In the wake of escalating violence in the Middle East and North Africa, Saudi Arabia announced on December 14th a new coalition of 34 Islamic countries designed to fight against "terrorism". The statement released by the Saudi government called on all members of the coalition to "cooperate to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations" and also to reject any justifications or excuses for terrorism. Whether this coalition was put together primarily for Saudi Arabia’s fight in Yemen or the wider fight against ISIS has yet to be seen however. In an official statement, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz said that terrorism was a "disease" that the world was keen to fight. He added that every Islamic country was already fighting against extremism individually and so the coordination of efforts is extremely important.
The Deputy Crown Prince also mentioned that the countries of “Syria, Iraq, Sinai (Egypt), Yemen, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan” were currently fighting terrorism of their own and that there would be a coordinated effort in these areas, although he stressed that action in Iraq and Syria could only be carried out with the approval of the “legitimacy” and the international community.
Whether or not Saudi Arabia will see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as the legitimate leader of Syria is another matter - Saudi Arabia has been arming the opposition in Syria for some time and has expressed repeatedly that Assad must go.
The countries involved in the coalition are: Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Turkey, Chad, Togo, Tunisia, Djibouti, Senegal, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Gabon, Guinea, Palestine, Comoros, Qatar, Cote d'Ivoire, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Maldives, Mali, Malaysia, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, and Yemen.
The Deputy Crown Prince stressed that there were 10 other Islamic countries that were not "outside the coalition" but insisted that they have measures to take before joining the alliance. He declined to say who the other 10 countries were.
There has been some criticism that the countries involved in the Saudi-led alliance are all Sunni states, which is likely because of Iran and Saudi Arabia’s long-standing feud in the region. Saudi Arabia and Iran are currently indirectly at war in Yemen with Iran backing the Houthi rebels against the Saudi backed government, and with the Saudi foreign minister recently saying that he won’t rule out the coalition deploying ground troops to fight terrorism, the conflict could escalate even further.