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Saudi Arabia Sets Up Anti-Terror Coalition, Yet Still Sponsors Terrorism

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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Saudi Arabia has formed a coalition with 34 nations in an apparent effort to combat terrorism, but in reality it may be a response to Iran, says one international security expert.

Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday the formation of a 34 member coalition made up exclusively of Islamic nations in an effort to combat terrorism.

“The countries here mentioned have decided on the formation of a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism, with a joint operations center based in Riyadh to coordinate and support military operations,” says the joint statement released by the Saudi government.

The statement claims the nations have 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.” Though the mandate may seem universal, Shia Muslim countries like Iran and Iraq were noticeably excluded from the coalition.

Experts are somewhat divided on the implications of the coalition announcement, however they do seem to agree one one theme: They do not expect this coalition to do much. Dr. David Andrew Weinberg of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and Dr. Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute spoke to The Daily Caller News Foundation regarding their thoughts on the new coalition Tuesday.

“[It’s] rich to have the Saudis announce this alliance when they have been half-assing their contribution to the ISIS fight,” says Weinberg. He says that the Saudis have failed to live up to their promises in general when it comes to combating terrorism, including those made regarding terror financing. In fact, the Saudi government is currently sheltering two Yemeni terrorists who are currently on a the U.S. government’s list of known terrorists, according to Weinberg.

Rubin expresses a somewhat different point of view, explaining the Saudis have been more responsible since 2003 in combating internal support of terror and terror financing. Instead, he points to Turkey and Qatar as the top two current terror supporters.

Rubin believes that Tuesday’s announcement is “absolutely a direct response [to the Iran deal].” He points to the formation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 1981 as a parallel to today’s decision. The Islamic Republic of Iran revolted against the Shah in 1979, eventually creating the theocratic Shia Muslim government that exists today. Rubin believes that the new coalition, like the GCC before it, is once again a response to an Iran that has become increasingly aggressive in the Middle East region as of late.

Weinberg disagrees, claiming Saudi Arabia does not necessarily need a new anti-Iran cooperative.

Though he sees it as a response, Rubin agrees that it is unlikely to amount to much. He explains that it is a mostly symbolic gesture, with most countries simply signing on with the intent to do little else to combat terrorism. As Rubin explains, “[It’s] one thing to put up the middle finger to Iran, it’s another to attack them.”

The two experts have differing views on the implications of the new coalition. “Most countries signing on do not trust the United States anymore,” says Rubin, expressing serious concern over U.S. position in the Middle East under the Obama administration.

Weinberg is more critical of the Saudis themselves, referencing alleged continued Saudi support for terrorism, specifically “propagating Wahhabism,” in a recent op-ed for RealClearWorld, saying “there should be no justification — under any religious tradition — for words of religious incitement that dehumanize the other and erode the dividing line between religious piety and acts of violence.”

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