The PJ Tatler

Consulate Closures in Saudi Arabia Extended Without Threat Explanation

Without explanation, the State Department extended the closure of diplomatic facilities in Saudi Arabia for at least another day.

U.S. citizens in Saudi Arabia received a security message from the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh on Saturday, warning that consular services in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dhahra would be shut down Sunday and Monday. Even the phone lines are unavailable.

“All U.S. citizens are encouraged to be aware of their surroundings, and take extra precautions when travelling throughout the country. The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of traveling to Saudi Arabia and limit non-essential travel within the country,” the message said.

On Monday, the U.S. Embassy said in a message to citizens, “Due to heightened security concerns at U.S. diplomatic facilities in Saudi Arabia, consular services will continue to be cancelled at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and Consulates General in Jeddah and Dhahran on Tuesday, March 17.”

“A new security message will be sent out as soon as consular services return to normal,” the Embassy added.

Asked about the security situation last night on CNN, State Department press secretary Jen Psaki said she didn’t have an idea on when U.S. facilities might reopen.

“One of the things the State Department does is inform American citizens and people around the world when there is a credible threat, when there’s a threat that people need to have information about,” Psaki said. “…We just take every precaution necessary to protect American citizens.”

“We have not changed our staffing. We have not changed anything in that regard. Obviously, we take every precaution as it relates to security. But we also have a responsibility to provide information we have access to. And that was the case here.”

Regional media have gleaned little else about the threat. “We found it advisable not to open to the public because of our security concerns,” embassy press officer Johann Schmonsees said, according to Gulf News.

On March 13, the day before the advisory that diplomatic facilities would be closed, the Embassy said it “has information stating that, as of early March, individuals associated with a terrorist organization could be targeting Western oil workers, possibly to include those U.S. citizens working for oil companies in the Eastern Province, for an attack(s) and/or kidnapping(s). There is no further information on the timing, target, location, or method of any planned attacks.”

On March 7, the Embassy warned that “individuals associated with a terrorist organization are targeting employees of Chevron in Saudi Arabia for a possible attack.”

The State Department’s travel warning, updated on Feb. 25, notes the danger of security threats from ISIS and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

“Possible targets include housing compounds, hotels, shopping areas, international schools, and other facilities where Westerners congregate, as well as Saudi government facilities and economic/commercial targets within the Kingdom,” the warning added.

ISIS is believed to be seeking more Western hostages after it killed all of its known American hostages. The terrorist group is counting on sympathizers in countries across the region to help.

The Saudi Gazette reported in September that there are 40,000 Americans living and working in the kingdom.