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Saudi Arabia’s Anti-Terror ‘Coalition’ is a House of Cards

Discussion in 'Arab Defence Forum' started by Daneshmand, Dec 28, 2015.

  1. Daneshmand

    Daneshmand PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    Saudi Arabia’s Anti-Terror ‘Coalition’ is a House of Cards


    GIORGIO CAFIERO and DANIEL WAGNER 12.27.15

    [​IMG]
    Reuters (Iraqi army soldiers)


    Earlier this month Saudi Arabia’s young and inexperienced Defense Minister announced a military coalition made up of nearly three dozen mainly Sunni Muslim-majority states, stretching from Morocco to Bangladesh. The Saudi-led alliance’s stated purpose is to defeat global terrorism in five nations: Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Syria.

    This followed months of increased pressure from Western officials on Gulf Arab nations to fight Daesh (‘Islamic State’) more forcefully. However, given the conflicting interests and lack of military experience on the part of the coalition’s members, there is ample reason to conclude that this alliance lacks substance.

    A ‘Coalition’ of the Weak, Divided and Unwilling

    The Saudi-led ‘coalition’ includes Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Chad, Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Guinea, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE and Yemen. A number of these nations are failed states or just above that classification, beset by their own civil wars, Islamist insurgencies, and endemic corruption. Several are among the world’s poorest countries.

    For a variety of reasons, the announcement of this so-called ‘coalition’ was bizarre and surprising. The leaders of Pakistan – one of Saudi Arabia’s most important allies – never officially agreed to join, and learned of their purported membership from news organizations. Similarly, Malaysian officials also expressed reservations and ruled out the possibility of Kuala Lumpur making any military contribution to the alliance.

    Saudi Arabia and several other Gulf Arab states took part in the U.S.-led campaign against Daesh in September 2014. However, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members’ contributions to the campaign were insignificant and came to an end after the coalition’s initial missions were completed. Like Saudi Arabia, the smaller GCC members, particularly the UAE, have shown a deeper commitment to fighting the Houthi rebel movement in Yemen (viewed in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi as an extension of Iranian influence) in Yemen than to combatting Daesh in Iraq and Syria. It is unlikely that the GCC members’ priorities will change in light of Riyadh’s announcement.

    Among the Saudi allies with relatively powerful militaries – including Turkey, Egypt and the UAE – it is doubtful they will cease to pursue their own respective interests, which certainly conflict. Ankara’s top priorities in Syria entail toppling the Assad regime and preventing the Syrian Kurds from establishing a proto-state governed by a Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) affiliate group along Turkey’s southern border. Overwhelming evidence demonstrates that NATO member Turkey has actively supported Daesh’s sale of oil to the global markets in order to advance these two objectives.

    As Russia has stepped up its direct military involvement in Syria to fight certain militias, which Saudi Arabia sponsors yet the Kremlin considers ‘terrorist’ organizations, it is difficult to imagine how the Riyadh-led coalition would interact with Moscow given the conflicting interests among the member nations. Saudi allies in Abu Dhabi, Amman, Cairo and Manama welcome Russia’s intervention in Syria, sharing the Kremlin’s interest in preserving the Syrian nation-state. On the other hand, Ankara and Doha staunchly oppose Russia’s direct military intervention in Syria, as underscored by the Turkish military having shot down a Russian fighter jet last month. Such geopolitical divisions undermine the potential for Riyadh to unite the Sunni Muslim world against ‘terrorism.’

    Moreover, the stated objectives of this coalition are vague. Aside from Daesh, which other ‘terrorist’ groups in these five countries will this pan-Sunni alliance combat? Where will the intelligence to combat them be derived? Which countries in this coalition will deploy most of the troops? How many troops will be required to be effective?

    Although many of these coalition members have combatted extremist groups unilaterally, the task of defining terrorism will be problematic if they are to effectively fight such organizations within the framework of a NATO-like alliance. Among these 34 states there is ample disagreement as to which non-state actors are ‘terrorist’ organizations.

    Turkey, Sudan and Qatar support the Muslim Brotherhood across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Yet Egypt and the UAE consider the Islamist movement to be a terrorist organization. Saudi Arabia and other members of this coalition consider Hezbollah and other Iranian-sponsored Shi’ite militias in Syria and Iraq to be terrorist organizations. Given that these groups (along with the Syrian and Iranian militaries, and Kurdish fighters) serve as the most effective fighting force against Daesh, will the Saudi-led military coalition combat both Hezbollah in addition to the Daesh fighters? Certainly, the objectives of the coalition are unclear and most likely highly unrealistic.
    All of these questions leave one wondering why Riyadh bothered to make this surprising announcement. The answer has to do with Iran, not Daesh. Given that Saudi Arabia’s coalition deliberately omitted the ‘axis of resistance’ (Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah), Riyadh is determined to create a pan-Sunni alliance committed to countering Iranian influence in the Arab world. The declaration of this alliance underscores new geopolitical realities in the Middle East, in which Washington left the Saudi leadership with the impression that the U.S. had abandoned much of its commitment to the kingdom’s security in favor of a rapprochement with Iran, Riyadh’s archrival. Saudi officials undoubtedly came to believe that they had little option to but to rely on itself and its perceived allies to establish a Sunni Muslim equivalent of NATO to provide a counter weight to Tehran.

    The absence of a serious commitment on the GCC’s part to fight against Daesh has been a source of frustration for many in Washington and other Western capitals. The Obama administration and members of the U.S. Congress may issue statements expressing support for this anti-terrorism alliance led by Saudi Arabia. Yet both President Barack Obama and his successor will find Riyadh to be an awkward and highly problematic ally in the battle against groups such as Daesh. Given the history of the kingdom’s religious establishment promoting anti-Shi’ism and other forms of religion-inspired bigotry, there is little reason to wonder why Saudi Arabia has more of its own citizens fighting on behalf of Daesh than any other nation in the world (apart from Tunisia).

