Six facts that question efficacy of Saudi Arabia led anti-terror alliance

Islamic State

By Nithin Sridhar

Saudi Arabia has just announced the formation of a military coalition of 34 countries to fight against Islamic terrorist outfits. The coalition is dominated by Islamic countries, including Pakistan, Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, UAE, Turkey, Libya, and Yemen. Though, the formation of such a coalition is a welcome step, serious doubts have been raised regarding the commitment of the coalition towards fighting the Islamic State’s menace.

Here are the six facts that raise serious questions regarding the efficacy of the Saudi led coalition:

1. Though, Saudi Arabia is part of the US coalition that is bombing ISIS locations, Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies have gradually withdrawn from the air strikes against ISIS, thus reducing the air raids to being largely a US effort supplemented by UK and France. According to one account, Bahrain and Jordan have not dropped even a single bomb in last several months and Saudi itself carries out bombing only once a month. 

2. Saudi Arabia and ISIS share extremist Islamic ideology. ISIS follows the Jihadi-Salafism of Sunni Islam. This Salafism is rooted in the Wahhabi strain of Sunni Islam that is propagated by Saudi Arabia through its mosques and madrassas across the world. Salafism and Wahhabism are intimately connected and both derive their legitimacy from the literal interpretation of Islam. Further, Saudi Arabia spends a large amount of money every year to spread Wahhabism across the world. According to one estimate, more than $100 billion have been spent by Saudi in the past few decades to spread Wahhabi ideology.

3. Though Saudi Arabia officially claims to fight terrorism, Saudi donors have remained one of the most important funders of terror groups. A Wikileaks cable quoted Hillary Clinton as saying: “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” She added: “More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT, and other terrorist groups.”

4. Saudi Arabia is deep neck in the Sunni-Shia conflict in the Middle East. Saudi and Iran are waging a proxy war for decades and this sectarian conflict has only strengthened terror groups and further helped them to recruit more people. For example, Saudi’s involvement in Yemen to counter Shia influence resulted in ISIS gaining strong ground in Yemen.

5. Turkey has failed to seal its border with ISIS-controlled Syria, thus allowing ISIS to carry out its oil trade and influx of foreign fighters. Russia has clearly accused Turkey of allowing huge quantities of oil from ISIS controlled oil fields to enter Turkey. Russia has further accused Turkey of shooting down Russian warplane in order to protect the oil supply routes from ISIS territories to Turkey.

6. Pakistan is widely known for its sheltering of various terror outfits including LeT and JuD. Pakistan is directly and indirectly involved in carrying out various acts of terrorism in India. Additionally, it has continued to support Taliban, who are still fighting in Afghanistan.

Considering how the countries involved in the present anti-terror coalition are either themselves involved in aiding and abetting terrorism, or in propagating extremist ideologies, or are taking part in sectarian conflicts, it will not be wrong to question whether there is a genuine desire to fight terrorism or is it just for photo-op? In any case, it is highly doubtful that the anti-terror coalition will see any considerable success as long as Saudi Arabia continues to export extremist Wahhabi ideology and fund terror outfits. Dr. Munish Raizada rightly points in his tweet: