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    Saudi special forces (File)

    Meet the Saudi-Led Coalition: Riyadh’s Poor Attempt to Calm Western Critics

    © AFP 2019 / MUSTAFA OZER
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    The newly created Saudi-led ‘Islamic coalition against terrorism’ is nothing more than Saudi Arabia’s attempt to calm Western critics and to convince them that it is taking the lead on tackling the problems of extremism and terrorism, however its true aim remains vague and unclear, according to foreign affairs reporter Adam Taylor.

    “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. However, 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 in his article for The Washington Post.

    “Saudi Arabia has tried hard recently to convince the West that it is taking the lead on tackling the problems of extremism and terrorism. But it's no exaggeration to say there are some perplexing aspects to this new alliance.”

    The author takes an in-depth look at the alliance and the member states who it has already signed up.

    Out of 34 declared members of the hastily formed alliance, some appear to have never actually joined up with the coalition.

    As an example, he makes reference to a senior official of Pakistan’s Foreign Office who said that his country “came to know about it through news reports.”

    The governments of Malaysia and Lebanon have also suggested they knew little about the alliance that they were listed as a part of.

    Another perplexing fact is that despite the announcement of the Saudi government that all of the members of the coalition come from “all over the Islamic world,” some of the fellow states appear not to have a majority Muslim population.

    The author uses as an example Uganda, which is “80 percent Christian, while as much as 75 percent of Gabon is Christian. In Benin, the largest religion is Catholicism, and in Togo, the majority of the population holds indigenous beliefs.”

    On the contrary, “some of the most important Muslim countries in the world, including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Indonesia, are not part of the alliance.”

    The suggested explanation is that Iran and Iraq are Shiite majority nations.

    “The exclusion of Shiite 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 idea however was denied by the Saudis.

    The aim of the alliance also remains very unclear.

    Snipers of Saudi Special forces run before taking a position during anti-terrorist exercises (File)
    Snipers of Saudi Special forces run before taking a position during "anti-terrorist" exercises (File)

    “Saudi Arabia has also gone to lengths to suggest that the alliance would not be limited to attempts to fight the Islamic State (also known as Daesh), but would focus on terrorism in general.”

    The mere idea, the author says, is quite upsetting, as “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," the author quotes Brian Whitaker’s article for the al-Bab website as saying.

    Besides, Taylor says “many critics of Saudi Arabia say that for all its big talk in the fight against the Islamic State, the kingdom has proved 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.”


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    Middle East, goal, new alliance, terrorism, anti-Daesh coalition, Saudi-led coalition, Daesh, Saudi Arabia
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