Efficacy of Riyadh-led alliances

Alliances are formed for horizontal cooperation among member states at various levels, including ensuring collective security and promotion of economic interdependence. Alliances have often proved to be effective tools for solving problems among member states as, well as with external actors. Recently established Saudi-led Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) and Pakistan’s membership is talk of the town. This alliance is apparently based on the common threat: extremism and terrorism in Muslim world.

Will IMCTC effectively achieve its objectives or not? Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia, which has potential to influence the entire Muslim world due to its cultural significance, has often misused alliances for its personal interests and poised them against Iran and its allies. In past, no alliance under Saudi supervision achieved its objectives. Riyadh has created and dented several alliances in the region.

Take the example of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Recently, it has received a severe blow after the Saudi Arabia-led Arab bloc decided to send second or third level diplomats to attend the summit. The host of GCC summit was Kuwait, who tried to mediate between Qatar and the Arab bloc. Interestingly, same day Saudi Arabia and UAE has announced a “new economic and military partnership”. In fact, Saudi Arabia and its allies have sent a clear signal to Kuwait that they neither support Kuwait’s mediation nor do they want efficacy of any forum, which rejects Riyadh’s domination and dictation. However, GCC is not the only forum, which has dented by Saudi Arabia.

Another glaring example is the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). It was the only platform of Muslim countries which supposed to be most effective in catering challenges to Muslim world from external actors. However, Saudi Arabia has fully utilized this forum to enhance its influence on Muslim world and against Iran. Traditionally, the OIC has always preferred to stay neutral and raise voice of Muslim Ummah with unity among all members; yet in August 2012, the late Saudi King Abdullah called an emergency Islamic summit to consider the issue of Syria’s suspension from the OIC, one of the most politically divisive issues for member states at that time. Rather working on the promotion of Islamic solidarity, OIC’s approach gradually changed due to Saudi punitive measures. It convened an emergency meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) on January 21, 2016 with the sole goal of flaying one of its own member states (Iran). Resultantly, the OIC has become an ineffective, divided platform and has lost support and confidence of many Muslim countries and Muslim Ummah.

Likewise, Arab League is also the victim of Riyadh’s hegemonic behavior. Except rejection to recognition of Israel as Jewish state, all members of Arab league have severe differences, thanks to Riyadh-led two major initiatives: labeling Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist movement” and flaying Syria amidst civil war in the country. Labeling Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist movement led to criticism by Qatar, Tunisia, Morocco and Gaza. In 2014, Riyadh insisted to allow Syrian opposition to occupy official seats which was severely criticized by Algeria and Iraq. This hegemonic approach of Riyadh has been gradually dividing Arab nations and these alliances are not serving the purpose of cooperation.

Rather “promoting culture of cooperation” at multiple levels including economic, cultural and political, Riyadh’s thrust remains on “promoting fear of Iran among the regional Arab countries” and pressing them to act according to Saudi wishes, which promotes further divide, among not only member countries of alliances, but also among the Muslim world.

It is unclear what Riyadh has achieved from extensive maneuvering against Iran and its allies at various regional forums. However, it is clear that Saudi Arabia has miserably failed to isolate Iran in the region. Riyadh’s maneuvering has not only deepened sectarian rifts in Middle East but also severely damaged the efficacy of existing regional (Arab specific) and international (OIC) alliances. History offers two lessons, if Riyadh becomes a member of any Muslim or region specific alliance, it will maneuver against Iran with utmost desire to damage Iranian interests. Secondly, if the alliance will not act desirably, Riyadh will either leave or convert it into an ineffective forum by introducing new alliances or by creating rifts among member countries. In this backdrop, the history, current intentions and Riyadh’s Iran specific approach suggests that future of IMCTC is bleak.

Rather promoting cooperation, Riyadh’s thrust remains on promoting fear of Iran among the regional Arab countries, which promotes further divide, among not only member countries of alliances, but also among the Muslim world.

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