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The Gulf states and anarchy in the Middle East

Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin

Published: Updated:

Former US Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger made an interesting remark in World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History. The book addresses the conflict of survival among nations. He says that the Middle East is going through a conflict similar to the European wars of religion in the nineteenth century. This is a result of a state collapse that turns its territories into a base for terrorism and arms smuggling which leads to the disintegration of the world order.

Kissinger presents a noteworthy portrayal of the regional status quo. Five years of regional events starting in 2011 disintegrated national states, posing massive security and political challenges to the Gulf states. One of the major challenges has been the rise of a number of terrorist organizations with ISIS at the forefront. Such organizations exploited the political instability of some countries, which provided them with fertile ground and ideology to operate and expand in the immediate vicinity of the Gulf states.

It is well known that the Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, were subject to a wave of terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda between 1995 and 2009. The country dealt with those attacks in a wise and decisive manner that left the organization weak and disintegrated. Most of its cells were destroyed, and many of its affiliates moved to Yemen forming a new organization named “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula”.

While regional events impacted differently on each Gulf state, hardly any of them escaped the consequences. The Global Terrorism Database (GTD) shows an escalating number of terrorist attacks on Saudi territories in recent years. Moreover, in 2012, Bahrain witnessed 26 terrorist attacks, rising to 52 in 2013, but then dropping in 2014 to 41 and then falling to 18 attacks in 2015. As for Kuwait, there were no terrorist attacks on Kuwaiti territories between 2011 and 2014. However, in 2015, there was an attack on a mosque claiming 28 lives.

The UAE witnessed its first terrorist attack in 2013, with two more attacks in 2014, and there were no attacks on the UAE in 2015. Qatar witnessed no terrorist attacks between 2012 and 2014, but in 2015, a single attack took place there. Oman, by contrast, witnessed no terrorist attacks at all from 2012 to 2015. Thus, the regional events had their impact on the security and stability of the Gulf states.

The so-called Arab Spring turned the region into a launch pad of terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen that has infiltrated the rest of the Arab world

Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin

Response to terror

The GTD is presented by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) of the University of Maryland. It has analyzed dozens of indicators in 158 countries during the past decade.

Furthermore, the 2016 GTD presented by the Institute for Economics and Peace in Australia, based on the GTD of START, shows that the Gulf states have seen a relative rise in terrorist attacks. In 2016, Saudi Arabia was ranked 32nd on the global terrorism scale scoring 5.404 out of 10 degrees of terrorism threat on the Global Terrorism Index (GTI).

It was ranked 42nd on the same GTI in 2015 scoring 4.006 out of 10. The number of lives claimed by terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia rose sixfold in comparison with 2014. In 2016, Saudi Arabia witnessed 48 terrorist attacks that killed 107 people. This was the highest rate of terrorism in Saudi Arabia since 2000.

Kuwait was ranked 37th on the GTI in 2016 scoring 4.449 out of 10. The index shows a 10 percent rise in attacks in comparison with 2015, when it was ranked 122nd scoring 0.019 out of 10. As for Bahrain, the threat of terrorism fell by 0.665 degrees in comparison with the previous year as it was ranked 44th scoring 4.206 out of 10 in 2016 whereas in 2015, it was ranked 30th with 4.871 out of 10. The rest of the Gulf states remained highly stable as Oman scored 0.00 out 10, Qatar scored 0.23, and the UAE scored 0.422.

Thus, the so-called Arab Spring turned the region into a launch pad of terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen that has infiltrated the rest of the Arab world. If the countries that witnessed the Arab Spring protests do not restore political stability and secure their borders, this will pose a real threat to the Gulf states and it will require collective efforts to face this danger.

This article was first published in Saudi Gazette on March 9.
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Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin is a Middle East affairs specialist and security analyst based in Riyadh. He can be contacted at Ibrahim.othaimin@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alothaimin.

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