Saudi Border Guard arrested Thursday 15 Iranian nationals during their attempt to infiltrate the Kingdom via Khafji on the east coast using a boat, Saudi Gazette reported Saturday.
Jamal Khashoggi, head of the upcoming Bahrain-based Al-Arab news channel, was the first to break the news on Thursday afternoon via Twitter.
After breaking the news, he went to analyze what this incident means and what consequences it would have on the regional situation. He described it as “dangerous and unprecedented.” He said the infiltrators belonged to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, and that they received help from Saudi citizens.
“A Saudi source described Saudi citizens who collaborated with the Revolutionary Guard in the incident as traitors and agents,” Khashoggi said. He did not name his source and when asked about it he said the source is “trusted.”
Quick to join him was Salman al-Dosary, editor of al-Eqtisadiah, who has been for months warning against what he calls Iran apologists in Saudi Arabia. “It is not new that Iran has deep relations with Saudis,” he said on Twitter. “A quick look to official Iranian news sites reveal this relation clearly.”
Al-Dosary wrote an editorial in his newspaper Sunday saying while it is hard to believe that those Iranians were simply fishermen who got lost and reached the Saudi border by mistake, how can we make sure that other Iranians have not succeeded in infiltrating? When security sources told his newspapers that the arrested Iranians are not linked to any terrorist cells inside or outside the Kingdom, al-Dosary was skeptical.
“Personally, I’m not convinced with the justifications and disagree with them,” he said.
Late on Saturday, the Saudi Interior Minister had a press conference about Hajj preparations, and he spoke about the Iranian boat incident.
“We have so far been informed that they claim that they have come to look for work in Kuwait, but the boatman dropped them at the Saudi side of the border with Kuwait and sailed his way back,” he said according to statements published by the official state news agency, adding that investigations are still underway.
“However, it did not appear to us that they might have bad intentions.”
Khashoggi was left to eat his words.
“I apologize to colleagues on Twitter,” he said. “The news of Khafji incident that I posted was accurate in mentioning the infiltration but my source has added a political dimension that does not exist.”
Brooklyn-based Saudi journalist Ebtihal Mubarak said spreading false reports about the Khafji incident has ulterior motives. Besides inciting sectarian strife and slandering Saudi Shia, she said, the goal is distract people from other issues like the situation of political prisoners in the country.