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The Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda & ISIS Threaten The UAE.

Abu Dhabi and the rest of the UAE are worried the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which is in tactical alliance with Iran, still wants to control the Arabian Peninsula including the GCC region and Yemen. They are equally worried about the ambitions of the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Greater Syrian) - ISIS. Whether or not these groups still have links with the IRGC, as some quarters claim, is a mystery.

The Dec. 26, 2012 arrest of an AQAP cell in the UAE in co-operation with Saudi Arabia's security services showed a high degree of co-ordination among the GCC states. These ties now are closer. It also under-lined the dangers the UAE now faced from a Sunni/Neo-Salafi terrorist group said to be co-operating with the Iranian theocracy's notorious IRGC.

There have been serious AQAP-Saudi clashes on Iraq's border with the Wahhabi kingdom. Four AQAP terrorists attacked Saudi border guards on Jan. 5 near the town of Ar'ar on the Saudi side of the frontier with Iraq. All the four terrorists and three of the guards were killed. That was the worst of the clashes. The AQAP fighters had previously managed to move secretly from Yemen to Iraq through Saudi territory. Apparently they were trying to move back to their base in the south-east of Yemen. AQAP paid allegiance to ISIS and its "caliphate" in 2014 and since then, its fighters have volunteered to fight along ISIS forces against Iraq's government troops and Sunni Arab tribes-men in the huge province of Anbar. The largest province in Iraq, Anbar to the west of Baghdad borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The ISIS "caliphate" recently warned it will spread to Saudi Arabia and the other GCC states, as well as to Iran - among the countries to which it intends to expand. ISIS has already set up branches in Libya and Tunisia, now also trying to have a base in Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania. Such threats are taken especially seriously in the UAE, with the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Shaikh Muhammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan personally heading a special security network monitoring every move by each of these terror groups as well as the MB.

Shaikh Muhammad closely co-ordinates strategic, as well as security and petroleum, related matters with the top leadership in Saudi Arabia. This co-ordination makes the UAE the closest ally of Saudi Arabia among the six GCC member-states.

ISIS has become the most serious enemy of the GCC region, apart from Iran and its Safawi Shi'ite clients on the Arab side of the Gulf. The Shi'ites form the majority of Bahrain's population. In the other five GCC states, the Shi'ites are minorities. The IRGC has formed Safawi sleeper cells within these communities in all the six GCC states.

Yet ISIS is the most immediate enemy as its leader, "caliph" Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, has vowed to attack the GCC states which have taken part in the US air war on the arch-terror group. The air forces of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are taking parts in strikes against ISIS positions in Syria. Baghdadi wants to retaliate for these strikes.

ISIS has many Saudi suicide bombers. It also relies on Saudis in AQAP. Apparently, ISIS is using these Saudis from both groups to attack the Wahhabi regime. This is because they have better knowledge of the Saudi terrain. And to the ISIS strategists, they are best suited to mingle with the Saudi society and thus inflict heavy tolls inside the kingdom.

Lori Plotkin Boghardt, a former US intelligence analyst specialising in the six GCC states and now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says the attackers of the Saudi border guards belonged to ISIS, rather than to AQAP. She explains: "This is another case of a terrorist attack by ISIS against Saudi Arabia, which is an important target for ISIS because it is home to the holiest cities in Islam, Mecca and Medina. Unfortunately, because of that significance in Islam as well as the Saudis' role in the anti-ISIS coalition, I think we can expect more such attacks and efforts at under-mining the Saudi state in the coming months".

Dr Boghardt says: "The Saudi authorities view ISIS as a terrorist threat and are taking significant steps to deal with that threat and to mobilise Saudi society through the media and religious establishment to reject ISIS influence". She adds: "That's a very different approach from the one the authorities took towards al-Qaeda [in the Arabian Peninsula] and its support in the kingdom".

In the years after the 9/11 attacks (carried out largely by Saudi citizens), the Saudi political leadership saw al-Qaeda as an "existential threat" because of the support it enjoyed among the Wahhabi religious establishment and the public. But Dr Boghardt says that, despite some support - including considerable past financial aid - for ISIS within Saudi society, "the situation today is completely different". Yet while ISIS will continue to pose a security threat to Saudi Arabia, the potential for ISIS-inspired political instability is less than the political threat AQAP used to be in the past.
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Publication:APS Diplomat News Service
Geographic Code:70MID
Date:Jan 12, 2015
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