The first meeting of the Saudi led counter terrorism alliance of 40 Muslim countries took place this Sunday after the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave a green signal to start work on the eradication of extremism. He declared that extremism has been affecting all the countries in the alliance and it is about time that it ends with the cooperation of all the countries involved, so that terrorism can be wiped from the face of the Earth. The countries have all pledged to support the initiative with military, financial, intelligence and political efforts.
The alliance that was carved out in 2015 again has some serious concerns to address. The supposed “Muslim” alliance leaves out several Muslim countries in the process and specifically targets member countries for retaining diplomatic ties with the marginalised countries. Iran has been the target specifically in this case, as it is being labelled as one of the countries pushing forth the extremist agenda. It is not difficult to discern why Iran is being chosen as the scapegoat, when all the political actors involved clearly realise that the case is not as black and white as they choose to highlight it is as. The Saudi-Iran rivalry is no secret, and the reason is of course the difference in the faith that each party adheres to.
If the alliance claims that it is a Muslim initiative, countries like Syria and Iraq should not have been left out of the process because of ties with Iran. Qatar is a recent target as well. The country is officially a part of the alliance but had to face an abrupt halt in its ties and trade with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain, because they accuse the country of being too close to Islam and its support for terrorism. Despite Qatar refuting the allegations, the country has been facing a six months boycott lead by Saudi Arabia.
The Sunni bloc which is being formed should not forget that despite painting the initiative as an effort against terrorism and not targeting any country or sect, the idea is difficult to digest for several key players in the political arena. Saudi Arabia’s mischiefs in the world and their agenda is out in the open. Pakistan on several fronts has also made it clear that it will not participate in any effort to malign Iran. The initiative has to be pure of such agendas and has to be careful of not using this platform as a fight against Iran.