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Neglecting Domestic Issues Fuel for Arab States Terror Groups

Allocation of funding to ISIS war opens door to terrorism

Against the backdrop of Arab nations participating in the American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS), concern is growing that the neglect of domestic issues by Middle Eastern states spurred by the diversion of social service funding to the war effort – particularly by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — could lead to more terrorism.

Although Dr. Guenter Meyer, director of the German-based Centre for Research on the Arab World, which initiates, coordinates and implements research projects on the contemporary development of the Arab world, says he does not expect the social and economic development of GCC recipient countries to be postponed because the fight against ISIS is receiving GCC funding. Yet, he also warned that the development aid from the GCC countries “for the improvement of education, housing, health and general infrastructure in low income Arab states could significantly decline.”

According to Meyer, if that prevents socio-economic issues from being dealt with, the result will counter the Arab states’ war against terror. “The deteriorating living conditions in these poor countries can provide a breeding ground for new terror groups,” he said.
The GCC is comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar are expected to cover the bulk of the expenses for the war against ISIS: a war which Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal said recently may take years but must not stop before all terrorist organizations are eliminated.

 To Meyer, this means that tens of billions of US dollars have to be allocated annually to specific budgets for quite a long period of time.” He points to other American anti-terrorism campaigns arguing that “when the US has become involved militarily in Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen to combat terrorist organizations in Muslim states, the number of radical Islamists and terrorists globally grew. He argued that, “It is unlikely that this time the development will turn to the opposite direction.”
Others agree that there are other issues of importance in the Arab world which are not being addressed because of the attention being paid to ISIS.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a scholar of Arabic literature at Israel’s Bar Ilan University, points to the dam being build by Ethiopia on the Nile River, Egypt’s primary source of water. He asserts that “for Egypt, it’s matter of ‘to be or not to be’ because without water, Egypt will dry up and people will die in the streets. Nobody in the world cares about it,” says Kedar, adding that Libya is running rampant with militias and nobody is asking about it; and Yemen has become a dangerous country occupied by Iranian proxies.

“All these issues today are being pushed to the margin because the world is afraid that terrorism might grow and this Islamic State will spread to Europe and to America. This is what concerns the world. Not the fate of Syria or Iraq,” he told The Media Line.

But according to Kedar intelligence agencies are being compromised in order to deal with the terrorist threat to the exclusion of other issues they would normally be used for, and that “they also spend money on organizations which will fight all those who are against the regime.”  

In Kedar’s estimation, too many residents of the Arab world have adopted terror as “some sort of lifestyle or fashion or mission to which they are committed and are living in order to perform it. Terror today is not a group of terrorists you can put in jail and get rid of the problem. Because it has become popular, it is very hard to combat it even through education or changing the mindset of people in the Middle East.  Moreover, once it becomes such a lifestyle of people, it is difficult to stop it.”

Rider University political science Prof. Jonathan Mendilow says the Middle East is undergoing a major shift and there is a necessity for all nations to come together because ISIS is threatening all states and the ‘state system.’
“The outcome of that is that all states are in trouble,” he told The Media Line.

 While the US-Arab coalition has the potential to create good relations among regional neighbors, it also builds stokes tension among others when they see Arabs joining Americans to fight ISIS. “The American invasion of Iraq shook up the hornet’s nest, the balance among the Arab nations was lost,” said Mendilow.

But fighting ISIS could also be the opportunity for Arab states to get their acts together four years after the Arab Spring left mixed readings on the future of the region. The terrorist organization that feeds on its own clearly presents a rare moment of unity that many hope will not be offset by dangerous neglect of other needs.