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Trump Jeopardizes EU Security in Riyadh

IMAFT militarizing OIC, LAS and OPEC poses a threat to the EU

Trying to militarize the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC – center left), Arab League (LAS – top left) and Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC – bottom left) through the IMAF poses a threat to the European Union

President Trump took the floor at the Arab Islamic American summit on May 21st. But it was also a summit of the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT). With his official American support to this organization, Trump jeopardized the security of the European Union. Leaders and citizens of the EU should be alert to this risk.

Who are the IMAFT members?

The Arab Islamic American summit can be also labeled an ˮOIC Minus 2“ summit. Of all 57 members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) assembling all Muslim countries of the world and countries with significant minorities, 55 were present—all except Iran and Syria.

The IMAFT Alliance was founded in December 2015 under the leadership of Saudi Arabia and is currently of 41 member states. Out of the 57 OIC members, 40 are members of IMAFT, in addition to Eritrea.

Membership of the Islamic Military Alliance & OIC

Membership of the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

The core of IMAFT is made by 19 members of the Arab League (LAS) from Mauritania to Oman and from Lebanon to Comoros: Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, Comoros, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon. All LAS members except Iraq, Syria and Algeria (though, leaders of Iraq and Algeria were present at the Riyadh summit).

It is good to note that three LAS members, Somalia, Djibouti and Comoros are ethnically non-Arab countries but they are “politically” Arab. For this reason they will be considered Arab for simplicity’s sake.

Members of the Islamic Military Alliance & LAS

Membership of the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) and the League of Arab States (LAS)

There are also 6 Asian members of IMAFT: Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives and Malaysia. In addition to that, there are 16 Sub-Saharan African members: Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Eritrea, Uganda and Gabon.

Four countries with a Shi’a government—Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Syria—are non-members of this Sunni alliance. However, Azerbaijan, together with Indonesia and Tajikistan, have been invited to become IMAFT members.

But why Trump’s participation at the summit could jeopardize the security of the European Union?

The military alliance as a security threat to the EU

Muslim states, especially  Arab states, possess a vast military arsenal. Saudi Arabia, with its population of 30 million, has the world’s fourth largest military spending right after the U.S., China and Russia. The Kingdom spends a third more than France or the UK, with a population of over 60 million, and two and a half times more than Brazil, a country of 200 million.

The United Arab Emirates, with a population of 6 million, are the 14th largest spender globally—their military spending is similar to Italy’s and slightly exceeds Turkey’s.

According to the World Bank, the 22 Arab League members had an overall military budget of USD 214 billion in 2015 corresponding to 8.2% of their combined GDP. For comparison, the military expenditure of the 27 EU members (except the UK) total USD 203 billion, which accounts for 1.4% of their GDP. After subtracting the three Arab non-members of IMAFT and adding the 22 non-Arab IMAFT members, the total military expenditure of the 41 member IMAFT was USD 222 billion in 2015, according to the World Bank and the EU Institute for Security Studies.

One should not forget that the statistics do not include all military expenditures. In Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey, the army is a major industrial and trade owner. Furthermore, the Egyptian military budget is boosted by not negligible direct U.S. subsidies.

Comparison of the Islamic Military Alliance vs. EU

The Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) as compared with the European Union (EU)

The US President is helping build a military colossus on Europe’s southern border, whose military spending exceeds the military budget of the EU members. This alliance would include almost all southern neighbors of the EU, from Morocco to Turkey, including Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Palestine and Lebanon.

Realizing that the European Union is unable to defend itself against the expansionist policy of Russia with just one third of the EU military budget (USD 64 billion), the EU citizens do have serious reasons to be alarmed.

One must realize that many of the IMAFT members have combat-regular guerilla or regular forces. In the last two decades, they actively participated in the civil wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire or Sierra Leone, in military occupation of Western Sahara, war against Ethiopia, military campaign against Saddam in Iraq, the Houthi in Yemen, the Arab Spring in Egypt and Bahrain, Boko Haram in Nigeria or against the ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and Libya.

To make it even worse, countries like Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Oman or Kuwait buy exclusively the latest military technology —their military own more state-of-the-art weaponry than the EU members.

