It was a stark warning delivered at the height of the battle for Aleppo: Michel Kilo, a prominent Syrian dissident, told Saudi Arabia the blowback of meddling in his country would be simple: “This havoc will eventually end up destroying them,” he said.
“If events in our country do not come to an end, [terrorists] will move towards them in multiples. Eventually they will see what’s coming for them… they live just because they have money.”
Kilo’s warning – or perhaps threat – plays into what many in the Gulf might fear: Saudi and GCC support for rebels fighting Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has prolonged the war and will have unintended consequences; and that the Gulf faces an influx of militants as groups such as the Islamic State and the Nusra Front are defeated on the battlegrounds of Iraq and Syria.
According to the Soufan Group, there are 2,500 Saudis fighting for such groups, the highest total of the Gulf states. In contrast, there are only an estimated 70 Kuwaitis doing the same.
But there is already a threat within the Gulf states’ own borders, with IS claiming, and being blamed for, a string of attacks in Saudi Arabia and beyond. According to counter-terrorism expert Dr Mustapha Alani from the Gulf Research Centre, Saudi Arabia has arrested 500 people with links to IS since 2014, but attacks still get through.