News / Middle East

Gulf Concerns Mount as ISIL Advances in Iraq

Al-Qaida inspired militants stand with a captured Iraqi army Humvee at a checkpoint outside Beiji refinery, north of Baghdad, Iraq, June 19, 2014.
Al-Qaida inspired militants stand with a captured Iraqi army Humvee at a checkpoint outside Beiji refinery, north of Baghdad, Iraq, June 19, 2014.
Phillip Walter Wellman
The advances of Sunni militants in Iraq have re-ignited fears of instability spreading throughout the Middle East, with questions being raised as to how far the spillover from Syria’s civil war might extend.

Iraq’s southern neighbors, the Arab Gulf states, are increasingly concerned over the direct threat posed by the militants, and also over the possible implications regional unrest could have to their power.

In 2011, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) breathed a sigh of relief when its forces managed to quell an anti-government uprising in member state Bahrain.

The group of Sunni-ruled monarchies-which also includes Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates-has since remained the most stable corner of the Middle East. But analysts say the developments in Iraq could present the bloc with its biggest security challenge in recent years.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants have overtaken a large area of Iraqi territory and continue to battle with Iraq’s security forces as they attempt to seize control of the capital Baghdad.

Video and other online content posted by the group appears to show members encouraging sectarian violence and committing what the United Nations has described as “cold-blooded executions.”

Although belonging to the same Islamic sect, ISIL views the Gulf’s ruling families as illegitimate rulers of Muslims who should be replaced. A recent map released by the group of land it intends to claim includes part of the GCC.

Myriam Benraad of the European Council on Foreign Relations in Paris says the ISIL agenda is clear.

"The Islamic State’s ultimate objective is to restore the historic Sunni caliphate over the Muslim world," she said. "And I am not surprised that they are making more and more references to the Gulf since they are extending their territory."

ISIL’s goal of claiming Gulf territory would be extremely difficult to achieve, given the Arab states’ allies - including the United States - would almost certainly get involved, says Michael Stevens, Deputy Director of RUSI Qatar. He adds that an armed conflict over land is not the GCC’s only concern.

"It’s not all about military threats. It’s also about ideological issues and general stability issues, prosperity issues…for the Gulf it’s a threat in many ways," he said.

Indeed, a major worry among Gulf rulers is likely to be growing sectarianism within their borders and an increase of local jihadists.

ISIL has reportedly started a recruitment drive in Saudi Arabia, and in recent weeks made a number of references to Shi’ites in the Gulf, saying they should be eliminated.

The group’s words are finding some appeal.

Last month, Saudi officials arrested 62 suspects, including 35 Saudi nationals, accused of being part of an ISIL cell and planning to assassinate officials and target government installations.
Christian Koch, Director of the Geneva-based Gulf Research Center Foundation, says recruits from other Gulf countries are also fighting with ISIL in Syria and Iraq.

"You have the problem of an extremist group that is able to attract people from the region, gain experience on the battlefield and ultimately possibly come back and take the fight back home," said Koch. "I think it’s an extreme worry of the GCC states.

Adding to the complexities was a recent announcement by the United States that it was considering working with Shi’ite powerhouse Iran to prevent the spread of ISIL.

Most Gulf nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, view Iran as a significant threat to Sunni influence in the region. On Monday, Riyadh rejected the idea of foreign interference.

Lori Plotkin Boghardt, a fellow on Gulf politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says Saudi Arabia and its neighbors are extremely wary of the US cooperating with the Iranians.

"This feeds into their ultimate concern of the stability of their own rule in their own states and the strengthening of Iranian influence in the region can directly impact their stability at home," said Boghardt.

Experts say it is difficult to tell what Gulf leaders view as the bigger threat, the spread of ISIL or Iran’s growing influence in the region. But for the moment it, looks like they will have to find a way of dealing with both issues

You May Like

Photogallery Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: meanbill from: USA
June 21, 2014 11:41 AM
THE WISE MAN said it; -- King Solomon himself, with all his wisdom, can't stop or reverse the violence, killings, destruction and wars, that the US, EU, and NATO countries caused by their interference in the politics and religious divisions in these Islamic countries. ---- Maliki with King Solomon himself, (with all of King Solomon's wisdom), can't solve this Sunni religious uprising in Iraq.

USING LOGIC? -- How can Maliki defeat the combined Sunni (ISIL) terrorist, and other Sunni Iraq terrorists, and Sunni tribal and Sunni civilians, and Sunni revolting troops, who all are revolting against the Shia led Iraq government? ---- And Maliki has Iraqi troops that are about 50% Sunni, that refuse to fight against Sunni (ISIL) terrorists, or any other Sunni terrorists, or any Sunni anti-Shia led government forces of any kind, and just may shoot Shia troops in the back?

MALIKI will need the wisdom of Solomon, and more, and either he must disarm the Sunni troops, or segregate the Sunni troops from the Shia troops, till after he has defeated the Sunni led revolt, (and then), form a new Iraq Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish government, if he can? -- (AND?) -- Maliki must then have the courage and wisdom of Solomon, not to listen to the advice, given to him, by those that arm and train the Sunni extremists, terrorists, and Sunni troops. -- (AND?) -- never trust anybody that bowed to the Wahhabi Sunni Saudi King?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs