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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
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.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More