You read the title correctly: Saudi Arabia has been working to develop a coalition to fight terrorism with 41 other Muslim countries. The new organization, originally discussed in December 2015, ran a full-page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal on Friday. They will have their first formal meeting as an organization, the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, today (Sunday).
The IMCTC announced their approach in May 2017 to understanding and fighting terrorism:
- The causes of terrorism and extremism are not solely religious, but also personal, social, and political. All these causes need to be dealt with by preparing an appropriate ground on both social and political levels.
- The wars and civil strife are also considered one of the causes of terrorism and extremism and an important source to attract terrorist organizations.
- Terrorism does not emerge from Islamic countries only, but also from non-Islamic countries. Therefore, all countries around the world must unite their dealing mechanisms and common perspectives and share intelligence information among them in order to combat terrorism.
- The integrated intellectual, communicational, social and military approach the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia adopted in countering terrorism is considered a role model worldwide.
- The world should also prepare for post-Daesh-defeat phase given the enormous defeats this terrorist organization is facing and the importance of undermining any attempts by the organization to reposition itself.
- IMCTC, led by KSA, is a qualitative step in the field of countering terrorism during the last few years, especially due to incapability of any country to face terrorism all alone.
I found this list pretty impressive. The latest announcement cited “a duty to protect the Islamic nation from the evils of all terrorist groups and organizations whatever their sect and name which wreak death and corruption on earth and aim to terrorize the innocent”; this statement suggests that not only are all terrorist groups put on notice, but all sects of Islam should be protected. The membership list is here. Noticeably, but not surprisingly, Syria and Iran are missing, as is Iraq, although Saudi Arabia is working to develop a working relationship with Iraqis.
Although this new organization has potential, I also wanted to explore the downsides of its goals; I found an article written by the BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner, published by Public Radio International, who foresaw problems. Here are the major points the article made:
Iran and Syria are not in the coalition. There’s nothing to be done about this problem at this time, given the rivalry between the Saudis and Iranians and the chaos in Syria. Gardner also suggests that the coalition might have difficulty operating within those two countries, but there only limited plans to pursue the terrorists there.
The Saudis have a broader definition of terrorism than many countries. The Saudis have labeled dissidents as committing acts of terrorism; the degree to which the other coalition members would agree isn’t clear.
Saudi Arabia is in part to blame because ISIS practices a Wahhabism similar to the Saudis, so the Saudis are criticized internationally for not working hard enough to defeat ISIS. I’m scratching my head on this one; I think this allusion to guilt by association with a similar religion is not reasonable and, I believe, is based primarily on perception, not fact.
Certainly, other problems may arise: will Saudi Arabia give serious consideration to implementing the ideas of the other members? Will the other nations’ contributions according to their abilities (which is stated in the IMCTC mandate) be sufficient for them to be taken seriously? How will decisions be made? How will strategies be developed most effectively?
So although the organization’s intentions may be sincere, operationally there will be many challenges. Still, fighting the war on terror, particularly with the help of anti-terror Muslim countries, could be a powerful force.
As a side note, I wonder if the bombing of a mosque in Egypt on Friday was intended to send a message to IMCTC?
What are your thoughts on this new organization? What roadblocks to their efforts do you anticipate? What will it take for them to be a successful organization?