Gulf countries, including Bahrain, should be on high alert amid increasing fears of an extremist insurgency gaining access into the region, according to experts.
They say GCC Forces should also be prepared to take military action against possible attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL). They spoke to the GDN after the Sunni militants declared an Islamic State (caliphate) on territory they seized in Iraq and Syria.
The militants said their caliphate would spread from Aleppo in northern Syria to Diyala in eastern Iraq, and ordered Muslims in those areas to “obey” and pledge allegiance to their new leader and “caliph” Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.
However, the White House said that the jihadists spearheading the offensive in Iraq had waged “a campaign of terror of gross acts of violence and repressive ideology that pose a grave threat to Iraq's future.”
Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA) Research and Development Director Dr. Theodore Karasik said the GCC should not rule out the potential of the ISIL to garner supporters in the region. He also stressed that the sectarian divide in Bahrain could also add to the threat.
“Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are nations who are concerned much as their borders are open to the penetration threat,” he told the GDN.
“ISIL had already once attempted to get into Saudi Arabia through Iraqi borders, despite its highly secured border equipped with CCTVs and other facilities. The ISIL can, if they want to, get into the Kingdom and the presence of the ISIL in Saudi Arabia is proven through its leaflets that are being distributed inside the country. Moreover, six weeks ago, there were arrests of 62 people related to the ISIL recorded in Saudi Arabia, Dr. Karasik added.
He said that in Kuwait there might be “home grown elements” to favor the militant group. “This is the driving force behind the Al Sabah government boosting the alert on its borders,” he explained.
“Sectarian divide in Bahrain is crucial and can add to the threat of the ISIL. The more sectarian issue spreads into violence, the more will be the impact on the Shi'ite community in the GCC as a whole.”
The ISIL released a map on its five-year expansion plans which includes Spain, the Balkan states, the Middle East, the GCC, North Africa and large areas of Asia. However, Dr. Karasik said it was a page pulled out from the Al Qaeda 2020 document.
Meanwhile, Bahrain’s Shura Council Member and Foreign, Defence and National Security affairs committee Chairman Dr. Khalid Al Khalifa said the Gulf Peninsula Shield Force should be deployed to the Kuwaiti-Iraq border to combat possible attacks by ISIL forces.
“We support the call for the peninsular shield to get alert and work towards any kind of expansion of the ISIL inside the GCC. On the other hand, we should organise and coordinate with our allies, especially Jordan and Egypt, to help in securing the borders of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan,” he said.
He also urged the GCC to step up their efforts to prevent the establishment of mini-states within Iraq, which he said would weaken the Arab and regional unity.
“This situation is so serious not only to the region, but is also a global threat, especially on the grounds of oil production and supply. It is high time that the GCC enhances is influence in the region and internationally toward preventing the expansion of terrorists existence. We must also work to prevent sectarian influences whether within the GCC or externally in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon,” he added.