Saudi Arabia has requested an as-of-yet unspecified number of troops from Pakistan to assist it in securing the Kingdom, raising the prospect that the leading Gulf state might, in fear of Iran’s growing conventional and nuclear threat, turn to its nuclear-armed, Sunni ally with the big army for help. The number of soldiers involved isn’t known but is likely to be small. That could easily change: As the Financial Times notes, the Pakistanis and Saudis have an extensive history of military cooperation:
The Saudi-Pakistan defence relationship developed in the 1970s, when Pakistan’s military dictator General Zia ul-Haq sent thousands of troops for security duties in the kingdom after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.“In the 1980s, the Saudis were keen to keep Pakistani troops as this helped counter the Iranian threat,” says one former Pakistani army general who served in the kingdom. “For the Saudis, the relationship with Pakistan guarantees both against internal dissent and external threats.”The relationship strengthened in 1998 when Saudi Arabia began giving oil to Pakistan to help the country overcome the effect of international financial sanctions following its maiden nuclear tests. The arrangement lasted almost three years.More recently in early 2014, Saudi Arabia lent $1.5bn to Pakistan to shore up the country’s foreign reserves after a visit to Islamabad by then crown prince Salman. The full terms of the loan were not revealed, although Pakistani finance ministry officials said at the time the loan was interest-free.
So the Saudis have a good friend in Islamabad. And if they continue to feel threatened by Tehran, that’s where they’re likely to turn. Saudi Arabia has a lot of money and not a great army; the Pakistanis have a regionally powerful army and nukes, and is starving for cash. From the perspective of Saudi security needs, this makes perfect sense. From the perspective of regional peace, it’s a marriage made in hell.