Saudi Arabia announces 34-state military alliance to fight terrorism


Gulf state reveals formation of coalition in statement citing ‘duty to protect the Islamic nation from the evils of all terrorist groups and organisations’

Saudi Arabia has announced the formation of a 34-state Islamic military coalition to combat terrorism, according to 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 centre based in Riyadh to coordinate and support military operations,” said the statement, which was released on Tuesday.
A long list of Arab countries such as Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, together with Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan and African states were named.
The announcement cited “a duty to protect the Islamic nation from the evils of all terrorist groups and organisations, whatever their sect and name, which wreak death and corruption on earth and aim to terrorise the innocent.”
Iran was absent from the states named as participants by Saudi Arabia. Proxy conflicts between the two regional powers are ongoing in both Syria and Yemen.
The US has been increasingly outspoken about its view that Gulf Arab states should do more to aid the military campaign against Islamic State, the militant group based in Iraq and Syria.
In a rare press conference, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and defence minister, Mohammed bin Salman, said 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 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,” he said without elaborating.
Asked if the new alliance would focus just on Islamic State, Bin Salman said it would confront not only that group but “any terrorist organisation that appears in front of us”.
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab neighbours have been locked in nine months of warfare with Iran-allied rebels in neighbouring Yemen, launching hundreds of airstrikes there.
Following a spate of attacks on Western targets in recent months, the US has increasingly said it thinks that firepower would better be used against Isis.
As a ceasefire is set to take hold in Yemen on Tuesday alongside United Nations-backed peace talks, Riyadh’s announcement may signal a desire to shift its attention back toward the conflicts north of its borders.
Isis has pledged to overthrow the monarchies of the Gulf and has mounted a series of attacks on Shia mosques and security forces in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.