Pakistan Surprised to Be Included in Saudi-Led Alliance It Never Heard Of – Robert MackeyThe New York Times
Officials in Pakistan said Wednesday that they had not been consulted by anyone in Saudi Arabia before their nation was described as a founding member of a new, 34-country “Islamic military alliance” to fight terrorism announced late Monday night by the Saudi defense minister.
Pakistan’s foreign secretary, Aizaz Chaudhry, told reporters in Islamabad that he had asked his ambassador in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, to find out how the error was made. Dawn, the Pakistani daily, reported that another senior official confirmed to the newspaper that the announcement blindsided Pakistan’s government.
— Dawn.com (@dawn_com) December 16, 2015
“We came to know about it through news reports,” an unnamed source in Pakistan’s foreign ministry told Karachi’s Express Tribune. A Pakistani senator, Sehar Kamran, who serves on a defense committee and lived in Saudi Arabia for many years, also said she had heard nothing about the alliance until she was called by Reuters to comment on Pakistan’s membership.
“This is not the first time that Saudi Arabia has named Pakistan as part of its military alliances without Islamabad’s knowledge and consent,” the Dawn correspondent Baqir Sajjad Syed reported. “The Saudis earlier named Pakistan as part of the coalition that carried out operations in Yemen and a Pakistani flag was displayed at the alliance’s media center. Pakistan later declined to join the Yemen war.”
Nine months of war between a Saudi-led military coalition and a Yemeni rebel group have left thousands of civilians dead, and appears to have given rise to a new branch of the Islamic State.
The formation of the new, Saudi-led alliance, announced by Mohammed bin Salman, the 30-year-old deputy crown prince who also serves as defense minister, appears to have caught more than one nation off guard.
— Saudi Embassy (@SaudiEmbassyUSA) December 16, 2015
Malaysia’s defense minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said Tuesday that while his nation did support the Saudi effort, “there is no military commitment, but it is more of an understanding that we are together in the combat against militancy.” Malaysia was also on the list of 34 nations described as members by the Saudi government.
The Malaysian official also suggested that the alliance, which was announced after prodding from the United States for Saudi Arabia to play a larger role in the fight against Islamic State militants, might have been hastily assembled. “I received a call from their defense minister two days ago,” Mr. Hussein said.
A spokesman for Indonesia’s foreign ministry clarified on Wednesday that his nation, which was described as one of 10 countries supporting but not participating in the larger alliance, was awaiting more details about the initiative before deciding whether to take part in any way.
The description of the alliance as one of “a group of Islamic states,” set up to “fight every terrorist organization,” also caused confusion in Lebanon, where a Christian minister objected, and the nation’s foreign minister and prime minister were unable to agree about whether they had, in fact, joined.
— Bassem (@BBassem7) December 15, 2015
The prime minister, Tammam Salam, was also forced to assure Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim militant group and political party, that the new coalition would not target their fighters, who are helping the Syria government’s side in the civil war convulsing that country. Hezbollah, which is considered a terrorist group by Saudi Arabia, is part of Lebanon’s national unity government. According to Beirut’s Daily Star, Mr. Salam said that Saudi Arabia considered Islamic State militants the main enemies of the new alliance.
Before doubts about the solidity of the new alliance appeared, and led to mockery on social networks, the Saudi initiative was warmly praised at the Republican presidential debate on Tuesday night.
The Saudi coalition seems to have been put together via junk mail. Four countries have already clicked the link to unsubscribe.
— Derek Payne (@mrderekpayne) December 16, 2015