Middle East & ISIS

How have Middle Eastern countries reacted to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)?


Given that ISIS is a Sunni militant movement that brands Shi'ites as apostates, the rise of the terrorist group poses a danger to Iran, a Shi'ite majority nation.

In Iraq, Teheran has mobilised to protect the Shi'ite-led government from the militant threat. It has armed and financed Shi'ite militias in the fight against ISIS, who were crucial in stopping ISIS' advance across the nation. Iran is also directly confronting ISIS forces in Syria by backing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Though it denies any direct involvement in the Syria conflict, reports say that Iran has also sent hundreds of troops to buttress the Syrian regime's war effort.


Saudi Arabia has declared ISIS a terrorist entity and is a member of the US-led coalition that has been bombing the terrorist group's assets and members in Iraq and Syria.

ISIS has bombed Shi'ite mosques in Saudi Arabia where dozens of people died. It has also tried to stoke sectarian hatred in the country by urging the Sunni-majority population to target the minority Shi'ites.

While Saudi Arabia is taking the threat seriously with the arrest of hundreds of ISIS supporters, it has come under criticism for focusing its air war in recent months against Houthi rebels in Yemen instead of ISIS.


Egypt is fighting a bloody insurgency by ISIS-affiliated militants in Sinai that has claimed hundreds of lives.

Egypt has responded with a sweeping security crackdown and tough laws against terror. Despite this, in late October, the militants bombed a Russian passenger plane from the tourist destination of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing more than 200 people.

Struggling to cope with its own militant problem, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in a recent BBC interview that Egypt will not join the broader war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.


Initially a mute spectator to the rise of ISIS in neighbouring Syria, Turkey abruptly changed its stance after a suicide bombing and a border clash that it blamed on the terrorist group.

It has allowed US bombers to use the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey to hit ISIS targets in Syria. It has launched air raids on ISIS targets in Syria.

But Turkey has been criticised for also attacking Kurdish rebel camps across the border as part of its "war on terror", which some analysts saw as a strategy to drum up support for the ruling party in recent elections.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2015, with the headline 'Middle East & ISIS'. Print Edition | Subscribe