C&B Notes

Saudi Arabia Targets Extremism

Most headlines out of Saudi Arabia have focused on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s detainment of princes and wealthy businessmen at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh in an effort to root out corruption.  Perhaps more interesting, however, is bin Salman’s pledge to eliminate Islamic terrorism.  As with much in the Middle East, it is difficult to fully understand all the dynamics — for example, something as straightforward as this pledge is laced with undercurrents of Sunni vs. Shia, proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Qatar’s allegiances, and many other factors.  Or, is this promise simply a way to garner support and discourage Westerners from intervening in a power grab?

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has pledged to rid the world of Islamist terrorism as he launched a military alliance that critics fear will deepen rifts between the kingdom and its arch-rival Iran.  Mohammed bin Salman, the architect of an increasingly assertive regional policy, said on Sunday the new Islamic coalition signaled greater military, political and financial co-operation against terrorism after years of poor co-ordination among Muslim states.  “Today we began tracking down terrorism and we see its defeat in many countries of the world, especially in Islamic countries,”  Prince Mohammed told an inaugural meeting of coalition defense ministers in Riyadh.  “We will pursue it until it disappears completely from the surface of the earth.  ”Prince Mohammed has vowed to restore moderate Islam in the kingdom, where puritanical strains of the faith that encouraged violence have been promoted for decades.  The launch of the alliance follows Friday’s jihadist attack on a mosque in Egypt that left more than 300 people dead.  “The greatest danger of extremist terrorism is in distorting the reputation of our tolerant religion,” the prince said.  The new alliance of Sunni states comes amid rising tensions in the cold war pitting Sunni Saudi Arabia against Shia Iran, where both sides accuse the other of fostering terrorism in the Middle East and beyond. Saudi Arabia and its allies claim Iran is seeking regional hegemony, interfering in Arab states such as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.  Prince Mohammed has in recent weeks intensified his rhetoric against the Islamic republic and is at the forefront of a broader campaign against political Islam in the region.


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