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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs