Saudi Arabia launches 'anti-terror' coalition

Saudi Arabia forms 34-state Islamic military coalition to combat terrorism. Iran not included in initiative.

Ben Ariel ,

Saudi troops in Yemen
Saudi troops in Yemen

Saudi Arabia on Monday announced the formation of a 34-state Islamic military coalition to combat terrorism, Reuters reported, quoting a statement published on the state news agency, SPA.

“The countries here mentioned have decided on the formation of a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism, with a joint operations center based in Riyadh to coordinate and support military operations,” said the statement.

Among the countries participating in the coalition are Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, together with Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan and African states, according to Reuters.

The announcement cited “a duty to protect the Islamic nation from the evils of all terrorist groups and organizations, whatever their sect and name, which wreak death and corruption on earth and aim to terrorize the innocent.”

Reuters noted that Iran was conspicuously absent from the states named as participants by Saudi Arabia. This should not come as a surprise, however, as Iran and Saudi Arabia are regional rivals. Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of “meddling” in the Middle East and the two are engaged in proxy wars in both Syria and Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has been leading a military campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

In a rare press conference, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and defense minister, Mohammed bin Salman, said Monday night that the campaign would “coordinate” efforts to fight terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan, but offered few concrete indications of how military efforts might proceed.

“There will be international coordination with major powers and international organizations ... 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,” he said without elaborating, according to Reuters.

Asked if the new alliance would focus just on Islamic State (ISIS), Bin Salman said it would confront not only that group but “any terrorist organization that appears in front of us”.