Riyadh announces counterterrorism coalition
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.