When Saddam Hussein invaded and occupied Kuwait in 1990, an international coalition was formed to expel his army. The coalition was advocated and embraced by Saudi Arabia who effectively participated in it both militarily and politically and in terms of security while Egypt was at the forefront of the Arab states joining ranks.
The US-led coalition was successful and managed to liberate Kuwait from Saddam’s occupation. It was an effective and exemplary coalition at a critical stage in history and the Saudi participation was a colossal step taken by the late King Fahd.
Today the challenges have changed, problems have become more complex and things are no longer as clear as they were in the summer of 1990. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is as dangerous as an exploding meteor showering the earth with its fiery splinters.
Yes, there has been a coalition against ISIS in Syria and Iraq and an attempt to form another one in Libya. But ISIS’s danger is not limited to those countries as we see it emerging in Libya, Nigeria, Mali and Yemen where murderers are being recruited from around the world.
The confrontation with ISIS exceeds the capabilities of a single country or fighter jets. It requires a comprehensive confrontation with an integrated military coordination and intelligence planning as well as concerted efforts in cultural, media, political, legal and economic fields, among others.
During this week, we saw active steps taken against ISIS but not in the form of the coalition I just explained. Take for example the new US Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter’s visit to the Camp Arifjan base in Kuwait. He told officers there that ISIS is not only a threat to Iraq and Syria but the entire region.
Before this, the chiefs of staff of the armies of more than 30 nations met in Riyadh to discuss the war on terrorism. The US President Barack Obama gave a speech during an international summit on countering terrorism in Washington.
A religious conference was held in Mecca for the same purpose where the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz gave a distinguished speech. The Kingdom’s council of ministers emphasized in a statement the significance of the Washington summit and their appreciation of Saudi participation, maintaining that Riyadh would take part in serious international efforts aimed at fighting terrorism.
As for the Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, in a recent speech he praised “all” Gulf states for backing Egypt in its war against terrorism, particularly Saudi Arabia, UAE and Jordan.
“Arab brotherly states called me, including his Highness King Abdullah of Jordan who offered his condolences to the Egyptian people, government and leadership and offered to send forces to confront [ISIS] danger. Our brothers in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain all had the same attitude … We are together and the need to unite Arab forces has become more urgent given the huge challenges facing the region and Arab states.”
Is it the time to form a serious Arab coalition to fight ISIS and those who brought it into existence?