Analyzing and forecasting the Gulf Cooperation Council's geopolitical environment

Qatar and the Islamic State

By Alex Stout and Giorgio Cafiero
December 8, 2015
This article was originally published by Lobelog

In the fall of 2014, the Obama administration prioritized securing support from Washington’s allies in the Sunni Arab world before launching a multinational air campaign against targets in Iraq and Syria belonging to Islamic State (ISIS or IS) and extremist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda. Obtaining the endorsement and direct help from four Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members (Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE), along with Egypt and Jordan, marked an important political achievement for the Obama administration. Indeed, the last time Washington received support from so many Middle Eastern states in a U.S.-led military operation waged on Arab soil was the Gulf War of 1991.

At the beginning of the Washington-led air campaign against IS in September 2014, the son of now-King Salman and an Emirati female pilot from Abu Dhabi flew fighter jets in bombing runs over the “caliphate.” Officials in Saudi Arabia and the UAE were eager to have the press publish photos of a member of the royal Saudi family and an Emirati woman in uniform sitting in the cockpit of their fighter jets. However, since conducting these PR stunts during the coalition’s initial missions, the Gulf Arab states started to slip away from the multinational campaign against IS as their focus shifted to the conflict in Yemen.

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Alex Stout is a research analyst at Gulf State Analytics. Giorgio Cafiero is the co-founder of Gulf State Analytics.