Saudi Arabia will be leading a new military alliance to “fight terrorism”, which will entail sharing information and training, equipping and providing ground forces for the fight against ISIS, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia announced the formation of the 34-nation “Islamic military coalition” to combat terrorism, a move welcomed by the U.S. which has been urging a greater regional involvement in the campaign against ISIS.
“Nothing is off the table,” al-Jubeir said when asked whether the initiative could include troops on the ground.
“It depends on the requests that come, it depends on the need and it depends on the willingness of countries to provide the support necessary,” he told a news briefing in Paris.
A statement carried by Saudi state news agency SPA said the new coalition would have a joint operations centre based in Riyadh to “coordinate and support military operations”.
The states it listed as joining the new coalition included Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan and several African nations.
The list did not include Iran, Saudi Arabia’s arch rival for influence across the Arab world. Tehran and Riyadh are ranged on opposite sides in proxy conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
The statement cited “a duty to protect the Islamic nation from the evils of all terrorist groups and organizations, whatever their sect and name, which wreak death and corruption on earth and aim to terrorize the innocent.”
U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter welcomed the announcement after arriving at Incirlik airbase in Turkey on Tuesday at the start of a regional tour designed to drum up support for the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS.
“We look forward to learning more about what Saudi Arabia has in mind in terms of this coalition,” he told reporters.
“But in general it appears it is very much in line with something we’ve been urging for quite some time, which is greater involvement in the campaign to combat ISIS by Sunni Arab countries,” Carter added.
ISIS has pledged to overthrow the monarchies of the Gulf and has also mounted a series of attacks on Shi’ite mosques and security forces in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.