Riyadh announces counterterrorism coalition

Friday 18/12/2015
Saudi security forces taking part in a military parade in Mecca

LONDON - Saudi Arabia has announced the formation of a 34-coun­try military alliance made up of Muslim nations to combat regional terrorism.
A statement from Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Sal­man bin Abdulaziz said the alliance would be based in Riyadh “to coor­dinate and support military opera­tions to fight terrorism and to de­velop the necessary programmes and mechanisms for supporting these efforts”.
Prince Mohammed, who is also Saudi Arabia’s defence minister, said during a December 15th news conference that the alliance would coordinate efforts to fight terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Af­ghanistan.
“Currently, every Muslim coun­try is fighting terrorism individu­ally… so coordinating efforts is very important,” he said.
“There will be international co­ordination with major powers and international organisations… in terms of operations in Syria and Iraq. We can’t undertake these op­erations without coordinating with legitimacy in this place and the in­ternational community.”
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al- Jubeir said in Paris that members could request assistance from the coalition, which would address the requests “on a case-by-case basis”.
Asked if the new Muslim alliance would focus solely on the Islamic State (ISIS), Prince Mohammed said the coalition would confront “any terrorist organisation that ap­pears in front of us”.
The coalition will tackle “the Islamic world’s problem with ter­rorism and will be a partner in the worldwide fight against this scourge”, Prince Mohammed add­ed.
The announcement came the same day peace talks between the internationally recognised Yem­eni government and the Iran-allied Houthi rebels began in Geneva. A week-long ceasefire in Yemen was also called.
US Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., while on a visit to Iraq in November, said the United States could pro­vide logistical and intelligence sup­port to a proposed 100,000-strong force from Sunni Arab countries.
However, it was not immedi­ately clear what role the United States would play in the newly announced coalition. US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said he is looking forward to learning more about what Saudi Arabia has in mind.
“In general, at least, it appears that it’s very much aligned with something that we’ve been urging for quite some time, which is great­er involvement in the campaign to combat [ISIS] by Sunni Arab coun­tries,” Carter said during a visit to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.
The new counterterrorism coa­lition includes countries with es­tablished armies such as Pakistan, Egypt and Turkey, the only NATO member in the alliance. Other Gulf countries included in the counter­terrorism coalition are the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar. The alliance does not include Iran, Syria, Iraq or Oman.