Soon after deadly attacks in San Bernardino and Paris, President Obama vowed to accelerate the US-led military campaign against the Islamic State (IS), also known as ISIS, ISIL and by the Arabic acronym Daesh. The IS militants control strips of territory in Iraq and Syria, carried out a series of attacks on Shi'ite Muslim mosques and security forces in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. It had also threatened to overthrow the monarchies of the Gulf [1]. Last year the IS militants had taken over large parts of Iraq and Syria and was the focus of an air campaign led by the United States in which Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries were participating.

On December 14, 2015 President Barack Obama said that the United States led coalition was hitting the IS “harder than ever. As we squeeze its heart, we’ll make it harder for ISIL to pump its terror and propaganda to the rest of the world”. The United States and its allies were “intensifying” the war against IS, he said [2]. They have carried out nearly 9,000 airstrikes in total, and in November dropped more bombs on the group’s targets than in any other month. Since the summer, IS “hasn’t had a single, successful, major offensive operation in either Syria or Iraq.… The point is ISIL leaders cannot hide and our next message to them is simple, ‘You are next’’[3].

President Obama announced that a group of American special operations commandos had begun working with local fighters in Syria to squeeze Raqqa, the nominal capital of the IS. The US had also intensified bombing of the oil infrastructure in Syria that had provided much of the IS’s revenue. He said the strategy was moving ahead with “a great sense of urgency,” said, “We have to be smart, targeting ISIL surgically, with precision, airstrikes while local forces do the ground combat”. Obama noted that defense secretary, Ash Carter, had departed for the Middle East to “seek more coalition military contributions to the counter-IS campaign”. He also sent Secretary of State John Kerry to Moscow to “try to narrow gaps with Russia over a political transition to end Syria’s civil war”[4]. Finally, after several setbacks, the US and its coalition partners had made progress recently in taking back territory from IS and killing some of its main leaders in Iraq and Syria. In recent weeks the US military had conducted hundreds of airstrikes and had dealt a significant blow to IS ranks in the Iraqi city of Ramadi. The city had been seized by the IS in May and the Iraqi military had encircled it as a step toward trying to retake it [5]. The progress had been “meticulous because the group is entrenched in urban areas and using innocent civilians as human shields” [6]. meanwhile, the IS had lost over 40% of the areas it once controlled in Iraq [7].

The Politics of the New Coalition

Recently, the United States had been urging a greater regional involvement in the campaign against the IS. The United States and European allies had criticized the Gulf states of not doing enough to fight the IS and other terrorist groups.

On December 15, 2015 Saudi Arabia announced the formation of a 34 nation alliance to unify efforts to fight terrorism across the Muslim world. The new counterterrorism coalition included nations with large and established armies such as Pakistan, Turkey and Egypt as well as war-torn countries with embattled militaries such as Libya and Yemen. African nations that have suffered terrorist attacks such as Mali, Chad, Somalia and Nigeria were also members. Smaller member-states included in the coalition are the archipelago of the Maldives and the island-nation of Bahrain. Other Gulf Arab countries such as Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were also in the coalition. Malaysia was also included. Benin, while it does not have a majority Muslim population, was also a member of this new counterterrorism coalition. All the group’s members are also part of the larger Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which was headquartered in Saudi Arabia. However, Iran the main rival of Saudi Arabia, was not included [8].

Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are fiercely competing for influence across the Arab world and are engaged in proxy conflicts in Syria and Yemen. The alliance does not Iraq and Syria, a key ally of Iran. The announcement 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." Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman said that the campaign would "coordinate" efforts to fight terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan [9]. Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that terrorism was a “disease which affected the Islamic world first before the international community as a whole” [10]. The coalition would fight the “scourge” in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan and Libya. Other than the 34 Muslim nations who signed up to the coalition, Riyadh said more than 10 other countries, including Indonesia, expressed their support of the new bloc. Saudi Arabia said Tuesday that 34 nations have agreed to form a new “Islamic military alliance” to fight terrorism with a joint operations center based in the kingdom’s capital, Riyadh.

The alliance will be Saudi-led and is being established because terrorism “should be fought by all means and collaboration should be made to eliminate it.” The statement said Islam forbids “corruption and destruction in the world” and that terrorism constitutes “a serious violation of human dignity and rights, especially the right to life and the right to security.” Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman said the new Islamic military coalition will develop mechanisms for working with other countries and international bodies to support counterterrorism efforts. He said their efforts would not be limited to only countering IS. “Currently, every Muslim country is fighting terrorism individually … so coordinating efforts is very important,” he said. He said the joint operations center will be established in Riyadh to “coordinate and support military operations to fight terrorism” across the Muslim world [11]. Meanwhile, Prince Turki Al Faisal, chairman of King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies said that the IS “is the seed of evil that we have let out of the can in the Middle East… It’s our responsibility to vanquish it” [12].

