Surely Indonesia, with a Sunni population of 200 million, would have an interest in joining
The Saudis love coalitions. The Sunni monarchy had the Americans, the British, the French and sundry other oil importers on their side to drive Saddam’s legions out of Kuwait in 1991. Earlier this year, the Saudi military – for which read the youngest defence minister in the world and the ambitious Deputy Prime Minister, Mohamed bin Salman al-Saud – struck at the Kingdom’s Shia Houthi enemies in Yemen in yet another coalition. This included not only Saudi fighter-bombers but jets from Qatar, the Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan.
But now – with all the drama of a new Hollywood franchise – the Saudis have announced their new multinational military epic against the “disease” of Islamic “terror”, starring more Muslim and would-be Muslim states than ever before assembled since the time of the Prophet. Once more, as in the Yemen adventure (already plagued by humanitarian catastrophe and credible accounts of the slaughter of civilians under Saudi air attacks), Prince Mohamed, aged 31, is leading his country.
In all seriousness, he announced that the battle of this latest “coalition” – which includes countries as mythical as “Palestine”, as corrupt as Afghanistan and as powerless as Lebanon, with bankrupt Chad and the Islamic Republic of the Comoros thrown in for good measure – would require “a very strong effort to fight”. Few spotted, however, the curious absence from the 34-strong “coalition” of Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population.
This is very strange, since the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 mostly foreign civilians, brought al-Qaeda into Indonesia’s own “war against terror”. Surely Indonesia, with a Sunni population of more than 200 million, would have an interest in joining their fellow Sunni Muslims in this unprecedented “coalition”? Or could it be that with more than 30 Indonesian maids on Saudi Arabia’s death row after grotesquely unfair trials, the country wants an end to this injustice before committing its army to the Kingdom?
Pakistan is an interesting addition because the last time it was asked to fight for the Saudis, in the present disastrous Yemen civil war, the parliament in Islamabad rejected Saudi Arabia’s request after the Saudis insisted that only Sunni Muslim soldiers in the Pakistani army would be allowed to participate.
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