Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's anti-terror coalition to hold first meeting in Riyadh

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's anti-terror coalition to hold first meeting in Riyadh
3 min read
19 November, 2017
Defence ministers from members of the Saudi-led Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) are due to meet for the first time in Riyadh next week, amid rising regional tension.
Mohammed bin Salman formed the coalition in 2015 [Getty]

A Saudi-led "anti-terror" coalition will soon hold its first meeting in Riyadh next week, state news said this weekened.

The Saudi-led Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) opening conference comes at a time of regional tensions with Riyadh at the heart of most of the disputes.

The coalition was established in 2015 by Saudi Arabia's current Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - known by his nickname MbS - and will bring together defence ministers from over 40 Muslim-majority states who are part of the alliance on 26 November.

"The meeting aims to consolidate bonds of cooperation and integration within the coalition and represents the effective beginning of the IMCTC efforts - which included 41 Islamic states - to coordinate and unify efforts in fighting extremism and extremism in addition to integration with other international efforts," a statement on Saudi Press Agency read.

The coalition claims it will work to protect Muslim countries from all forms of terrorism, irrespective of sect and name.  Critics, however, point at the absence of Shia-majority Iran and Iraq in the alliance.

MbS said it would "coordinate" efforts to fight terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda, Taliban and Islamic State group linked groups have killed thousands of civilians security forces.

"There will be international coordination with major powers and international organisations ... in terms of operations in Syria and Iraq," he said at the press conference.

In December 2016, Oman - which usually stays neutral in the face of regional disputes - joined the Saudi-led military coalition.

Little information has been provided on the anti-extremist alliance since Riyadh announced its formation in December 2015, but the upcoming meeting coincides with rising tension between Saudi Arabia and its regional-rival Iran.

Last week, tensions boiled after the unprecedented resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri from Riyadh. 

Hariri pointed toward Iranian influence in Lebanon and slammed Iranian-backed Hizballah before stepping down as prime minister of the state. It echoed similar rhetoric that has been directed at Tehran and its regional allies by Saudi Arabia in recent months.

Saudi Arabia's MbS has hit international headlines for his recent radical shift in policies, including allowing women to drive in the kingdom and allegedly clamping down on corruption, even among royal ranks.

But despite the moves, dubbed as nothing more than a hollow "PR stunt" by analysts and campaigners, including Saudi Madawi al-Rasheed.

MbS has failed to shake off criticism for spearheading a Saudi war on Yemen's Houthi rebels that has left more than 10,000 Yemenis - mostly civilians - dead.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia announced it shut down all ports after intercepting a Houthi ballistic missile near Riyadh's international airport.

The kingdom accuses Iran of supplying weapons to the Houthis, though this has been denied by both Tehran and the rebels.

Riyadh has also decried what it described as "sabotage" and "terrorism" over a pipeline fire in Bahrain last week that temporarily halted oil supplies from its territory, according to a memorandum.

Tehran also rejected any involvement in the incident, calling the allegation "childish".

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has been at the forefront of a blockade on Qatar since 5 June, leading a group of nations including Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE in accusing Doha of supporting terrorism and being too close to regional-rival Iran.