Brian Whitaker writes: In a pre-dawn raid on Monday, militants attacked a Saudi border post from the Iraqi side of the frontier. The resulting clash left three soldiers and four militants dead, according to the Saudi government news agency.
It later emerged that one of the dead soldiers was no ordinary border guard but the commander of Saudi Arabia’s northern border forces, Brigadier General Awdah al-Balawi. This suggests that the attack, far from being random or opportunistic, had been carefully targeted and perhaps based on inside information regarding the general’s whereabouts.
The attack has been widely attributed to Islamic State, with some reports saying the rebel group has now claimed responsibility for it. This might be viewed simply as a reprisal for Saudi participation in the US-led bombing campaign against Isis, but Isis has also been seeking to extend the current conflict in Syria and Iraq into Saudi territory.
There is no doubt that Isis has both sympathisers and active supporters inside the kingdom – it claimed responsibility for shooting a Danish citizen in Riyadh last November, for example – but whether it will be able to establish a military foothold is another question. Isis tends to flourish militarily in places where central government is weak, but that is not the case in Saudi Arabia. [Continue reading…]