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International Security: Saudi-Iraq Border Dispute Essay

When the Saudi Arabian government began to experience the uprising of social movements in the 1960s, one of the first suspects of origin was Baghdad. The tension that had been going on between the two countries quickly degenerated to a point where it became volatile. Since forces in Baghdad had been suspecting of having a role to play in movements similar to the one in Saudi Arabia around the same time, it was natural for Saudi Arabia to develop relations towards Baghdad that were all the more strained in nature.

This paper shall provide an introduction to the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iraq and shall attempt to begin by establishing an understanding of the evolution of their relationship over time in order to attain a clearer picture of attain a clear picture and a complete understanding of the actual nature of relationship that exists between the two countries. The paper shall begin by providing a brief introduction to the relationship between the two countries and shall then proceed to delve into the scenario that exists with respect to the volatility of the Saudi-Iraq border.

The paper shall give special attention to areas that pertain to the terrorist threat posed because of the scenario that exists on the border of Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The paper will highlight the problem of the terrorist movement across the Saudi-Iraq border and shall elaborate upon the numerous aspects that pertain to the terrorist movement across the Saudi-Iraq border and how it serves to put both the countries at a risk in the process. In the latter paragraphs, the paper shall also elaborate upon the ethnic problems that exist in Iraq in order to highlight the volatile nature of the current Iraqi situation.

Special consideration will be given to the aspect of migration that exists across the two regions and in the area of illegal migration with respect to situations such as the Saudi-Iraq border in general. As a result of the deteriorating relations with Iraq and the close proximity with the same that Saudi Arabia was faced with, it was only natural that Saudi Arabia began to attempt to strengthen its relationship with other neighboring countries and allies such as Iran, Kuwait, Syria and the United States.

It is not too hard a task to note that Saudi Arabia was particular in improving relationships with countries that held a similar loathing towards the Iraqi government. The 1970s saw an improvement in the relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq, fundamentally because of the fact that both countries were in fear of the implications of the Iranian Islamic Revolution spilling over into their territories. In the 1980s, Saudi Arabia actually served to assist Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war through numerous loans that were designed upon generous return terms (Tollitz, Prados and Blanchard).

However, this ripening of the relationship between the two countries did not last long when Iraqi forces took hold of Kuwait. In retaliation, Saudi Arabia took action against Iraq and also sought assistance from the United States in confronting Iraqi forces. The United States responded by sending its troops to Saudi Arabia upon the invitation of the threatened country and using the coalition that they held in the opposition of Iraq, the United States forces were given complete permission to make use of Saudi Arabia’s military facilities.

The United States did not merely assist the Saudi Arabia government in the war against Iraq but also served as an integral spearhead in the war. The United States forces were took part in ground assaults as well as areal assaults against Iraqi forces. The fact that the Iraqi forces chose to launch Scud-B missiles at numerous towns in the Saudi Arabia served to hit the nail on the head with regard to the deterioration of the relations between both countries. The damage to Saudi Arabia as a result of the missiles was predominantly that of civilian life and property.

By this time, the relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia damaged to a point where next to nothing could possibly be done to repair them since the people of the two countries had grown to loathe each other as the war raged on. As time went by after the war, every foreign policy that Saudi Arabia formulated was designed to ensure that it addressed any all threats that Iraq could pose towards Saudi Arabia. Elements such as these were areas of Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy which dictated that Saudi Arabia would support forces in Iraq that opposed the government and desired to remove Saddam Hussein’s reign (Al-Rasheed).

The Saudi Arabia proceeded with this stance for a few years without making it too public, but as time went by and the 1990s approached, the desire to topple Saddam’s government became all the more dominant and prominent in Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy. When Saddam Hussein’s reign finally ended, Saudi Arabia was relieved of one issue with regard to Iraq, but was immediately visited by another. Over the years, the Saudi and the Iraqi border had been a much disputed region. Neutral zones had been established along the perimeter as a result of prolonged discussions and negotiations between the two countries.

