by Cyril Widdershoven :
Since the end of 2016, alliances in the Middle East again have become very fluid. Internal pressure, regional aspirations and the fall-out of the new Trump Administration, are having a detrimental effect on the region’s military-political constellation. After several years of a Sunni-Shi’a confrontation in Syria and Yemen, which has led to the setup of a Sunni-led military alliance, bringing together Arab, African and Asian countries, including Turkey, Trump’s Administration now has put its weight behind it too.[i] Several American advisors of Trump’s skeleton government already have called for an increased Arab-Israeli cooperation to confront the ongoing power build-up of Iran and its regional allies.[ii] The Middle East seems to be heading to a military showdown if no diplomatic breakthrough is popping up. The Sunni-Shi’a power struggle, partly supported by the ongoing Russian power projections in the Levant and North Africa, could lead to military clashes not only in the Persian Gulf, Yemen, Syria, but spread even to the North-Africa/Red Sea arena[iii]. No clear picture can yet be painted with regards a possible military upper-hand, as both sides are not very transparent about their real capabilities[iv]. To block Iran’s perceived encroachment on Sunni grounds, the Sunni military alliance or “Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT)” is being set up. The future success however is decided by three Arab members, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE, while Turkey (as the only NATO member) is playing an ever-growing role in the setup the last months.
At the end 2015 Sunni Islamic countries have set up a global military alliance, which was at the start being proponed as a global fight against terrorism. At least, the official reason for founding father Saudi Arabia was that it is an “Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT)”[v]. The latter included from the beginning mostly Arab GCC and North African countries, but excluded Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Several other countries from Africa and Asia, especially Pakistan, have been included from the start. This obvious division of Sunni-Shi’a military cooperation has however taken over and led to a full-fledged anti-Iran strategy.