Saudi Arabia has begun setting up a new 35,000-strong specialised security force to protect its oil facilities from potential attacks.
The move underlines the kingdom’s growing concern about the security of its installations in the face of threats from al-Qaeda to attack oil facilities in the Gulf, and rising tensions between Iran and the US.
There have been fears that military confrontation between Iran and Washington could provoke Tehran to retaliate against US interests across the Gulf, including in Saudi Arabia.
Recruitment for the security force began several months ago. It already has more than 5,000 personnel, who are being trained in the use of new surveillance equipment and crisis management under a programme managed by US defence group Lockheed Martin, a Saudi strategic affairs adviser said yesterday. The training is part of a US government contract, according to the Nicosia-based Middle East Economic Survey, which first revealed that Lockheed was involved in training the force.
Lockheed was not immediately available to comment yesterday.
The kingdom, which is the world’s biggest oil exporter and has 25 per cent of the world’s proven oil reserves, is investing an estimated $4bn-$5bn in the new equipment and the force, the adviser added.
Saudi Arabia already has a 75,000-strong army, an air force of 18,000, a navy of 15,500 and an air defence force of 16,000.
美国政府7月份宣布了一笔拟议中的交易，估计价值为200亿美元，合同方是海湾合作委员会Gulf Cooperation Council的6个国家，其中包括沙特，以提升该地区的安全。
Washington announced a proposed arms deal in July, estimated to be worth $20bn, with the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, to boost security in the region.
Saudi Arabia has stepped up its crackdown against Islamist militants since a series of attacks against western residential compounds in 2003.