While up until now the virtual war between Saudi Arabia, openly calling for the ouster of Iraq's Maliki (whose words in retaliation were just as harsh) was primarily of words, things appear to be escalating on that front too following an overnight report that Saudi Arabia has deployed 30,000 soldiers to its border with Iraq after Iraqi soldiers withdrew from the area, Saudi-owned al-Arabiya television reported Thursday. The world's top oil exporter shares an 500-mile border with Iraq, where Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) insurgents and other Sunni Muslim militant groups seized towns and cities in a lightning advance last month. King Abdullah has ordered all necessary measures to protect the kingdom against potential "terrorist threats," state news agency SPA reported on Thursday.
Al-Arabiya said on its website that Saudi troops fanned into the border region after Iraqi government forces abandoned positions, leaving the Saudi and Syrian frontiers unprotected. The satellite channel said it had obtained a video showing some 2,500 Iraqi soldiers in the desert area east of the Iraqi city of Karbala after pulling back from the border. An officer in the video aired by al-Arabiya said that the soldiers had been ordered to quit their posts without justification. The authenticity of the recording could not immediately be verified.
Iraq was quick to object to the stated reason for the troop buildup, claiming its border with Saudi Arabia is well protected: "We haven’t experienced or noticed any abnormal situation" along border area with Iraq, Major General Mansour al-Turki, Interior Ministry’s spokesman, says in text message responding to questions. In any case, there are now tens od thousands of Saudi troops just waiting for the order to cross the border and join what is now a feeding prozy war zoo involving the US, Iran, Russia, Syria, and - likely very soon- Israel. What can possibly go wrong.
Meanwhile, ISIS or IS as it is now known, is further clamping down on controlled territories. As reported earlier by Bloomberg, Sunni insurgents in Iraq have demanded that residents of at least 2 northern towns pledge allegiance or face death, citing Al-Mada Press reports. The website, quoting tribal chiefs, says group now known as Islamic State has threatened to kill residents of Hawijah, ~20 kms (12 miles) west of Kirkuk, and at least 1 other town if they don’t vow loyalty. Because what is more loyal than sworn allegiance at the barrel of a gun.
And in other news, as the map below shows, Iraq is finally putting those obtained Russian jets to good use and has launched airstrikes on militants between Baghdad and Kirkuk. Confirmed by the newswires, militants were killed in air strikes and artillery shelling of Islamic State’s positions in northern Babel, Falah al-Khafaji, head of security committee at Babel province’s council, tells al-Mada Press website.
The latest Iraq scenario map courtesy of the Institute for the Study of War.