been impeding their movement, that perhaps they did not respond as rapidly when reports were made" said Maj. Gen. William Thurman, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.

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