February 2, 2015 / /
As stated in our previous articles the death of King Abdullah and transition to the reign of King Salman and collapse of the Yemeni government has destabilized the Arabian Peninsula considerably. In our last two pieces on the region we covered how AQAP and the Iranian regime seek to capitalize on the instability. Here, we will be taking a look at how the Islamic State (IS) will attempt to exploit the situation – and what it means to the Americans living in the region.
Saudi Arabia faces ISIS threats during transition of new king
IRGC-Qods Force: The Arabian Peninsula Campaign and the Failure of Obama’s Foreign Policy
Yemen Poised to Fill Power Vacuum – Iran Tightens Grip on The Peninsula
IS fighters along the Saudi-Iraq border
Source: International Business Times
Since the start of the Syrian regional war, IS has preferred to keep Saudi Arabia “quiet” so as to maintain high levels of financial and material support coming out of the country by wealthy financiers. However, recent events indicate that they may have shifted towards leveraging their access to fighters in Iraq and sympathetic locals to extend their kinetic reach into Saudi Arabia. Early-JAN 15 saw IS claiming – through their Anbar-based media outlet – responsibility for an attack on a Saudi border post that resulted in the deaths of three guards. This is same IS network led by Abdullah bin Sayid al-Sarhan that was also responsible for the deaths of five Shia locals in Eastern Saudi Arabia for allegedly operating as proxies for the IRGC-Qods Force in NOV 14. Reporting also suggests that this network was also responsible for the attack on two US citizens and a Danish national.
ISIS Claims Attack On Saudi Arabia Border, Signals Strategy Change In Militant Infiltration
Masked gunmen kill five in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia Shia-linked gun battles ‘leave nine dead’
American injured in shooting in Saudi Arabia
Two U.S. citizens shot in Saudi Arabia
Shia Proxy Threat to US ISIS Strategy in Saudi Arabia
IRGC-Qods Force insignia
The Saudis clearly see the threat for what it is and launched last year launched a series of security sweeps that led to the detention of 150 IS fighters, facilitators and financiers over the past year (some of which originated from Southeast Asia btw). Last month’s border post attack was likely in response to the increased patrols and troop numbers along the Iraqi border in addition to the construction of a wall to keep out the “undesirables.” However, IS had established a foothold along the border area as far back as JUN 14 during the multi-pronged offensive in Iraq that saw the fall of Mosul and most of Anbar Province.
Saudi Arabia arrests first ISIS-related terror cell (this article has pics in it)
Saudi Arabia Builds Iraq Border Wall To Protect Against ISIS
Revealed: Saudi Arabia’s ‘Great Wall’ to keep out Isil
Islamic State sets sights on Saudi Arabia
Filipinos Among Arrested in Saudi Terror Sweep
Large-Scale Saudi Security Sweep Detains 88
Graphic depicting the proposed border security measures for both the Iraq and Yemeni borders
The Iranians aren’t the only ones looking to make Yemen into a base of operations to launch operations in the region. Elements within AQAP have defected to IS and have aided in the establishment of networks along the Saudi-Yemeni border. Although AQAP remains the dominant Sunni terror group in the country, IS leaders are beginning to gain traction by promising cash incentives for fence-sitters. We previously wrote about this subject during the summer. Reporting suggests that low-to-mid-level AQAP members may be working with IS to counter the Houthi attempts at expanding into Southern Yemen with support for IS beginning to emerge in Aden and Lahij. A Saudi national has reportedly been appointed by IS to serve as the “Emir” of Yemen, and has been working extensively with the IS leadership in Saudi Arabia.
Possible Cracks to The AQ Armor.
ISIS gaining ground in Yemen, competing with al Qaeda
How Yemen Is Making ISIS and al-Qaeda Even More Dangerous
Report: ISIS Actively Gaining Ground Amid Chaos in Yemen
All of this comes on the heels of the message Baghdadi released in mid-NOV 14, where he put the Saudi kingdom on notice that they’re on the “short list” for being the next target. This should surprise no one as Saudi Arabia is one of the two “big prizes” that IS has been eyeing for their long-term goals. Israel is the other, but they have chosen not to target them due to the realization that they don’t yet have the strength to confront the Israeli response that would follow any such targeting. Saudi Arabia, however, is under increasing pressure coming from AQAP, the Iranian regime and IS. The death of King Abdullah at this critical juncture amplifies these vulnerabilities. The deteriorating situations in Iraq and Yemen are the likely reasons that prompted IS to shift their strategy and begin attacking Saudi Arabia outright. The increased Iranian presence in Yemen along with a resurgent AQAP and IS working to gain a foothold in the country will force the Saudi government into making some hard decisions. Whatever the Saudis choose to do will be dependent on how they prioritize the collapse of the Yemeni government, the anti-Assad campaign and the growing threats inside the kingdom itself – which are directly tied to what the deteriorating situations in Iraq and Yemen…
Islamic State sets sights on Saudi Arabia