Saudi Arabia surprised the world on Tuesday with the unveiling of an anti-terrorism military alliance including 34 mainly Muslim countries, which, according to Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will fight the Islamic State in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and Afghanistan. Is this coalition Saudi Arabia’s response to worldwide demands that the country to something to fight the Islamic State – or is it a farce?
Terrorism is a “disease which affected the Islamic world first before the international community as a whole,” said the Crown Prince. He vowed the new alliance will confront “the Islamic world’s problem with terrorism and will be a partner in the worldwide fight against this scourge.”
On the surface, it seems like Saudi Arabia has capitulated to worldwide criticism that it become more involved in the fight against terror. Let’s remember, however, the accusations that claim Saudi Arabia to be a supporter of extremist Wahhabi mosques that promote terrorist views.
The coalition announcement caught the country of Pakistan by surprise. While it was included in the list of 34 countries, Pakistan had apparently never signed up nor heard about the coalition. “We have been cooperating with Saudi Arabia on counter-terrorism efforts, but I am not sure we are going to be a part of any military alliance,” remarked a Pakistani official. He explained that the country has never joined a military alliance without UN support. “That was the reason we stayed away from the Yemen conflict.”
Pakistan wasn’t the only country caught off guard by the announcement. The Foreign Ministry in Lebanon was also unaware of its country’s participation in the alleged alliance. The 34-country bloc also includes “Palestine,” which has long been accused of supporting Islamic extremism. Palestinian Authority (PA) spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh refused to comment on the coalition.
“No one here knows anything about what it is,” another PA official told Breitbart News. Many are questioning the inclusion of Palestine in an ‘anti-terror’ allegiance, considering the fact that the PA regularly encourages Palestinians to attack Israelis. Furthermore, PA military Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is considered a ‘terrorist organization’ by the State Department.
It is not clear what Saudi Arabia will be expecting of alliance members. Bin Salman explained that the coalition would be headquartered in Riyadh to better coordinate future attacks against radical Islamic terrorism. Members of the alliance include Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Turkey, Libya, and others. Iran, Syria, and Iraq are notably absent from the list.
An expert on Gulf affairs, professor Christopher Davidson of Durham University argues that the alliance is simply a strategy to boost Saudi Arabia’s reputation in regards to international affairs.