Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia promised on Sunday that the military coalition his country heads will renew its efforts to “pursue terrorism until it is eradicated completely” following Friday’s monstrous attack on a Sufi mosque in Egypt.
Salman spoke at the first formal meeting of the 41-member Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Qatar is a member of the coalition but was pointedly absent from the meeting due to its ongoing conflict with Saudi Arabia and several other Gulf Cooperation Council states, which have accused Qatar of supporting terrorism. Iran is not a member of the coalition, but its officials insist the IMCTC is not intended to be a Sunni alliance against Shiite Iran’s regional ambitions. The Iran-aligned Shiite governments of Syria and Iraq also are not members of the coalition.
“The enemy is terrorism. It’s not sects or religions or races, it’s terrorism,” declared IMCTC Secretary-General Abdulelah al-Saleh, who is a Saudi military officer. However, Reuters notes that the delegation from Yemen’s internationally-recognized government said that the coalition should view Iran as a major adversary, along with groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. Turkey, in turn, asked for “support from our friends” against Kurdish separatist groups.
Prince Salman told attendees of the meeting that the attack in Egypt, which appears to have been carried out by the Islamic State, was “a very painful occurrence” which must “make us contemplate in an international and powerful way the role of this terrorism and extremism.”
“I express today our condolences to our brothers in Egypt, as a leadership and people, for what happened in the past days,” said Salman. “We will not allow them to distort our peaceful religion. Today we are sending a strong message that we are working together to fight terrorism. Today we affirm that we will pursue terrorism until it is eradicated completely.”
“The biggest threat from terrorism and extremism is not only killing innocent people and spreading hate, but tarnishing the reputation of our religion and distorting our belief,” he added.
Deutsche Welle (DW) voices some skepticism about the Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition, noting that its goals are in question now that the Islamic State has suffered decisive military defeats in Syria and Iraq, and the organization has yet to take any discrete action, even though it is now two years old. The membership of the organization has pronounced disagreements over whether groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, or Hamas should be classified as terrorist groups.
“Arab Gulf oil wealth has funneled billions of dollars around the globe to promote a puritanical and ultraconservative form of Sunni Islam at odds with mainstream Sunnism,” DW charges.
“The Ministers of Defense affirm that terrorism represents a constant and growing challenge and threat to peace, security and regional and international stability, as it has transcended the borders of countries, while casting aside all values. Terrorism has become deadlier than ever before, particularly in our Islamic world, which suffers from the crimes of terrorism, leaving heavy losses in property and lives, and has shattered the dreams of broad sectors of societies trying to live in peace and tranquility,” the IMCTC said in a joint declaration on Sunday.
“The Ministers of Defense emphasize the resolve of their countries to coordinate and unite their efforts, to ward off the dangers of terrorism and take a stand against it. They emphasize the importance of joint efforts, organized collective actions, and comprehensive strategic planning to deal with the threat of terrorism, and put an end to those who seek to fuel conflicts and sectarianism, and spread chaos, strife and unrest within their countries,” the declaration continued.