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

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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Arabia is part of the US coalition that is bombing ISIS locations, Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies have gradually withdrawn from the air strikes against ISIS, thus reducing the air raids to being largely a US effort supplemented by UK and France.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:

(Photo: www.youthconnect.in)

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U.S. President Donald Trump Announces Withdraw Of Almost All The Troops From Syria

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials, as well as members of the coalition actively fighting the terror group, have been reluctant to predict when final victory will be declared.

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Donald Trump
President Donald Trump shows maps of Syria and Iraq depicting the size of the "ISIS physical caliphate" as he speaks to workers at the country's only remaining tank manufacturing plant, in Lima, Ohio, March 20, 2019. VOA

In late 2018, President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw almost all of its troops from Syria, saying the Islamic State terror group had been defeated and there was no longer a reason to deploy U.S. forces in the war-torn nation.

The announcement led to the resignation of former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who reportedly felt the drawdown was premature.

In the months since Trump announced the defeat of IS, he has wavered on whether the group has been vanquished. Sometimes he predicted that total victory would come in hours or days, while other times he has doubled down on the claim that the IS threat has been eliminated.

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Trump declared, “We have won against ISIS,” in a video released by the White House, to explain why the U.S. was pulling most of its troops out of Syria. VOA

Here’s a chronology of claims concerning the demise of Islamic State.

Dec. 19, 2018 — Trump declared, “We have won against ISIS,” in a video released by the White House, to explain why the U.S. was pulling most of its troops out of Syria.

Dec. 22, 2018 — Trump tweets that “ISIS is largely defeated and other local countries, including Turkey, should be able to easily take care of whatever remains.”

Jan. 16, 2019 — Vice President Mike Pence declares in a speech at the State Department that “the caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated.” Earlier that day, four Americans were killed in Syria by an IS suicide bomber.

Jan. 30, 2019 — Trump tweets about the “tremendous progress” made in Syria and that the IS “Caliphate will soon be destroyed.”

Feb. 1, 2019 — Trump repeats that “We will soon have destroyed 100 percent of the Caliphate.”

Feb. 3, 2019 — Trump tells CBS News, “We will be announcing in the not too distant future 100 percent of the caliphate, which is the area — the land, the area — 100. We’re at 99 percent right now, we’ll be at 100.”

Feb. 6, 2019 — Trump predicts that the declaration that the coalition has captured all IS holdings “should be formally announced sometime, probably next week.”

Feb. 10, 2019 — Trump tweets that the U.S. will control all former IS territory in Syria “soon.”

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Feb. 16, 2019 — Trump tweets, “We are pulling back after 100 percent Caliphate victory!” Pixabay

Feb. 11, 2019 — At a rally in El Paso, Texas, Trump says the announcement that 100 percent of Islamic State territory has been captured will be coming “maybe over the next week, maybe less.”

Feb. 15, 2019 — At a news conference Trump says a statement about “our success with the eradication of the caliphate … will be announced over the next 24 hours.”

Feb. 16, 2019 — Trump tweets, “We are pulling back after 100 percent Caliphate victory!”

Feb. 22, 2019 — Trump tells reporters “In another short period of time, like hours — you’ll be hearing hours and days — you’ll be hearing about the caliphate. It will — it’s 100 percent defeated.”

Donald Trump
March 2, 2019 — At a conference, Trump tells attendees, “As of probably today or tomorrow, we will actually have 100 percent of the caliphate in Syria.” VOA

Feb. 28, 2019 — In a speech to U.S. troops in Alaska, Trump says, “We just took over, you know, you kept hearing it was 90 percent, 92 percent, the caliphate in Syria. Now it’s 100 percent we just took over, 100 percent caliphate.”

March 2, 2019 — At a conference, Trump tells attendees, “As of probably today or tomorrow, we will actually have 100 percent of the caliphate in Syria.”

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March 20, 2019 — Trump shows reporters a map that plots the territory still held by the Islamic State in Syria and promises that area “will be gone by tonight.”

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials, as well as members of the coalition actively fighting the terror group, have been reluctant to predict when final victory will be declared. Some also note that even when IS no longer controls any territory, fighters who escaped capture and are hiding within civilian populations could still pose a security threat. (VOA)