ISIS and the Gulf Cooperation Council

by

“Trust me. The magic will turn against the magician.”

– Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, in reference to unnamed Gulf countries’ role in the Iraq crisis

Directly and indirectly, covertly and overtly, by word and by deed, nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have long bolstered extremist groups operating in the Middle East and beyond. They include the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the latter’s most recent incarnation, the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

The six-country economic and political bloc known as the GCC is spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar in support of takfiri organizations fighting in the Syrian civil war. Now the standout of the bunch, true to their name, has moved on to the Iraqi theater after seizing Mosul and nearby cities.

Predictably, both Saudi Arabia and Qatar issued nearly identical statements blaming Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for the carnage wrought by ISIS including its sectarian massacres, summary executions, destruction of churches and mosques, beheadings, car bombings, and suicide attacks.

Without doubt, Maliki has been inept in forming a cohesive, inclusive governing coalition during his tenure. Even if one believes this may be partially excused due to the still-fresh horrors of Saddam-era Ba’athist rule, lack of outreach and rampant, entrenched corruption have markedly hampered the nation’s post-occupation progress.

That said, neither can be blamed for ISIS’s well-armed, well-financed and coordinated attack on Mosul. Their limited fighters and successful takeover of Iraq’s second-largest city speak more to their support—not necessarily among ordinary Sunnis who at heart are repulsed by foreign invaders and their import of religious law—but from regional powers who share a similar vision: the overthrow of Maliki’s government specifically, and Shia-majority rule in Iraq generally. Not insignificant was the tactical assistance provided by opportunistic Saddamist parties like the New Ba’ath Party of former Vice President Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri and the affiliated Naqshabandi Army.

As corrupt and dysfunctional as Maliki’s rule has been, certain Gulf regimes remain unhappy at the reversal of fortunes Iraq has seen since Saddam Hussein’s ouster (despite his invasion of Kuwait, he was much preferred to any popularly-elected leader), especially its close relations with Iran

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are quite content to see militants from ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and others operate far from their borders, although they are keenly aware the Frankensteins they created will turn on them in an instant if given the opportunity. Hence, these jihadist groups are kept at an arm’s length, busy settling scores and waging their financiers’ sectarian battles elsewhere in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. But early developments already point to the unintended consequences the ISIS-GCC alliance will inevitably bring, to the chagrin of both King Abdullah and the Emir of Qatar. Indeed, as Hasan Nasrallah recently stated, the magic may yet turn against the magicians.

Although the hope is for the Maliki government to fall and amicable ties with Iran severed, recognition of the danger posed by groups like ISIS will only hasten a rapprochement between the United States and Iran as they share a common enemy. The notion of joint military action by U.S. and Iranian forces is fanciful, yet the media’s mere mention of the possibility certainly sent shockwaves through Doha and Riyadh (and Tel Aviv). In addition, the United Kingdom already announced its embassy in Tehran is set to reopen with limited staff.

Once the brutish, draconian behavior of ISIS becomes apparent—and it will—their support will prove illusory as Sunni Arab tribes ultimately turn against them. In return, Sunnis are likely to demand meaningful political concessions from Maliki and he would be wise to seize the opportunity for reconciliation. Such cooperation between Sunni and Shia Iraqis will be anathema to those planning for the country’s partition and collapse, and a fitting rebuke to both ISIS and the GCC.

Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on Middle East affairs.

 

 

Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on Middle East affairs.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalencies on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Offshore Drilling
Binoy Kampmark
Australian Border Force Gore
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?