Home inContext ISIS Hits Close to Saudi Arabia and Jordan

ISIS Hits Close to Saudi Arabia and Jordan

Yael Rein

Three mortar bombs landed near the Saudi Arabian city of Arar, close the country’s border with Iraq, on Monday. Officials do not know exactly who launched the projectiles, but authorities suspect Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) of being behind the attack.

After ISIS declared an Islamic state last month, Saudi King Abdullah bolstered his country’s border defenses in an effort to prevent the spread of militants into the Kingdom. It is sending 30,000 soldiers to reinforce the sparsely populated 560 mile Iraqi-Saudi border in order, according to the King, to safeguard the country’s “resources and territory” and “prevent any act of terror.” According to the Financial Times, senior Saudi officials have also requested military support from Pakistan and Egypt, two Sunni Muslim states with additional resources that can help fortify the Kingdom against the jihadist outfit.

A file showing Saudi Arabian troops. (Photo: AFP)

On Sunday, Jordan also strengthened its border defenses with Iraq after Sunni gunmen seized control of two key border crossings along its border with the Anbar province of Iraq. While initial reports mention that members of ISIS had taken control over the crossing, the Jordanian military voiced an alternative narrative, telling Arab media sources that Iraqi troops loyal to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki were still in charge. Either way, Jordanian intelligence suspect that Sunni tribesmen, not the Iraqi Army, are in control of surrounding areas.

As the Middle East’s major Sunni power, Saudi Arabia has historic ties with Iraq’s Sunni minority, who dominated the government before the U.S. invasion in 2003. However after Saddam’s fall, relations between the Iranian-backed Shiite government in Baghdad and the Kingdom have become tense.

Last month, Maliki blamed Saudi Arabia for “siding with terrorism” by supplying economic and moral support to the ISIS militants. The Kingdom has vigorously denied such accusations. But, several recent reports described how private donors in Saudi Arabia have felt obligated to protect Sunnis from the Assad regime, funding violent Salafist rebels in Syria.