Persian Gulf Arabs Increasingly Exposed

Persian Gulf Arabs Increasingly Exposed Persian Gulf Arabs Increasingly Exposed

The US-led military campaign against the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria will intensify over the coming weeks following recent airstrikes. IS will suffer significant tactical blows and is unlikely to gain much territory beyond current borders, but the group will remain a resilient fighting force over the next few years.

Involvement of Persian Gulf Arab states in the campaign will increase risks that IS undertakes retaliatory attacks in the region, the Business Monitor International reported on Wednesday.

The US and regional allies launched air and missile strikes in Syria for the first t time on September 23, in a move that substantially expands the military role of the Arab states. At least 50 strikes hit the governorate of Raqqa, where the IS headquarters is located, as well as areas along the Iraq-Syria border. Beyond IS - the main target of the operations - the coalition also hit the al-Qaeda-linked group Jabhat al-Nusra, IS' largest Islamist rival, and the so-called Khorasan group, a network of seasoned al-Qaeda veterans which US officials believe is plotting imminent attacks on the West. Informed sources say the latest attacks substantially increase the risk that IS and al-Nusra will undertake retaliatory actions in the region.

Washington's move had been widely anticipated by BMI. In its latest article covering the fight against IS wrote: 'The US will conduct airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria over the coming weeks ...

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Jordan and Bahrain took part in the military operation; although their exact roles in the military action were unclear, they were reportedly involved in the bombing rather than providing purely logistic al support.

 Highly Intertwined

The BMI also sees a strong possibility that the UK and particularly France will also decide to join air strikes in Syria over the coming months. The latter carried out its first airstrikes against IS targets in Iraq on September 19. Both Paris and London said their involvement will be limited to Iraq; that said, the Syrian and Iraqi fronts are highly intertwined, and the French and British governments could well decide to widen their involvement at a later stage.

The active part played by Jordan and the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council in the latest operations represents a significant escalation of their role. It was previously thought unlikely that the (P)GCC would take military action against IS, given challenging internal political conditions and geopolitical considerations.

Opted for direct intervention suggests that they now feel more comfortable deploying their military forces around the region. Indeed, the Syria attacks come only weeks after the UAE and Egypt launched airstrikes against Islamist militias in Libya.

In the nearer term, the intervention of the Arab states substantially increases the risk of retaliatory actions by IS.

The jihadist group has responded to Western military operations by seizing hostages and calling for attacks abroad, and will now see the (P)GCC as a legitimate target.