Saudi Arabia will be leading a group of 34 Muslim countries against a war on terrorism. Called the ‘Islamic Military Alliance’, the group will operate from a joint operations centre based out of Riyadh.
In a statement issued to the press the Kingdom said that the group has been formed to fight terror because Islam forbids “corruption and destruction in the world” and terrorism is “a serious violation of human dignity and rights, especially the right to life and the right to security.”
Saudi Arabia has made it clear that the coalition will work with other coalitions, countries and international organisations fighting terrorism.
Why the sudden need for such a group?
Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman said,“Currently, every Muslim country is fighting terrorism individually… so coordinating efforts is very important.”
He said that the joint ops centre will help “coordinate and support military operations to fight terrorism” across the Muslim world.
Primarily, the group – the first of a kind in the Islamic world – has been founded to tackle threats from the surging Islamic State.
Who is part of it?
All 34 nations (marked in blue) are allies of Saudi Arabia politically or culturally. Other than Saudi Arabia, the nations are:
Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Mali, Chad, Somalia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Togo, Tunisia, Djibouti, Senegal, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Gabon, Guinea, the Palestinians, Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Lebanon, Maldives, Malaysia, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, and Nigeria.
Benin is the only non-Muslim majority country to be a part of this coalition.
Turkey is the only NATO member which is part of this alliance.
Who is not part of it and why?
Iran is the biggest military power not a member of the group because of its traditional rivalry with Saudi Arabia.
Iran is a Shia-majority country and Sunni Saudi Arabia shares a long history of acrimony with the former. Riyadh accuses Tehran of trying to instigate trouble in Yemen by arming Houthi rebels.
Other nations conspicuous by their absence from this alliance are Iraq and Syria – the two countries which lost half of their territories to Islamic State.
It is because governments in both the countries are allied with Iran. Iraq has a Shia-led government while Syria’s Bashar al-Assad is an Alawite.
Has the US any role to play in this?
Prima facie, no. But Bahrain is the home of US 5th Fleet and Washington is helping Riyadh tackle the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
It cannot be ruled out that the US will be playing a significant strategic role from outside the alliance.
How should this alliance be read?
Some are criticising the alliance for its ‘Axis’ like nature. Others are criticising the very rationale of forming an ‘Islamic Military Alliance’ on the illogical ground that Muslim countries are fighting terrorism individually.
— Haykal Bafana (@BaFana3) December 15, 2015
Included in the #Saudi-led coalition to fight terrorism are the states that are major sources of terror funding and support!
— Sophia ن (@les_politiques) December 15, 2015
— Doug Bandow (@Doug_Bandow) December 15, 2015