Arab states risk backlash by joining Syria strikes

Arab states risk backlash by joining Syria strikes

As Gulf nations flex their military muscles, they are also treading dangerous, and complicated, political waters

By Adam Schreck September 25, 2014, 9:07 am

via Arab states risk backlash by joining Syria strikes | The Times of Israel.

 

Hamas backed by Qatar and building rockets again  and the USA is in coalition with Qatar an use Qatar air bases .

And obama blame Israel for the turmoil in the middle east  , and abu mazen smellls his change in the UN.

The President called out to the Israeli leadership and public to not give up peace. “This conflict is the main source of problems in the region; for far too long, it has been used in part as a way to distract people from problems at home. And the violence engulfing the region today has made too many Israelis ready to abandon the hard work of peace”.

 

Saudi Arabian air force pilots sit in the cockpit of a fighter jet at an undisclosed location on September 23, 2014, after taking part in a mission to strike Islamic State targets in Syria (Photo credit: AFP photo/Handout — Saudi Press Agency)

 

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The Arab nations that joined the United States in striking the Islamic State group in Syria were unusually open about it, throwing aside their usual secrecy and wariness about appearing too close to Washington. Saudi Arabia even released heroic-looking photos of its pilots who flew the warplanes.

Their boasting reflects the depth of Gulf nations’ concern over the threat of the extremist group sweeping over Iraq and Syria. It also shows their desire to flex some military muscle toward regional rival Iran, a key supporter of the Syrian and Iraqi governments.

But the Sunni monarchies run the risk of a backlash by hard-line Islamists angered by the attacks against the Sunni fighters, whom many see as battling a Shiite-led government in Baghdad. Militant websites sympathetic to the Islamic State group lit up on Wednesday with the photos of the Saudi pilots, alongside calls for them to be killed.

Even beyond the ranks of hard-liners, many around the region are suspicious of US motives in yet again launching military action in an Arab nation. Many among the Syrian rebels grumble that the United States and Arab nations ignored their pleas for action against Syrian President Bashar Assad for years and are intervening now against the radicals only because it is in their interest.

Moreover, the US expanded the strikes beyond the Islamic State, hitting al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the al-Nusra Front, in a bid to take out a cell called the Khorasan Group that is believed to be plotting attacks against the United States. That has other Syrian rebel factions with Islamic ideologies — and there are many of them — worried they, too, could be hit by the Americans.

“For four years, we called on the West to help us topple the regime, but it’s clear the target is the Islamic factions,” said a Damascus-based opposition activist, Abu Akram al-Shami, speaking via Skype.

The countries whose air forces carried out strikes were all Sunni-led states run by hereditary monarchs with longstanding ties to the American military: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Bahrain. Another Gulf monarchy, Qatar, played a supporting role, according to the Pentagon. US President Barack Obama — who had been eager for Arab backing in the campaign — praised them for their willingness to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the US.

Perhaps most vulnerable to a backlash is Jordan, which borders Syria and has a strong community of Islamists and ultraconservative Salafis who have sympathies with the Islamic State group. Jordan was the homeland of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the man who founded al-Qaeda’s branch in Iraq, which eventually evolved into the Islamic State group. He was killed eight years ago in a US airstrike in Iraq.

Mohammed al-Shalabi, a prominent figure in the jihadi-Salafi movement in Jordan, told The Associated Press that while the Islamic State group has “made mistakes” — killing journalists, for example — it is still part of the Muslim nation and US strikes against it will only build support for it.

“The US is hated in the region because of its support for Israel. People will now feel sympathy with (the Islamic State group) against the US,” he said.

“This war is not in Jordan’s interests,” the deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, Zaki Bani Rsheid, told the Al-Ghad newspaper. He warned that the war would only boost the power of Iran across the region and that Jordan’s participation could bring “responses targeting its internal security and stability.”

In a move some saw as an attempt to soothe Salafi anger, a Jordanian court on Wednesday acquitted and freed a radical Muslim preacher known for his pro-al-Qaeda sermons, Abu Qatada. Analysts said the preacher could help give legitimacy to the campaign against the Islamic State group — or at least help keep Salafis quiet over it.

The action in Syria makes for the largest grouping of Arab military forces against a common target since the broad-based coalition formed to evict Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991, according to analysts at the Austin, Texas-based geopolitical intelligence company Stratfor.

Their participation reflects the growing concern among Gulf countries — particularly Saudi Arabia and the Emirates — about the rise of Islamist groups in the wake of the Arab Spring, such as the Muslim Brotherhood movement and various al-Qaeda affiliates.

“The Islamic State represents a direct threat to the national security of these countries,” said Hossam Mohamed, a political analyst at the Regional Center for Strategic Studies in Cairo.

Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, the two richest of the group, boast some of the region’s best-equipped militaries, including Western-made fighter jets and Apache attack helicopters.

The Emirates in particular has been playing a more active military role. It has deployed troops as part of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan and, along with Qatar, contributed warplanes to the alliance’s aerial campaign over Libya in 2011 that helped lead to the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi. American officials have also said the Emirates carried out airstrikes against Islamist rebels in Libya last month, but the country has not confirmed that.

American and French sorties targeting the extremists have flown from air bases in Qatar and the Emirates, and from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, which is assigned to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain. Saudi Arabia has agreed to host training facilities for Syrian rebels on its territory.

It remains unclear how much of a military role the countries will play from here on. Their participation may turn out to be token, the Stratfor analysts said — or “these airstrikes could develop into a small but growing assertiveness among the region’s Arab monarchies.”

However, Saudi Arabia and its allies are looking beyond just striking the extremists. They want to pressure Iran and eventually turn the campaign against Assad, whose ouster they seek, said Mustafa Alani, an expert on security and terrorism at the Geneva-based Gulf Research Center.

“They are not hoping to topple the regime by military strikes. Military strikes are only a means to generate pressure on the regime to accept a diplomatic political solution,” Alani said. “The idea is to weaken the regime to send a clear message.”

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4 Comments on “Arab states risk backlash by joining Syria strikes”

  1. Louisiana Steve Says:

    In the Muslim Mideast, appearances are everything. Having a coalition of Arab states in the fight, no matter how effective, is unprecedented.

    The enemies of Israel and the US such as Syria, Iran, Hezballah, and Hamas have surely noticed. As for the two-faced Qatar, they symbolically flew along without firing a shot.

    But you have to admit, they host one of the largest US bases in the Mideast. According to Wikipedia, “It is host to a forward headquarters of United States Central Command, headquarters of United States Air Forces Central Command, No. 83 Expeditionary Air Group RAF, and the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing of the USAF. In 1999, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad, told U.S. officials that he would like to see as many as 10,000 U.S. servicemen permanently stationed at Al Udeid.

    All this has got to be worth something. I say it all plays a critical role in keeping Israel and the US safe.

    • joopklepzeiker Says:

      correction.

      All this has got to be worth something. I say it all plays a critical role in keeping the US safe.

      • Louisiana Steve Says:

        Again…Wikipedia: US Military in Israel….

        The Dimona Radar Facility is a facility near Dimona, Israel consisting of two 400 meter (1,300 feet) tall radar towers, designed to track ballistic missiles through space and provide ground-based missiles with the targeting data needed to intercept them. Using AN/TPY-2 X-band radar, it can detect missiles up to 1,500 miles / 2,400 kilometers away.

        The towers…are the tallest towers in Israel, and the tallest used for radar in the world.


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