Turkey- Muslim 'anti terror' bloc to offset Russia Iran: Experts

(MENAFN- The Journal Of Turkish Weekly) Lebanese Political and security analysts told Anadolu Agency that a recently established Saudi-led coalition against terrorismwas necessary to prevent Russia and Iran from monopolizing the regional fight against extremism.

The new coalition's primary significance they said would be to provide an axis of "moderate" Islamic states able and ready to confront terrorism.

On Monday34 Muslimcountries announced the establishment of an anti-terrorism alliance to be headquarteredin SaudiArabia theSaudiPress Agency (SPA) reported.

According to the SPA the new coalition comes within the context of an anti-terrorismagreement signed by Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states.

Along with Saudi Arabia the coalition reportedly includesJordanthe United Arab Emirates Pakistan BahrainBangladesh Turkey TunisiaDjiboutiSudan Somalia PalestineComorosQatar Kuwait Lebanon LibyaMaldivesMali MalaysiaEgyptMorocco Mauritania Nigeria and Yemen along with nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Significantly neither Iraq nor Syria--the governments of which are both close to Shia Iran -- were listed as members.

"The Islamic coalition against terrorism is significant as it reflects the clear obligation of member states to fight terrorism wherever it appears" Makram Rabah a Lebanese international relations expert told Anadolu Agency.

Offsetting Russia Iran

"But the real reason for the coalition is to prevent certain countries [i.e. Russia and Iran] from establishing a monopoly on the fight against terrorism and using military action within this context to serve their own ends which is the case with Russia’s current intervention in Syria" Rabah said.

He added that therecent unveiling of the new anti-terror coalition suggested "imminent military action on the ground in Syria [by coalition member states] which the new coalition will provide with international legitimacy".

According to Rabah terrorism has become an "international phenomenon".

The coalition therefore will intervene anywhere that "terrorism" rears its head in hopes of "embarrassing" those Muslim countries -- namely Iran Syria and Iraq -- that refuse to join it.

According to Rabah the coalition is prepared to operate in parts of Syria in which Russia and Iran also have a presence which he said would necessitate the establishment of joint military commands and rules of engagement.

The coalition he asserted had refrained from providing an exact definition of "terrorism" in order to serve the political objectives of member states.

'Moderate' axis

Nadim Shehadi head ofthe U.S.-based Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies at Tufts University for his part told Anadolu Agency that the coalition’s significance was not only military but also represented "a revolution in the moderate Islamic current against the radical current".

"Radicalism doesn’t only mean Daesh and Al-Qaeda" he said. "It also includes Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the [Shia] militias Iran has established."

"Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have made inroads into the mainstream Shia current while Al-Qaeda and Daesh both remain on the fringes of the Sunni current" he added.

Shehadi warned that the current fight between Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Daesh represented a victory for both over the Sunni and Shia moderate mainstream.

He went on to say that the moderate Sunni and Shia currents should join forces with a view to confronting their more radical counterparts.

Military action

Regarding potential military action by members of the new coalition particularly by Saudi Arabia Shehadi said that -- in most places -- this would most likely be done "through Saudi-backed armed groups".

The exception he added is in war-torn Yemen where a Saudi-led coalition is currently engaged in a direct confrontation with the Shia Houthi militant group.

"And while it’s true that Saudi frequently threatens to intervene directly in Syria" he said "the truth is it’s unable to do so."

"I expect some kind of confrontation with Russia which Turkey is unable to do -- even with the support of NATO" Shehadi added.

He went on to stress that the new coalition’s primary importance wasn’t its military aspect but rather the fact that it provided a "moderate" Islamic front.

"The skies above Syria and Iraq are already teeming with warplanes" he said. "The new coalition can’t contribute to these air campaigns but it can deliver a message to the world that there is a moderate Islamic current that fights terrorism."

"The U.S.-led coalition has failed in its fight against Daesh by partnering with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and -- sometimes -- with the Syrian regime which has only served to strengthen the extremists" said Shehadi.

"That’s why the fighting [against Daesh] should be done in the name of a ‘moderate’ Islamic coalition not just a ‘Sunni’ coalition" he added.

Hisham Jaber head of the Middle Eastern Center for Studies and Public Relations and a retired Lebanese major-general for his part predicted that the new coalition would "not lead to any dramatic evolution on the ground".

According to Jaber Riyadh was moved to establish the coalition in the belief that a "new stage" was set to begin once the conflicts in Yemen and Syria were resolved.

He added that the new coalition’s primary role would be to confront Islamic "extremism" which he said had spread "dramatically" throughout the Muslim world.

"The coalition will be more political than military" Jaber said.

The Journal Of Turkish Weekly

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