In December 2015, Saudi Arabia announced the formation of a pan-Islamic unified front in the global fight against terrorism and violent extremism under the name the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC). This coalition of 41 countries is claimed to be a counter-terror force, however, the real motives of this strategic move have been received with a tinge of scepticism. With its real objectives buried under the glaciers of secrecy, the alliance is being viewed also as a calculated Saudi move to have more military and political might in the Middle Eastern theatre of war.
The inaugural meeting of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) Ministers of Defence Council was held under the theme ‘Allied Against Terrorism’ on November 26, 2017 in Riyadh, the capital of the Saudi Kingdom. While speaking at the meet, Saudi Arabia’s assertive Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman vowed that extremists will no longer “tarnish our beautiful religion.” Addressing the gathering, General Raheel Sharif, the military commander of the coalition said, “The vision of the IMCTC is to have a collective response to terrorism … it will provide a platform to the member-countries to fight terrorism.”
The terrible catastrophe unleashed by the ISIS in the Middle East has given a fresh impetus to the cause of combating terrorism which, apparently, is the basic cause of setting up the very alliance. The war-ravaged countries like Syria, Iraq and Yemen are home to the ISIS terrorists and their presence in these countries is a grave threat to the trembling peace of the entire Middle East.
But, the setting up of the alliance with its ambiguous agenda prompts a number of questions: What purpose has the alliance been set up for? What exactly is meant by terrorism under this coalition? What will be the targets of the operations carried out by it? Why Iran, Syria and Iraq have been kept out of it?
Some analysts view the IMCTC as a sect-specific alliance as Shia-majority countries like Iran, Syria and Iraq have not subscribed to the coalition. The perennial feud between Saudi Arabia and Iran is nothing new. The strained relations between the two countries have a long history of hostilities. The Sunni outlook of the alliance could further widen the Shia-Sunni gulf. Saudi intervention in the ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen has been a hard pill to swallow for the Shia governments. Is the military alliance to finish ISIS or is it a move to get further engaged in vicious brawl for regional sway? Mystery shrouds!
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