Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz spent the week before US Vice President Richard Cheney’s May 12 visit to Riyadh on a secret tour of the kingdom’s border with Iraq.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources report exclusively that he used the trip to authorize the establishment of three new military cities on that frontier, for which a generous $80 bn has been budgeted.
The king, who is supreme commander of the kingdom’s armed forces, took with him his half-brother and defense minister, Crown Prince Sultan, and chiefs of the Saudi army, air force, National Guard and intelligence services.
The new military cities will be located at Al Jawf, in the northeastern corner of Najd Province, Arar, 400 km southwest of the important US air base of al Habbaniyeh in Iraq, and Rafhah, situated southwest of the two Iraqi Shiite cities of Najef and Nasiriyeh.
(See attached map for locations of the three planned Saudi cities)
Our military sources report that the first long columns of earthmoving equipment and trucks hauling building materials are clogging the few narrow roads leading to the three sites, small, backward villages at the back of nowhere.
In early April, the king issued a secret edict assigning top priority to the project ahead of any other military or economic enterprise. The edict set summer, 2008, as the deadline for the first stage to be completed, consisting of runways for the military air fields and the first structures to house military units and provide an elementary base of operations.
Our military and financial sources in the Gulf report that the new three-city project is on the same scale as the four big military cities built in Saudi Arabia between the 1960s and 1980s: Khamis Mushait, in the southern Asir province near the Yemeni border; King Faisal Military City opposite Kuwait, which defends the Saudi South on the Persian Gulf; King Khalid Military City at Hafar al Batin north of Riyadh, which shields the kingdom’s center; and the King Abdul Aziz Military City at Tabuk in northern Saudi Arabia, opposite Jordan and the Gulf of Aqaba. This military compound covers the highly strategic meeting-point between the Gulf of Aqaba, the Gulf of Suez and the Red Sea at the Straits of Tiran.
In those four military cities, Riyadh has over the years invested more than $100 bn, aside from the hardware.
When the new project is completed, Saudi Arabia will have seven military cities, a world record.
Barring Iraqi Shiites, Iranian agents and al Qaeda terrorists
King Abdullah is building on the military project to boost the scanty populations at the three sites from eight to ten thousand inhabitants in all, to 7,000 apiece, by developing modern, thriving towns, to be a key component of the national defense shield for the Iraqi border.
He has ordered infrastructure plans for schools, medical facilities and three universities.
Moreover, 1,700 km. of roads will be laid to connect the new military cities and link them to Tabuk. (See attached map)
This road network will connect to another major project envisioned by King Abdullah: two bridges, 25 km long, to span the Tiran Straits and link Arabia with Africa through Egyptian Sinai. Construction on this Saudi-Kuwaiti-Egyptian project has begun.
(debkafile published this plan exclusively on May 5. See the map attached this article.)
This dual-bridge system is designed to double as a military asset, providing a land bridge to carry Egyptian forces quickly from the Nile Delta to the Saud-Iraq border should a pressing need arise.
King Abdullah and his strategic advisers are sinking vast resources into securing the kingdom’s border with Iraq for four reasons:
1. The House of Saud is looking ahead to the American exit from Iraq with alarm. It anticipates a Shiite state will rise in Iraq under the Iranian aegis, which would represent an existential threat to the kingdom.
2. The Iraq-Saudi border is seen as one of Iran’s two potential front lines against Saudi Arabia, the second being the Gulf.
3. The military city system will be a vital barrier against ties between Iraqi Shiites and Saudi Arabia’s Shiite population in the oil-rich Eastern Provinces and the easy passage of Iranian subversive agents.
4. By the same token, the military cities will be there to shield the kingdom from al Qaeda incursions from Iraq and put a stop to the Islamists’ two-way traffic between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. This traffic is judged no less a menace to national security than the Iranian peril.
Worried Jordan and Israel take preventive measures
Jordan’s King Abdullah, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources, is terrified of his small realm being swamped by a deluge of Iraqi refugees when US troops start pulling out. He has therefore sent heavy Jordanian Legion reinforcements to seal the border with Iraq. The Hashemite king also wants to make sure that Iraq-based terrorist elements like al Qaeda do not use the opportunity to enter Jordan. He is acting on the assumption that the US exit from Iraq is imminent.
Israel carried out a big national command war exercise last week, in which the top military and civilian brass took part. They practiced various war scenarios, including the worse case contingency of Israel being dragged into fighting simultaneously on four fronts, against Iran, Syria, Hizballah and the Palestinians.
The war game planners treated the exercise as the final dress rehearsal for conflicts expected to erupt before the end of summer, 2007.