Sputnik – Politics
Commenting on Saudi Arabia’s announcement that they would be forming a 34-nation ‘Islamic anti-terrorism coalition’, prominent Pakistani columnist and political analyst Wajahat Masood warned that Riyadh might have a hard time fighting against a phenomenon which they themselves have done so much to support over the past thirty years.
On Tuesday, the Saudi Press Agency announced the creation of a 34-member ‘Islamic coalition against terrorism’, featuring members from across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, complete with a Riyadh-based operations command center aimed at coordinating and supporting joint military operations. The coalition’s aims, according to Saudi state media, will be “to protect the Islamic nation from the evils of all terrorist groups and organizations,” on “the basis of the right of peoples to self-defense.”
Pakistan, according to Saudi media, is one of the countries which will be participating in the coalition. Asked for comment, Wajahat Masood, a well-known columnist, political analyst, and human rights activist, broke the issue down for Sputnik.
“First of all,” Masood explained, “it is necessary to clearly define the concept of terrorism – of who the terrorists are in our understanding (the people of the world, including Pakistanis), and that of the leadership of Saudi Arabia.”
“In our understanding,” the journalist noted, “a terrorist is a person who, raising his weapon in order to force others to submit to his will – political or religious. He is one who kills for this purpose, who is ready to commit any crime. This is our definition.”
“But Saudi authorities,” according to Masood, “think of the concept of terrorism differently. To them, a terrorist is anyone who presents or may present a threat to the order which exists in that state. No other understanding exists.”
“For this reason,” the journalist says, “it is necessary to first determine for ourselves who is a terrorist and, accordingly, which groups may be considered terrorists.”
Ultimately, Masood says that he doesn’t “believe that Saudi Arabia will fight against terrorism in our understanding of the word. Moreover, it shouldn’t be forgotten that this is a government which has done a great deal to support the wave of terror which has swept the world over the past thirty years.”
Asked if he was surprised to find that his country’s participation in the coalition, the journalist said that “on the one hand, this news was surprising; but on the other, what is there that’s shocking about it? We shouldn’t forget Riyadh’s persistent attempts to drag Pakistan into their coalition in the fight against the Houthis [in Yemen]. It was only thanks to public opinion, and the decision of our parliament, that my country resisted. After all, it’s worth remembering that our government is heavily dependent on foreign aid, much of it from the Saudis, in the interests of solving it’s internal problems, including budgetary and other issues.”
Suggesting that the formation of the coalition may in fact be a sign of Riyadh’s desperation, the journalist noted that “however they may try to convince us – the whole world, of the strength and fortitude of the Saudi regime, allow me to express my doubts as to its stability and strength. Things change…and perhaps the decision on the coalition is but an attempt to prevent such change.”
Saudi Anti-Daesh Coalition Sparks Widespread Confusion, Even Among Members
Sputnik – Middle East
With the Saudi-led anti-Daesh coalition officially off the ground, several of the 34 member states have some important questions, including, “What is this?,” “What role do I play?,” and, “Is it too late to opt out?”
On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia announced the creation of an “Islamic coalition against terrorism.” The coalition includes 34 nations from across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, and will be coordinated from a command center in Riyadh.
The true intentions of the new coalition are already in question. The exclusion of Iran has led some to criticize the partnership as a dividing force between the Sunni and Shiite religious factions. Others have labeled the alliance as little more than a hollow attempt by the Saudi government to distance itself from Daesh, also known as ISIL/Islamic State.
But that confusion isn’t limited to outsiders. The coalition’s own members seem to be unclear as to what is expected of them.
Indonesia has expressed alarm over a statement from Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in which he described the partnership as an “Islamic military coalition.”
“We don’t want to join a military alliance,” Indonesia’s Chief Security Minister Luhut Pandjaitan told Reuters.
Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir elaborated, saying that Saudi Arabia had previously argued for the establishment of a “center to coordinate against extremism and terrorism,” without mentioning any military aspects.
“…What Saudi Arabia has announced is a military alliance,” Nasir told Reuters. “It is thus important for Indonesia to first have details before deciding to support it.”
According to Pakistani Senator Sehar Kamran, Riyadh’s announcement of a coalition came as a complete surprise.
“I haven’t seen the news yet,” she said, having learned of the announcement in a Reuter’s phone call seeking her comment. When asked if the motion had been debated in Pakistan’s Senate or National Assembly, she said, “No. Not yet.”
The daily newspaper Dawn also quoted Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry as saying he was surprised to find that Islamabad had been formally included in the Riyadh coalition.
Despite the early signs of infighting, Riyadh is standing by its newly formed coalition. On Tuesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters that member states could take part by contributing financial aid, as well as providing material or security expertise. Military assistance was also mentioned, though Jubeir did concede that more concrete plans are still under discussion.
The US has expressed support for the new coalition.
“We look forward to learning more about what Saudi Arabia has in mind in terms of this coalition,” US Defense Secretary Ash Carter told journalists in Turkey. “But in general, it appears it is very much in line with something we’ve been urging for quite some time, which is greater involvement in the campaign to combat ISIL by Sunni Arab countries.”
Washington’s allies in Europe aren’t so sure.
“The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been subject to criticism in Europe, and France in particular, with regard to extremism and Daesh,” Jubeir said on Tuesday, “and I think it is based on not knowing the facts.”
Whatever the facts may be, Riyadh may want to inform their teammates.