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Thursday, April 7, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Saudi Arabia in crisis: Kingdom projects calm, raises military salaries

ABU DHABI — Saudi Arabia has raised the salaries of military personnel as part of a drive to enhance defense against neighboring Iran.


King Abdullah has decided to promote all military officers as well as raise their salaries. Officials said the measures would include personnel in the military and the National Guard.

"Our focus should be on protecting the kingdom's security," Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled Bin Sultan said.

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Officials said the Saudi officers would see a salary increase of 15 percent. They said the rise would be accompanied by a bonus of two months salary, Middle East Newsline reported.

This month's decision took place amid Saudi efforts to rapidly improve combat and security skills in the kingdom. The Saudi Interior Ministry has also launched a drive to recruit up to 60,000 people to join the security forces.

During his inspection, Khaled urged the Saudi military to intensify training. He said this was required to ensure proper use of the new combat air and ground platforms acquired from such countries as Britain and the United States.

The greatest internal threat to Saudi Arabia was said to come from the kingdom's Shi'ite minority, concentrated in the oil-rich Eastern Province. On April 5, Khaled inspected military positions in the province and urged commanders to prepare for any threats, including Iran.

"Iran should listen to reason while making statements," Khaled said. "What we care about the most is the directives of our leadership to protect the security of our borders and our region."

Over the last month, Saudi Arabia deployed an estimated 4,000 troops from the National Guard in neighboring Bahrain. Khaled said Bahrain has restored stability in wake of a crackdown on the Shi'ite opposition, believed supported by Iran.

"We need not exaggerate matters," Khaled said. "The situation in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain is stable and satisfactory."

Khaled was said to have discussed with commanders other regional threats, including Yemen. The deputy minister did not rule out the renewal of the Iranian-backed Shi'ite revolt in northern Yemen, which in 2009 spilled over into Saudi Arabia.

"I would like to reassure everybody that our borders are now secure and that the armed forces are stationed there and are backed by border guards," Khaled said.

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