“Gulf States That Backed Syria’s Jihadists in an Uneasy Spot”
The Washington Post, June 14, 2014, p.A8
“As Sunni jihadists have pushed from Syria deep into Iraq, making startling gains that are now threatening Baghdad, they are highlighting the increasingly uncomfortable position of Persian Gulf states that have backed Syria’s predominantly Sunni rebels. …[T]he gulf-sponsored jihadists — who could threaten the very integrity of the Saudi and Kuwaiti governments — are suddenly on the gulf’s back doorstep. ‘While Sunni governments don’t support ISIS,’ their people do, said Andrew Tabler, an expert on Arab politics at the Washington Institute for Near East policy. ‘The funding for ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other jihadist organizations is coming from’ gulf states. Now those gulf states ‘are in an awkward position,’ he said. … And yet gulf governments are hardly expected to come to Iraq’s aid. They have long harbored animosity toward Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite who came to power during the war in Iraq and empowered the country’s Shiite majority at the expense of Sunnis, and whom many Sunni Arabs view as a pawn of Iran. Although Saudi Arabia and its gulf allies may fear ISIS, ‘they have no particular interest in shoring up Maliki’s government,’ said Shadi Hamid, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington. King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly refused to meet with Maliki, despite a long, shared border. …a rising ISIS in Iraq is no doubt worrisome for gulf nations, no matter how much their governments hate Iran. So close to home, these jihadists ‘pose a direct threat’ to states that are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which does not include Iraq, said Theorore Karasik, director of research and consultancy at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai. Already, ISIS backers exist in Saudi Arabia, Karasik said. Graffiti in support of the group has appeared on walls there and its fliers are in the streets, Karasik said. The group’s relationship to al-Qaeda, particularly al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen, is additionally threatening.”
Quickie Analysis: Armed overthrow looks better from a distance.