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Sunday 21st September 2014
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Old Foes May Have To Unite To Stop IS Onslaught

Wednesday, 3rd September 2014 16:33

It sounds far-fetched. A utopian vision to crush the dystopia of a vast Islamic caliphate - long-standing foes united in the fight against Islamic State. But it may be the only answer.

Barack Obama has called for it. David Cameron agreed. Experts in Britain, from Lord Richards to Lord West to Baroness Neville Jones, have insisted it's essential - all of them in the space of a few hours and a day after IS militants threatened the life of a British hostage.

Seriously? It must be naive to think that, for example, Saudi Arabia and Iran could unite in the fight?

Iran allegedly has a nuclear weapons programme. Some Saudis have advocated attacking it before Tehran gets hold of The Bomb.

Iran is Shia. Saudi Arabia is Sunni - Iran is predominantly Persian, Saudi Arabia; Arab. They circle one another like snarling lions competing for influence in the region.

Qatar, tiny, hugely rich, punching above its weight, and close to the Muslim Brotherhood, has annoyed its Gulf neighbours in the United Arab Emirates because of this relationship with a movement that they consider terrorist.

It's not labelled that way in the West - but it does pose a threat to the Gulf monarchies.

The Turks, non-Arab Muslims with a long secular tradition, may not be welcome back in Mesopotamia with fighting forces. It ruled for more 500 years - not all of them remembered fondly.

Kurdish ambitions for a state linger after a peace deal with Turkey and extend into Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran.

With so many obvious magnetic repulsions, can the poles be easily switched? They can if the lessons of IS are properly learned.

These are that the IS, as the Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al Sheikh says, is the "number one enemy of Islam". This view is shared by the Shia Grand Ayatollah of Iraq, Ali al Sistani.

And that the future it holds up involves the obliteration of all interpretations of Islam and other religions.

Above all, though, the success of the IS must be understood to be its greatest danger to the outside world. Success has bred success. Recruitment to its ranks has soared as it rampaged across Iraq.

It is spreading like an oil fire and could sweep through Jordan, into Egypt (where the Sinai area already has an insurgency) then on into unstable Libya.

This is bad news for the West. It's downright catastrophic for the Arab Muslim world.

Saudi Arabia would be unlikely to survive the firestorm of an ideology that has its roots in the kingdom's own Wahabist ultra-conservative Islam, no matter how hard Jeddah has tried to mitigate the effects of al Qaeda on its population.

So the best option for the region's powers may be the once unthinkable - to put aside pointless ancient sectarian and tribal rivalries. Will they dare?