    Now that the caliphate has set its sights on the Kingdom, and has expressed its commitment to not only rid the Arabian Peninsula of Shi’ite Muslims, but also toppling the House of Saud, Riyadh faces an enemy largely of its own making. Despite Saudi Arabia’s proclaimed ‘coalition’ against Daesh and other terror groups, the reality is that this unlikely and disparate collection of nations is unlikely to weaken the ‘caliphate,’ as its members are neither capable nor interested in doing so. Indeed, if the Saudis were genuinely committed to weakening Daesh, officials in Riyadh would cease to finance religious schools worldwide that spread Wahhabism, Daesh’s ideological foundation. Without making such efforts aimed at addressing this root cause of jihadist terrorism in the broken Middle East, there is little reason to expect this coalition to effectively weaken the ‘Islamic State.’
     
  2. Daneshmand

    Daneshmand PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    Most important part of the above article:

    "Indeed, if the Saudis were genuinely committed to weakening Daesh, officials in Riyadh would cease to finance religious schools worldwide that spread Wahhabism, Daesh’s ideological foundation. Without making such efforts aimed at addressing this root cause of jihadist terrorism in the broken Middle East, there is little reason to expect this coalition to effectively weaken the ‘Islamic State.’
     
  3. Zibago

    Zibago ELITE MEMBER

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    Pakistan to question exclusion of Islamic countries from anti-terror alliance - Pakistan - DAWN.COM

    Whats the point of this alliance if key countries fighting Daesh are absent
     
  4. Pulsar

    Pulsar SENIOR MEMBER

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    Except for Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia, the rest of the defence forces are no more than cardboard soldiers and no match to the ISIS!
     
  5. Daneshmand

    Daneshmand PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    Not only that, but the members of this fictional coalition are already condemning each other instead of Takfiri terror: Arab League denounces Turkish troop deployment in Iraq

    Please note that, Mr Gargash (UAE minister and the point-man of Saudi Arabia in the region) chaired an Arab League meeting condemning another member of this fictional Saudi coalition. The same Gargash who had seriously insulted Pakistan few months back.

    All three have refused to militarily get involved. Additionally, Turkey was condemned and denounced as well by the Arab nations on Christmas day, allegedly for fighting Isis, or fighting for Isis. It is really confusing.
     
  6. Daneshmand

    Daneshmand PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    The Saudi-led coalition: Taking back the soul of Sunni Islam?

    The recent Republican presidential debate emphasized the belief that the only way to defeat the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) is by an Arab ground force drawn from the region. Enter the 34-member coalition made up of Sunni states from both inside and outside the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia taking a leading role in the coalition and spearheading its creation.

    Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman asserted that the coalition’s purpose is to eradicate terrorism while not providing specifics on what exactly this coalition would do to achieve this goal. Whether this coalition will provide an effective counter weight against IS on the ground is yet to be seen, but the military aspect of this conflict is only one side of a more nuanced situation.


    The fight against IS’s ideology, which has mobilized thousands of people worldwide to embrace extremism, is the much more critical aspect of the current Middle East crisis. However, fighting an ideology is much more difficult than any military campaign and a battle this coalition will and must fight. Yet can this group of self-proclaimed moderate Sunni states be truly effective under the leadership of Saudi Arabia?
    Their hard-liner version of Islam is as integral to the Saudi state as the al-Saud monarchy has been at the nexus of every Jihadist movement spanning the Mujahidin in Afghanistan to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. After September 11th, Wahhabism became synonymous with Osama Bin-Laden and puritanical conservatism emanating out from Saudi Arabia.

    The form militant Wahhabism takes on today is displayed in the Islamic State. They’re known for their absolutist interpretation of Sharia Law and the extreme, brutal violence used to implement it; from stoning to death men for homosexuality to sexual slavery and forced marriages of Yazidi women.

    Overtly tying themselves to Wahhabism, a strand of Sunni fundamentalism unique to Saudi Arabia, the Islamic State circulates literature from Saudi-funded madrasas (religious schools). It is estimated, as exact numbers are not known, that Saudi Arabia has spent approximately $100 billion exporting Wahhabism to date. Hence the origin of fundamentalist interpretations of Islam we see proliferating the region and the direct tie we see to Saudi Arabia.

    For this reason, the Saudi-led coalition against the Islamic State may signal an astute, symbolic confrontation to the marring of Sunni Islam under the banner of Wahhabism. Yet to be truly effective, would it not make more sense to let some of the more moderate regional players take the front lines in this battle of the soul of Sunni Islam?

    For example, The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan with King Abdullah at the helm has long been a champion of moderation with a track record to match. Not only has the Kingdom bore the brunt of the refugee crisis with more than 937,830 Syrians making 1 out of 5 people within Jordan a Syrian refugee, but they have also played a leading role in the fight against IS with their involvement in the American-led coalition. King Abdullah himself has mirrored our argument in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in which he described the fight against IS as a military and ideological third world war that requires all of Islam to act against these bandits.This moderate Islam promoted by both the Royal Court and Jordanian
    civil society can be attributed to their authentic desire to promote peace in a region long marred by conflict.

    So what can the U.S. do to aid this coalition is defeating IS on an ideological level? Well to start with it can empower the more moderate state within the region, while also calling for more collective engagement on the part of regional powers. The withdraw of their unwavering support of the Saudi’s to more moderate states like Jordan could trigger a true reckoning between Saudi Arabia and itself. Will they moderate and stop the export of an ideology that has long fueled terrorism or risk losing their mantle as the regional Sunni power? This is a necessary soul searching journey the Saudi’s must undertake and one the U.S. could be pivotal in starting.