Earlier this week, Oman confirmed its move to join a Saudi-led coalition of Muslim countries to fight terrorism. This move has been praised by other Gulf Arab states. The Omani Foreign Ministry hopes the move will bring peace and security to the region.
In December 2015, Saudi Arabia announced the formation of the Islamic Military Alliance. This alliance was formed to combat terrorism in the region and beyond by sharing information and providing assistance with training, equipment, and forces where necessary. The move was praised by the United States, which has always advocated the need for greater regional cooperation in order to successfully combat terrorism. There are now 40 countries, which form part of the alliance, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, several African nations, Malaysia, and Pakistan. Notably, Iraq and Iran are not part of the alliance.
Iran’s absence from the group is believed to stem from the rivalry that exists between Iran and Saudi Arabia. It is believed that this rivalry stems from the religious difference between Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran. Iraq, with its Shi’ite led government, is politically aligned with Iran and so has not joined the alliance.
The move by Oman to join the alliance has come as a surprise, given the relationship between Oman and Iran. Traditionally, Oman has resisted the Gulf Arab states’ efforts to close ranks against Iran by adopting policies and taking positions that are contrary to the Gulf Arab states’ position regarding the region. This move by Oman can be seen as Oman moving back into alignment with the Gulf Arab states. Hopefully, this move will improve the relationship and cooperation between Oman and Saudi Arabia, which could benefit both nations and possibly the region.
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