The Gulf-Gulf conversation about the challenges posed by the Islamic State (IS/ISIS) and the alliances that will be forged to destroy it indicates that a striking disparity exists between the positions of official leaderships and the sentiment of the grassroots. There is a sense of schizophrenia surrounding what the Gulf parties want from the United States, as they quarrel over what Washington wants from them. What is remarkable -- and certainly healthy -- is the sudden candor in expressing radical differences, for example between the fact that Gulf governments have characterized the ISIS threat as an "existential" one, and the fact that a large segment of the public sympathizes with ISIS and its motives, and sees it as something necessary in the balance of power and the balance of terror. A segment in the Gulf says that Islam is innocent of ISIS and that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. Another segment sees it as the pure Islam that spoke about Christians in the language of "convert or be killed or exiled." Therefore, this segment of society in the Gulf does not perceive ISIS and its practices from the standpoint of terrorism -- and this is more common in Saudi society relative to other Gulf societies.
Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz made it clear that the priority should be to fight terrorism, whether it is practiced by ISIS or by similar organizations. On the other hand, there is a significant segment of Saudi society -- including within institutions -- that deny the charge of terrorism from ISIS and sees the latter as a necessary instrument to confront the Islamic Republic of Iran and its regional ambitions, especially in the war in Syria, and as a way to avenge the Sunnis in Iraq who have been marginalized by the Shiites. This race between these two principles and two paths is directly impacting President Barack Obama's assessment of and objectives behind his declared war on ISIS, amid a lack of confidence in Obama and ongoing doubt in whether he is serious this time or whether he is going to back track again.....snip~
The Gulf: ISIS in Return for Iran!*|*Raghida Dergham