UAE joins 34-nation anti-terrorist military coalition
RIYADH // Saudi Arabia on Tuesday announced the formation of an anti-terrorism coalition of 34 Muslim countries that would share intelligence and deploy troops if necessary.
“Terrorism has hit Islamic countries. It is time that the Islamic world takes a stand,” said foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir in Paris.
The new counterterrorism alliance includes Gulf nations such as the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait. It also includes other Islamic countries with large and established armies such as Pakistan, Turkey and Egypt, as well as war-torn countries like Libya and Yemen. African nations that have suffered militant attacks, such as Mali, Chad, Somalia and Nigeria, are also members.
Mr Al Jubeir said military help would be considered on a “case-by-case basis”.
“Nothing is off the table. A number of countries are in desperate need of assistance,” he said.
Iraq and Iran – Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival – are not part of the coalition.
Riyadh backs rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian president Bashar Assad, a key Iranian ally, and has been leading an Arab coalition against Iran-supported Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen since March. It is also part of the US-led coalition fighting the ISIL group in Syria and Iraq.
At a rare news conference, Saudi deputy crown prince and defence minister Mohammed bin Salman said the new Islamic military coalition will develop mechanisms for working with other countries and international bodies to support counterterrorism efforts. He said their efforts would not be limited to only countering ISIL.
“Currently, every Muslim country is fighting terrorism individually ... so coordinating efforts is very important,” he said.
He said the joint operations center will be established in Riyadh.
US defence secretary Ash Carter welcomed the decision.
“It appears that it’s very much aligned with something that we’ve been urging for quite some time, which is greater involvement in the campaign to combat ISIL by Sunni Arab countries,” Mr Carter said.* Agencies