When the United States forces invaded Iraq, the influx of terrorists into Iraq and the out flux of refugees, both became functional in a manner such that the Iraq-Saudi Arabia border was incorporated (Tripp). It is essential to highlight at this point that in the latter half of 2006, it was reported that Al-Qaida operatives had begun to move from bases located and operational in the Pak-Afghan region, to Iraq where Al-Qaida has apparently decided to channel its man power for the coming period.

It was speculated that there is a chance that Al-Qaida operatives may choose to enter Saudi Arabia and then gain access to Iraq through the border connecting Saudi Arabia and Iraq. It would not be unjustified to concur that Iraq is playing out the role of a magnet of sorts for hostile elements such as Al-Qaida and regions that fall around Iraq are therefore falling into the line of fire (Regan).

As Al-Qaida operatives move from around the world towards the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is faced with a security threat that makes it not only vulnerable to terrorist threats, but by serving as a pathway for terrorist elements to cross through into Iraq, also puts Saudi Arabia in a compromising position with regard to its role in preserving international peace. The scenario for Saudi Arabia is quite similar to that which exists for the United States with regard to Mexico and for Israel with regard to Palestinian areas. Much like the United States, Saudi Arabia is also considering establishing a barrier along its borders.

The Saudi Arabia is considering serious plans to establish a penetration proof barrier along its border with Iraq in order to keep out any violent and hostile elements. Not only are political extremists an issue, but the supplementing threat of drug smugglers does not come as any improvement in the scenario because this serves to open routes for other unwanted parties such as weapons dealers and human smugglers. The involvement of elements such as these causes the further degradation of the scenario and puts Saudi Arabia at a high security risk level.

The threat to Saudi Arabia has only increased with the recent war in Iraq that has caused countless Iraqis to opt to flee across the Iraq-Saudi Arabia border. Along with the few refugees that have attempted to do so, hostile elements have also attempted to take advantage of the chaotic situation and have tried to gain access to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia faces a highly vulnerable standing because of its border disputes with Iraq because of the fact that the Shia minorities of the country are located in the most significant oil producing regions of the country (The Associated Press ).

However, the border is not causing problems merely for Saudi Arabia, but is also causing problems on the other side of the fence. This is because of the fact that as the war in Iraq rages on, hostile elements from Saudi Arabia are choosing to cross the border and join terrorists groups in Iraq that are operating against the coalition forces. The situation worsens further with the fact that this puts Saudi Arabia in a position where it may possibly serve as a gateway for terrorists into Iraqi territory.

It has become almost natural for the neighboring countries of Iraq to fear that the force with which coalition forces are carrying out operations in Iraq may cause hostile elements to opt for using Iraq’s neighboring countries as their bases of operations or as safe houses for refuge (Saudi-US Relations Information Service). It is for the same reason that Saudi Arabia has decided to undertake security projects along its borders with Iraq that ensure that there will be almost no possibility of any infiltration from any of the two sides of the border.

Measures such as these are because of the fact that the frequent illegal movement of hostile elements and illegal immigrants across the border tends to encourage such elements to attempt to transport equipment across the border as well. In the case of terrorist elements, this aspect is nothing less than alarming considering the damage that terrorists groups can cause to Saudi Arabia and Iraq both if they managed to establish a pathway to transport heavy weapons to and from the two countries.

Because of the presence of such multilateral threats, both the Saudi Arabia and the Iraqi government have attempted to reconcile on disputes that they previously did not choose to bring up (Saudi-US Relations Information Service). Another adverse implication of the existence of the cross-border movement dispute between the two countries is the fact that there is a possibility that the excessive movement of hostile elements from Iraq may encourage elements to move across the border that could instigate the Shia minority into getting carried away with their emotions and working against the coalition forces (The Associated Press ).

