Building a Regional Strategy for ISIL

US allies in the Arabian Gulf are reappraising their views on militant groups aligned with al-Qaeda, some of whom were fighting the Assad Regime in Syria, senior Defense Department and State Department officials said Wednesday on Capitol Hill. The conversation with the US’ Gulf allies, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, has shifted over the last year and a half, said Brett McGurk, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for Iraq and Iran, at a meeting of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Many of these states thought they could “take care” of and monitor many of the militants emerging from the war in Syria after Assad’s overthrow, but now Gulf states believe the militants must be dealt with immediately, McGurk said. “There is a new emphasis that now we have to tackle ISIL,” he added, especially from the Saudi perspective, as they have seen ISIL militants capture a small town on the Iraqi border with an open highway into Saudi Arabia. Elissa Slotkin, DOD’s acting undersecretary for policy, told Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) Pentagon officials are in “regular conversation” with Gulf countries on the ISIL threat, particularly those that host US troops and have close defense ties. No regional Gulf States are sponsoring ISIL, she added, but could not elaborate on “other groups” in an unclassified setting.