The new Saudi-led coalition will have a joint command center in Riyadh to “coordinate” and develop means to fight terrorism militarily and ideologically, Prince Mohammed told a hastily called news conference at a Riyadh air base early Tuesday morning. Some countries that were listed as members expressed willingness to review such a proposal but didn’t appear to make any formal commitment to a military coalition [13]. Meanwhile, Jordanian government spokesman Mohammad Momani said the war against terrorism was “our war and the Muslims’ war” [14]. Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced on December 15, 2015 that there was no restriction in terms of who would be eligible for the assistance would be provided. The coalition would have two streams: 1) military, security and intelligence and 2) ideology. The details would be completed later. The objective of this coalition was to bring all these countries together in recognition of the terrorism problem and carry out coordinated action. Countries needing help could ask for it and even those with “power vacuums” were also eligible for assistance. The United States, Lebanon, Turkey had welcomed the formation of new military coalition to fight terrorism. Thus, a new effort had been spearheaded against the IS.

Backlash against the Muslim Community in the United States

The reaction to the terrorist incidents was an expected Islamophobia in the US in some sections of the populace. The Council of Islamic-America Relations (CAIR), an American Muslim advocacy and civil rights organization, documented several incidents of hate speech, intimidation, and attacks on mosques in the country. On December 15, 2015 the CAIR called on GOP presidential candidates taking part in that night’s debate to “speak out clearly against the recent unprecedented spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes nationwide in recent weeks” [15]. The CAIR had ascribed that spike in hate crimes “at least in part to anti-Muslim rhetoric by GOP presidential candidates like Donald Trump, who called for a complete ban on Muslims entering America, and Ben Carson, who claimed a Muslim should never be allowed to be president” [16].

The media reported that an Islamic school in Cooper City and a mosque in Miami Gardens were targets of virulent, anti-Muslim messages over the weekend, with hateful words spray-painted across a wall and an email vowed ‘to kill’’ all Muslims. Recently, incidents against Muslims have been making headlines across the country. In Southern California a mosque was set on fire, in West Palm Beach, windows were smashed at a mosque and in Tampa two Muslim women were attacked. Anti-Muslim sentiment has been on the rise since last month's Islamic State-led terrorist attacks in Paris, followed by the mass shooting earlier this month in San Bernardino, California, by a Muslim husband and wife. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for banning Muslims from entering the country “until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on.’’

The CAIR had received 20 general discrimination cases against Muslims since the Paris attacks. Prior to the Paris attacks, eight vandal cases were reported to CAIR’s Florida chapter, Clevenger said. Of those, three stemmed from a string of vandalism acts at the Islamic School of South Florida in Kendall. Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer stated that he took such incidents seriously [17].

The Second Part will follow on the 27th of February.

[1] See Daily Times, December 15, 2015,, accessed December 15, 2015 and NOAH BROWNING, “Saudi Arabia announces 34-state Islamic military alliance against terrorism”,,, Accessed December 14, 2015
[2] MICHELE GORMAN , “ Obama: U.S.-Led Coalition ‘Hitting ISIL Harder Than Ever”, NEWSWEEK NOVEMBER 14, 2015,, accessed December 14, 2015
[3] ibid
[4] Robert Burns , “Obama vows to hit IS harder, says commandos now in Syria”, The Washington Post, December 14 ,, accessed December 14, 2015
[5] Ibid
[6] Jireh Gibson, “President Obama Provide Details to Take Out ISIS”, Liberty Voice, December 14, 2015 , accessed December 14, 2015
[7] Ibid
[8] AHMED AL OMRAN and ASA FITCH, Saudi Arabia Forms Muslim Anti-Terror Coalition, accessed December 15, 2015
[9] See Daily Times, December 15, 2015,, accessed December 15, 2015 and NOAH BROWNING, “Saudi Arabia announces 34-state Islamic military alliance against terrorism”,,, Accessed December 14, 2015, and NOAH BROWNING AND JOHN IRISH, “ Saudi Arabia announces 34-state Islamic military coalition against militants”,, accessed December 15, 2015and AHMED AL OMRAN and ASA FITCH, Saudi Arabia Forms Muslim Anti-Terror Coalition, accessed December 15, 2015
[10] Ibid
[11] Saudi Arabia Forms Islamic Counterterrorism Coalition
Aya Batrawy / AP, Time, December 15, 2015,, accessed December 15, 2015 [12] AHMED AL OMRAN and ASA FITCH, Saudi Arabia Forms Muslim Anti-Terror Coalition, accessed December 15, 2015
[13] Ibid
[14] Ibid
[15] See CAIR website, accessed December 15, 2015
[16] Ibid
[17] PARADISE AFSHAR, “Miami Gardens mosque, Islamic school in Cooper City targeted in hateful acts” Miami Herald, December 15, 2015,, accessed December 15, 2015