Iraq has been plagues with ethnic problems for years now. The conflicts between Sunnis and Shiite Arabs have turned Iraq into an increasingly volatile battle ground. Under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, the Shiites grew exponentially powerful and reached a point in the Iraqi society where they constituted sixty percent of the Iraqi society and were still denied their fundamental political and religious rights. Under Saddam Hussein’s regime, the Sunnis gained more power and reached a point where they formed the bulk of Saddam’s administration.

A fact that serves to irk the Sunni population of Iraq is the presence of the political ties with Iran. This serves to anger not only the Sunnis of Iraq but also the Arab countries that are United States allies. The fear of Iranian influences intervening in the already increasingly volatile Iraqi scenario is an aspect that serves to increase doubts about the prospective Iraqi scenario. However, it is essential to mention that Kurds also play a significant role in the Iraqi scenario since they comprise of nearly twenty percent of the total Iraqi population.

This puts them in a position where they are a minority that can have a significant influence upon the series of events that Iraq undergoes. The Kurds have their own distinct language, culture, history and traditions and are generally concentrated in and around the northern areas of Iraq. The Kurds have been struggling for their rights in the regions of northern Iraq, eastern Turkey, northeastern Syria, northern Iran and southern Georgia. Incidents where the Kurds have chosen to initiate a movement and have been faced with vicious oppression from the resident society.

However, since the gulf war in 1991, the Kurds have found a considerable degree of independence in the regions in and around northern Iraq and have entered into Iraqi politics as well. However, even though the Kurds have gained a significant degree of recognition in Iraq, their desire to gain independence still exists with the same vigor as it held several decades ago. Fundamentally, the Kurds are a part of the Sunni Muslim population of Iraq, but the aspect of secular nationalism is quite strong in them.

Another fact which serves to make the Kurds a highly crucial element in the Iraqi scenario is that they are concentrated in the northern regions of Iraq where oil is found quite commonly (Karon). This puts the Kurds in a position where they can choose to keep revenues with themselves instead of handing them over to the state, hence enabling them to establish an autonomous government that they can protect it from an external intrusion. However, the Kurds are faced with opposition from not only the powers of the state but also from the Turkmen minority that also has the same intentions.

There has been a vast amount of migration in the Arabic gulf countries and specially the United Arab Emirates and if one was to consider the aspect of the migration that is caused as a result of disputes such as the Saudi-Iraq border issue, there are a number of natures of immigrants that can move about. The first and most dangerous are the terrorist elements that more than often choose to move around when disputes such as the Iraq-United States war erupt. When terrorist elements move around, they tend to establish a base of operations in any region they can during their stay there.

Their movement causes the exercising of terrorist elements that may otherwise have become stationary and of no threat to the region where they are concealing themselves. As a result of the movement of active terrorist elements, these otherwise stationary terrorist elements become an active threat to the immediate region and the exchanging of information amongst these elements serves to increase the danger of the execution of a terrorist activity exponentially.

This is also associated with the fact that the continuous movements of terrorists across different regions causes them to form safe houses in these regions that can later turn into their base of operations. Therefore, a country that is housing an active terrorism element may be actually serving as a base of operations for a terrorist activity in another country.

The presence of scenarios such as these serves to cause deterioration of the relationship amongst allies because of the fact that evidence found at a terrorist attack which directs towards the involvement of an ally country serves to decrease the degree of trust that the victim region has on its ally and also simultaneously serves to show the inability of the region in keeping terrorist elements out or handling them once they have gained access, causing a deterioration in overall international relations.

The second form of immigrants in a scenario such as this include refugees who choose to leave behind their native land and attempt to establish a refuge in a region that is not their native region by birth. In cases such as these, the region to which they migrate in order to seek refuge more than often has to face an imbalance of sorts because of the adjustment of an unexpected influx of refugees into the region. In cases where the region is already suffering through an economic imbalance, the influx of refugees causes a further deterioration of the economic scenario.


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