Saudi Arabia has deployed 30,000 troops to its 800km border with Iraq following an alleged withdrawal of Iraqi border guards amid the ongoing battles against Sunni Islamist militants. Baghdad denied pulling off the guards.
Saudi state-owned news channel Al Arabiya released a video apparently showing Iraqi soldiers saying the government ordered them to retreat from their positions along borders with Syria in the west and Saudi Arabia in the south despite no evident danger.
“We didn’t know why,” an officer says in the video, which was obtained by Al Arabiya’s sister channel Al Hadath. The report didn’t clarify whether the alleged withdrawal includes Iraq’s borders with Jordan and Kuwait, both in the southern part of the country, or Turkey in the north.
The authenticity of the video could not be immediately verified, but the withdrawal report was denied by an Iraqi government spokesman.
“This is false news aimed at affecting the morale of our people and the morale of our heroic fighters,” the spokesman, Lieutenant General Qassim Atta, told reporters in Baghdad. He added that the frontier was “fully in the grip” of Iraqi border troops.
The Thursday deployment by Saudi King Abdullah is meant to protect the Sunni Islamic state against potential “terrorist threats” Saudi state news agency SPA commented.
Iraqi Shiite government is struggling to fend off the advancement of Sunni fundamental Islamists, who want to create an Islamic state on territories carved out of Iraq and Syria. Baghdad received only limited military assistance from the US, as Washington said it does not want to deploy ground troops in the country it once occupied.
The idea of such a deployment was also objected by Saudi Arabia, a fundamental Sunni monarchy and a long-time ally of the US.
So far the biggest military help Iraq has apparently received is from Shiite Iran.