On December 15, 2015, Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman, also the deputy crown prince and defence minister of the country, announced to form the Islamic Military Alliance to fight terrorism in the Muslim World. The alliance now numbers 34 countries consenting to Riyadh's initiative unanimously. In the declaration, the Prince 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 effort has been brought in a situation where the ISIS is dominating the Middle Eastern as well as international political spheres through various atrocities resulting in property destruction, a great number of wounded and casualties, where the Middle Eastern countries are divided between two major religious blocs, such as the Sunni and the Shiite, causing recent proxy conflicts between these two sects in Yemen and Syria and where the global powers are seeking a peaceful and permanent solution in the Middle East through various peace talks for the greater interests and security of the world. International communities like the UNO, the US and Russia welcomed Saudi Arabia's effort to mitigate the crises in the Middle East and bring peace in the Muslim World.
The initiative especially objects to protect the Muslim nations from all sorts of terrorist organizations and groups, to fight against the terrorists in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, and Syria and operate in line with the UN and OIC provisions on terrorism. The coalition came into light due to the active presence of various militant organizations in the Middle East fuelling conflicts between and among intra-religious sects such as the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusrah Front, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Huthis, Hezbullah, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and others. For the dominance of conflicts of these groups, human rights are violated immensely in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen originating migration of the settlers towards new lands which create new challenges in the lives of them.
International communities and organizations congratulated the Muslim world for the formation of the coalition and regarded this initiative as 'historic alliance'. They appreciated the Muslims for a brave initiative against terrorist activities, organizations and linkages of the Muslims in the name of religion. Some international politics experts on the Middle Eastern geopolitics and geo strategy argue that this initiative is one step forward to the peace movement in the region. They also have belief in that Muslims have proved that Islam is a religion of peace and in this religion; there is no place of violent or militant activism on the name of religion.
Now if we look at the drawbacks of this alliance, some nebulous things against the coalition's spirits come into light. Firstly, the alliance could not ensure what the structure of it will be, how it will be operated, whether the member countries will send native soldiers to fight against the terrorist organizations or not and how the alliance will be coordinated with major global powers and international organizations. As in Syria, there are two major active powers like the US and Russia. It is still unclear with which great power the alliance will work. In this regard, along with Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Malaysian Defence Minister stressed that the Saudi led-alliance does not include any military commitment from the member nations.
Secondly, the alliance is a club of only the Sunni dominated nations like Bangladesh, Pakistan and other members. Here, the Shiite dominated countries are not welcomed due to close ties with Iran. To this end, Iran was not welcomed due to the allegations of supporting terrorist organizations. But despite numerous allegations against the Sunni dominated countries like Turkey, Qatar and Sudan to sponsor militant groups, they became entities of the coalition. In this regard, it can be argued that the activities of the Sunni led-organization will not be seen as appropriate by the Shiite-led nations which may lead to deeper crises in the Middle East and among Muslim nations. Some Muslim political analysts regarded Riyadh-led coalition as the reflection of 'the clash within the civilization' (Islam). So, terrorism is impossible to combat from the Muslim territories without participation of a great segment of Muslims in the alliance i.e. the Shiite.
Thirdly, as Tehran and Riyadh are stood on opposite sides in proxy conflicts in Yemen and Syria. These conflicts, according to Saudi experts, have raised security tensions and made the possibility of the rise of militant organizations in Saudi Arabia. Recent incidents at the beginning of 2016 centring the execution of 47 prisoners for terrorism charges including Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent religious leader of Saudi Shiite minority, deteriorated the diplomatic and other relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. However, considering Iran's series of regional successes in the Middle Eastern countries (i.e. Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Lebanon) in mind, Saudi Arabia for its sole domestic security and establishing its hegemony in the Middle East initiated to form an alliance with other Sunni countries. In this regard, Al-Monitor, a Washington, DC based online newspaper, argued that sectarian and political disputes between Riyadh and Tehran played a vital role in the alliance's formation and in this coalition, Riyadh is the most beneficiary.
Last but not least, if the alliance really intends to fight terrorism in the Muslim World and bring peace in the Middle East without any personal benefit of any individual nation, it needs to be an organization with equal opportunity to participate and deliberate in seeking solutions for the greater interests and stability of the region as well as the world irrespective of ideologies. If such kind of organization is established forgetting self-interests and intra-religious conflicts and the floor becomes open for both the Sunni and Shiite, it becomes possible to bring peace and root out terrorism from the Muslim world. Otherwise peace is a far cry.
Amdadul Haque is a researcher at Bangladesh Centre for Political Studies (BCPS). Email:[email protected]