Saudis Building Anti-ISIS 'Great Wall'
600-mile barrier on Iraq border designed to keep militants out, Mecca safe
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2015 4:35 PM CST
In this Feb. 18, 2002, file photo, thousands of Muslims gather in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The country is building a wall around itself to keep its holy sites safe from ISIS.   (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian, File)

(Newser) – If ISIS wants to infiltrate Mecca and Medina (Muhammad's burial location), it may have to find another way in other than crossing the Iraqi border. Since September, Saudi Arabia has quietly been erecting a 600-mile east-west barrier between itself and its northern neighbor, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The main purpose of the barrier—what the Telegraph has already dubbed "Saudi Arabia's 'Great Wall'"—is to keep ISIS away, especially from the Saudi holy sites of Mecca and Medina, both of which the insurgents have apparently set their sights on, reports UPI. The ISIS suicide attack last week along the border that killed three Saudi guards was apparently an attempt to breach the wall.

Although the cost of the structure has not been revealed, it appears to be a hefty investment: The fence-and-ditch blockade will consist of steep, hard-to-climb sand embankments and five layers of razor-wire fencing, as well as underground sensors that set off a silent alarm, the Telegraph reports. Per the CSM, the structure will also boast 40 watchtowers manned by border guards, 240 rapid-response vehicles, and seven radar-equipped command centers said to be able to scan for objects up to 22 miles away. Although Saudi Arabia isn't usually on the short list of the areas ISIS wants to take over to create an Islamist state—Al Arabiya mentions Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine as the group's main goals—the kingdom's alliances with the West, specifically participation in airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, have apparently made it a prime target as well, Reuters reports.