Egypt, 3 gulf allies discuss military alliance to fight terrorists
CAIRO — Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait are discussing the establishment of a military pact to take on Islamic terrorists, with the possibility of a joint force to intervene around the Middle East, The Associated Press has learned.
The alliance would serve as a show of strength to counterbalance their traditional rival, Shiite-dominated, Iran. Two countries are seen as potential theaters for the alliance to act, senior Egyptian military officials said: Libya, where Islamic terrorists have taken over several cities, and Yemen, where Shiite rebels suspected of links to Iran have seized control of the capital.
The discussions reflect a new assertiveness among the Middle East’s Sunni powerhouses, whose governments have increasingly viewed Sunni Islamic terrorists and Islamist political movements as a threat.
The Arab allies’ consideration of a joint force illustrates a desire to go beyond the international coalition that the United States has put together to wage an air campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have participated in those strikes in Syria. The officials said the alliance under consideration was not intended to intervene in Iraq or Syria but to act separately to address terror hot spots.
Three Egyptian military officials discussed details of the talks and a fourth confirmed their comments.
A gulf official, who is aware of the discussions, said that the governments were coordinating on how to deal with Libya, and the talks were “ongoing on wider cooperation on how to deal with extremists in the region.”
Talks on an alliance are advanced, the Egyptian officials said. But the idea of forming a joint force is more distant, and there are differences among the countries over the size of any force, funding and headquarters, and over whether to seek Arab League or U.N. political cover for operations, one of the Egyptian officials said. Past attempts at a pan-Arab military force have fallen apart.
The countries have shown an unprecedented willingness to intervene together. Egypt and the UAE cooperated in carrying out airstrikes against Islamic terrorists in Libya during the summer, according to American and Egyptian officials, and last month, Egypt carried out strikes.