Saudi Arabia has announced the formation of a 34-state Islamic military coalition to combat terrorism, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Wednesday (AEDT).
A long list of Arab countries such as Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, together with Islamic countries Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Gulf Arab and African states, were listed in the group.
Saudi Arabia announced earlier in the day the formation was “a duty to protect the Islamic nation from the evils of all terrorist groups and organisations whatever their sect and name which wreak death and corruption on earth and aim to terrorise the innocent”.
“The countries here mentioned have decided on the formation of a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism, with a joint operations centre based in Riyadh to co-ordinate and support military operations.”
Shi’ite Muslim Iran, Sunni Saudi Arabia’s arch rival for influence in the Arab world, was absent from the states named as participants, as proxy conflicts between the two regional powers rage from Syria to Yemen.
The US has been increasingly outspoken about its view that Gulf Arab states should do more to aid the military campaign against the Islamic State (IS) militant group based in Iraq and Syria.
In a rare press conference, 30-year-old deputy crown prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman told reporters on Tuesday the campaign would “co-ordinate” efforts to fight terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan, but offered few concrete indications of how military efforts might proceed.
“There will be international co-ordination with major powers and international organisations … in terms of operations in Syria and Iraq. We can’t undertake these operations without co-ordinating with legitimacy in this place and the international community,” bin Salman said without elaborating.
Asked if the new alliance would focus just on IS, bin Salman said it would confront not only that group but “any terrorist organisation that appears in front of us”.
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab neighbours have been locked in nine months of warfare with Iran-allied rebels in neighbouring Yemen, launching hundreds of air strikes there.
In the wake of a rash of attacks on Western targets claimed by IS in recent months, the US has increasingly said it thinks that firepower would better be used against the militant group.