Saudi ‘Islamic(?) Military Alliance’ Makes no Sense
The new military alliance announced recently by the Saudi defense minister to fight terrorism motivated the think-tankers in the western media to write about the seriousness of the Saudi decision, pointing at “some perplexing aspects to this new alliance” and the real goals behind creating it.
“In many ways, this alliance seems designed to calm Western critics who have frequently complained that the Muslim world isn’t doing enough to combat terrorism and extremism,” said Adam Taylor in the Washington Post, indicating that “the details of the planned alliance are more than a little unclear and have left some scratching their heads, unsure who exactly is in the alliance and what it is actually designed to do.”
Taylor wrote that the Saudi Arabia has tried hard recently to convince the West that it is taking the lead on tackling the problems of extremism and terrorism, noting that some of the countries declared as members of the alliance have come out to say they have never heard of it, including Pakistan, Malaysia and Lebanon, and already some countries said that they never agreed to anything.
Taylor also noted that other countries listed as being part of the alliance do not have Muslim majorities, including Uganda, Gabon, Benin and Togo.
“These countries do have large Muslim minorities and ties to the Muslim world, including membership of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (another alliance created at the behest of the Saudis). However, their involvement in the alliance is still surprising – especially when you consider the countries not in the alliance,” he said.
The Washington Post report asked about the reason behind excluding a number of major Muslim countries from the alliance, including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Indonesia, even though it is meant to be “Islamic”.
“The exclusion of Shia nations in an alliance designed to represent the Islamic world seems to reinforce the belief that Saudi Arabia’s alliance is motivated by a sectarian rivalry with Iran and not terrorism,” the report said, noting that Afghanistan has been asked to join the alliance but have not made a decision at the time of writing.
The Washington Post writer pointed that “the most damning criticism of the alliance is just how vague it is” since the Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir has said that “nothing is off the table”.
Recalling bin Salman’s statement that the alliance would not be limited to attempts to fight the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) takfiri group, but would focus on terrorism in general, Taylor revealed that some, such as Brian Whitaker of Al Bab, have argued that Saudi Arabia’s definition of terrorism is worryingly broad.
“Under a law introduced last year, virtually any criticism of the kingdom’s political system or its interpretation of Islam counts as terrorism,” he quoted Whitaker as saying, asking whether this statement applies to other countries in the alliance too?
“Many critics of Saudi Arabia say that for all its big talk in the fight against the Islamic State, the Saudi kingdom has proven unwilling to go after one of the key factors in the group’s rise: The Saudi clerics who spread a radical Wahhabism that influences extremism around the world,” Taylor wrote.
“While this new alliance may appear to target terrorism, it’s not hard to see it as an extension of the Saudi-led coalition currently fighting in Yemen – a war that sums up the sectarian quagmire currently engulfing the Middle East,” the Washington Post writer concluded.