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The End Game for ISIS

As I write this, I’m a few hundred miles southwest of Baghdad, sipping on a double vodka martini, infused with mango and passionfruit, staring at a stunning man-made lagoon on the edge of the Persian Gulf.

I’m in Abu Dhabi, having been invited by a top G7 official and friend, who once served as a diplomat in Afghanistan.

Suffice it to say, he’s extremely familiar with the politics of the region and, during our lunch, we discussed what’s really happening just around the corner with ISIS and oil.

What I found out isn’t the kind of diluted entertainment fodder fed to you by CNN and Fox News. This is real, boots-on-the-ground analysis.

And if you – like most others – think the ultimate goal of ISIS is to control Syria and Iraq, you’d be dead wrong…

Maneuvering Deep-Rooted Conflict

A few miles from Baghdad, ISIS fighters (locally known as Daesh) are lobbing mortar bombs near the highly protected Green Zone.

Baghdad hasn’t fallen yet, but it very well could in the coming weeks.

And global energy prices are highly dependent on what happens in this region of the world.

While oil prices are tanking right now, that could change quickly if ISIS continues to move through Iraq and on to its ultimate target: Saudi Arabia.

Of course, Saudi Arabia has resources and protection from the U.S. military, the most powerful weapon in the world.

Yet, the Saudis – along with other countries in the region, like Qatar – are part of the reason why ISIS exists.

You see, despite what many may think, ISIS isn’t funded by oil sales. At least, that’s not where they got the seed capital to fund their recruitment efforts. That money came from private (and even some not-so-private) sources in the Gulf.

The goal of ISIS and its backers was to defeat Assad in Syria. But that’s an afterthought now.

In order to complete their “caliphate,” ISIS needs control of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, Islam’s holiest cities.

Regionally and globally, many are fed up with Saudi Arabia’s self-imposed position, which is supported by the United Kingdom, as the caretakers of Mecca and Medina.

This modern kingdom is nothing like the 1.3 billion other people who follow the same strict religion. But, because of their location and their relation to the two cities, the Saudis have dominated the religious dialogue.

Having oil and the backing of the United States hasn’t hurt them, either.

Now, the stakes are higher… much higher.

Protecting the Source

The oil riches of Abu Dhabi and the vast commercial holdings of Dubai, both at home and abroad, are two of the economic reasons why ISIS’ radicalism has to be fought.

You see, the landscape is changing quickly – and for the better – in this part of the world. Capitalism and consumerism are the norm, not the exception.

The resources in Saudi Arabia are precious enough to go to great lengths to protect, even if that means bombing those who share the same faith and criticizing the countries in the region, like Qatar, that have funded radical groups.

It may take years to squash ISIS and whoever is sure to follow. But the fact that the Arabs have finally decided to coalesce and bomb “their own” is a very important milestone. My friend and I think it could be the turning point for the entire region.

However, for the job to be a total success, it will require a radical change in Saudi Arabia – one that may result in continued turmoil in the region and a shock to oil prices.

And “the chase” continues,

Karim Rahemtulla