Jordan hints Saudi coalition ceremonial

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The Jordanian king has privately hinted that a controversial four-month-old Saudi-led coalition purportedly formed to fight terrorism is of a ceremonial nature.

Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman announced the formation of the “coalition” at a hastily-held midnight press conference back in December 2015. He said it grouped 34 Muslim countries against “global terrorism” in Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, and Syria.

The grouping, however, proved to have been formed without the knowledge of some of its members. Pakistan, Lebanon, and Indonesia expressed bewilderment at the Saudi defense minister’s announcement, and Malaysia immediately ruled out making a military contribution to the group.

On Monday, the Middle East Eye (MEE) news portal released the details of a January briefing by Jordan’s King Abdullah II to US Congressional leaders, during which he clearly appeared to be expressing doubt about the coalition’s functionality.

“This [coalition] is more like a non-binding coalition to show we are against ISIL,” he said, referring by an acronym to Daesh, the Takfiri terrorist group mainly active in Iraq and Syria. “So in that case we (the members) all signed up.”

“We have to be realistic about coalitions as many sign up,” Abdullah further said, suggesting that the sheer size of the coalition would mean it cannot translate into actual effectiveness.

The monarch also said Saudi Arabia had resisted his proposal that it join undisclosed talks in the Egyptian capital Cairo “so that we can have an Arab Muslim face to the coalitions against ISIL.”

“That didn’t get accepted for some reason,” he said.

Observers have blasted Riyadh for its token opposition against Daesh, to which it has been widely accused of providing ideological and financial patronage.

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