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Volunteers in the newly-formed ‘Peace Brigades’ participate in a parade near the Imam Ali shrine in the southern holy Shiite city of Najaf
Call to protect Gulf internal front amid jihadist blitz Gulf torn

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, June 19, (AP): Saudi Arabia and other petro-powerhouses of the Gulf for years encouraged a flow of private cash to Sunni rebels in Syria. Now an al-Qaeda breakaway group that benefited from some of that funding has stormed across a wide swath of Iraq, and Gulf nations fear its extremism could be a threat to them as well. Those countries are trying to put the brakes on the network of private fundraisers sending money to the rebel movement, hoping to halt financing going to the radical Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Fundraising clerics complain that they are being told not to collect money for any Syrian rebels. “Right now there is a siege. All the Gulf countries that were supportive have barred that support,” Kuwaiti cleric Nabil al-Awadi angrily said on his TV program.

At the same time, the Gulf states sharply oppose any US military assistance to Iraq’s Shiite-led government aimed at stopping the extremists’ rapid advance. And they are furious at the possibility that Washington could cooperate with top rival Iran to help Iraq. Their stance reflects the complex tangle of national rivalries and sectarian enmities in the region. Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, along with its Gulf allies, have had the primary goal of stopping the influence of mainly Shiite Iran in the Middle East, and they deeply oppose Iran’s ally, Iraqi Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki, whom they accuse of discriminating against his country’s Sunni minority. Gulf states are torn over the Islamic State’s victories. While they would welcome a more Sunni-friendly government in Iraq, they also fear Islamic radicals might eventually turn their weapons on the Gulf’s pro-Western monarchies. Gulf leaders also worry Iran will have an even bigger role in Iraq — a scenario already beginning to play out with top Iranian military figures in Baghdad helping organize the army.

In phone calls this week with the leaders or foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, US Secretary of State John Kerry heard a chorus of disapproval for any kind of US military operation to help al- Maliki, such as airstrikes or train-and-equip missions, according to US officials familiar with the conversations. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the private exchanges. Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet put out a statement blaming the insurgent explosion on al-Maliki’s government’s marginalization of the Sunni minority — “the sectarian and exclusionary policies practiced in Iraq over the past years.”

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