Officially, IMAFT is being built as an alliance to counter terror. However, some analyst title it a NATO-like alliance which evokes its potential durability. An organization that started its life with a military intervention in Yemen (instead of fight against terrorism), can easily turn to expansionist policies in the long run.

Let us consider the large Muslim minorities in the EU states, primarily in France (8%), the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany (6%), Austria and Sweden (5%), Denmark and Italy (4%), with a tendency for rapid growth due to high birth rates and immigration. The late Libyan dictator Qaddafi had threatened the Europeans that the Muslim minority in Europe would have been his future secret weapon against the “native” Europeans thanks to its birth rate.

Earlier this year, Europeans got evidence of the manipulation of minorities for political gains. During the Turkish referendum campaign, Turkey’s President Erdogan interfered unprecedentedly with the internal affairs of the EU states, gaining the vote of  the Turkish minority in Germany, helping him introduce a more illiberal regime at home. The late theoretician of nationalism Ernest Gellner had postulated that some diaspora communities tend to be more radicalized than the population in their countries of origin.

In connection with the migration crisis, IMAFT is becoming the second biggest threat to the Europeans, right after Russian assertiveness on their eastern border.

The military alliance as an economic challenge to the EU

Out of the total 13 members of the oil cartel OPEC which can influence global oil prices, 7 countries are also members of the IMAFT military alliance: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria and Gabon. These members exploit 20 of OPEC’s 33.5 million barrels daily, i.e. 59% of the OPEC production.

580 out of 1210 billion barrels of proven reserves is located in these 7 countries, making it 48% of the total OPEC reserves. Adding Iraq, IMAFT’s ally, the daily production of the alliance makes 71% of the OPEC production and its proven reserves correspond to 60% of the OPEC reserves.

Members of the Islamic Military Alliance and OPEC

Membership of the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)

Russia and other OPEC countries are the two most important oil suppliers to the EU. A formal American support to IMAFT led by Saudi Arabia de-facto transforms OPEC to a military alliance. Europeans have an extensive experience with Russia using the oil and gas pipeline taps as its weapon. By militarization of OPEC, the European Union is getting two military rivals of its two most important suppliers.

Summary

The Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT), with an official American support, is becoming a second military bloc on the borders of the European Union. After Russian expansionism on its eastern border, IMAFT is a security and economic challenger to the EU on its southern border.

With Trump’s foreign policy so distinctly ignoring the security interests of Europe, the citizens and the leaders of the European Union should do everything to build own military capacities of the EU, such as anEuropean army directed by a European foreign policy, and an EU membership in NATO.

Russia and IMAFT pressure on EU borders

Double threat on the borders of the European Union: Russia and IMAFT

Links:

List of all 41 members of IMAFT: http://www.arabianow.org/saudi-arabia-leads-islamic-military-alliance/

Participants of the Arab Islamic American Summit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riyadh_Summit_2017

IMAFT and EU members military expenditures, according to the World Bank: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/MS.MIL.XPND.GD.ZS

Arab League members military expenditures, according to the EU Institute for Security Studies (EU ISS): http://www.iss.europa.eu/uploads/media/Alert_27_Arab_military_spending.pdf

The share of the 15 states with the highest military expenditures, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI): http://america.aljazeera.com/content/ajam/articles/2015/4/13/military-spending-spikes-in-middle-east-east-europe/jcr:content/mainpar/textimage/image.adapt.990.high.SIPRI_global_share_military_expenditure_041315.1429016026374.jpg

 

 

Author

Ladislav Garassy
Ladislav Garassy

Ladislav Garassy, an ethnic Hungarian from Slovakia residing in the Czech Republic, is a political geographer focused on ethno-political identity. He has been an election observer in multiple post-conflict countries of the Middle East, Africa and Asia. He lectures political geography, nationalism, ethnic conflicts and European integration at the East European Educational and Cultural Center. He also publishes his blogs in Slovak (garassy.blog.sme.sk) and in Czech (garassy.blog.idnes.cz).
Twitter: @LGarassy

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