By Arab News
By Hani Hazaimeh
Islamic State’s (Daesh) leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi’s call to his followers to attack Saudi Arabia is a joke, said Arab coalition’s spokesman Maj. Gen. Ahmed Al-Assiri on Thursday.
Speaking to CNN, he said: “This terrorist (Al-Baghdadi) tries to push the Islamic world toward a sectarian war, while his group is kidnapping, torturing and beheading Muslims.”
Al-Assiri said it is of paramount importance for all Muslims, Sunnis and Shiites, to unite in the fight against Daesh and other terror groups that pose a threat to the future of Muslims around the world.
“Saudi Arabia is regarded as a leader of the Islamic world by millions of Muslims. As such, it completely rejects Iran’s attempts to fan sectarianism, which contradicts our goals to see a unified Islamic world,” said Al-Assiri.
“We are victims of terrorism and have had our share of their atrocious crimes, not least from Iranian criminals committing terrorist acts against the country and innocent civilians in the Eastern Province” he explained.
These terrorist groups, added Al-Assiri, target the Kingdom, because they want to attack the heart of the Islamic world, represented by the Kingdom, which hosts the Muslims’ holiest sites. “The terrorists think that if Saudi Arabia collapses, the entire Islamic world will collapse, and then they can further their agendas, which would be extremely dangerous for the world’s security and stability,” he said.
Addressing the Syrian issue, he said: “From the beginning of the crisis, we called on the international community to help create a no-fly zone to end the misery of the displaced people in Syria.”
If you want to talk about the Syrian crisis “you have to also talk about the Syrian regime and its forces’ brutality, the Iranian militias who have been battering the Syrian people and the Russian intervention as well,” Al-Assiri pointed out, adding that the Kingdom has been working closely with the international community.
“It is for sure a very difficult and complicated situation because we are late and have missed so many opportunities to defeat the Syrian regime and the Iran-back militias. Now we have to find a solution (in which) the Syrian people will eventually have an upper hand even if the regime remains in power. The final word will be (that of) the people who have already said no to the regime’s brutality,” Al-Assiri said.
Moving closer to home, Yemen, Al-Assiri rejected claims that the Saudi-led coalition is indiscriminately bombing civilians there.
“Whenever there is a campaign, there are objectives, and our campaign’s objective is to avoid civilian causalities. We have initiated the campaign for the protection of the Yemeni people from the Houthi militias who are implementing Iran’s agenda. Yet mistakes do happen and we have the courage to admit when they happen,” he said, referring to the bombing of the Great Hall in Sanaa, an incident into which Saudi Arabia ordered an investigation.
The outcome of the inquiry, made public, was that a pilot conducted an airstrike based on a tipoff from the Yemeni Army, without informing the coalition’s headquarters.
“There was a breach of engagement by someone in the field. The investigating team issued three recommendations. First that the Yemeni Army should investigate who tipped off the pilot with the coordinates of the target. Second, the coalition should review and tighten rules of engagement in order to avoid future similar incidents. And third, the victims of the airstrike must be compensated,” he said.
Al-Assiri said the coalition is still waiting for the results of the investigation conducted by the Yemeni Army, and once the results are received, it will take the appropriate measures.
“We will not hide our mistakes. But we also want the world to know that more than 26 million Yemenis have been hijacked against their will by the Houthi militias.”