The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Saudis To Prop Up Pakistan, Isolate Iran

sharif

Seeking to start off on the right foot, Nawaz Sharif’s newly-elected government in Pakistan is on the verge of getting a large loan from Saudi Arabia to help it keep the lights on across the country this summer—as much as $5 billion in cash and deferred payments on Saudi energy exports.

The FT provides some useful context on the Saudi-Pak relationship and Sharif’s role in it:

Overthrown by the armed forces in 1999, Mr Sharif spent seven years in exile in Saudi Arabia and has good relations with Saudi leaders. Saudi Arabia provided similar relief in the form of payment deferrals for oil when Pakistan faced international sanctions in 1998 as a result of its first nuclear weapons test.

Saudi Arabia made the offer to the then Sharif government within days of the test, and the credit facility lasted for three years, helping Pakistan through one of the most difficult periods in its economic history.

This imminent loan deal is above all not the greatest news for Iran, as Saudi money will keep Pakistan’s Sunni side up and on-side in the Iran/Saudi rivalry. That’s fine by the US, and cheap at the price.

The Saudis and the US see eye-to-eye on a surprisingly wide range of issues despite the immense cultural and political gaps between them. Propping up and keeping Pakistan stable and isolating Iran at zero cost to the American taxpayer is exactly the kind of deal a cheap hawk can get firmly behind.

[Photo of Nawaz Sharif courtesy Getty Images]

Published on May 25, 2013 3:00 pm
  • Jim Luebke

    I recently read a book on the first Sikh War. It’s tough to imagine a country being that screwed up — particularly in its military / civilian relations — but it looks like Pakistan has managed it again.

    Is there any point in Pakistan’s past that they were stable and reasonably functional?

    • USNK2

      1957, based on SCOTUS Wm O Douglas travel memoir “West of the Indus” road trip in a station wagon from Karachi to Peshawar through Afghanistan on the way to Istanbul. Pakistan and Afghanistan were stable and reasonably functional. The Douglases found Iran dangerous and went through Kurdistan to avoid most of Iraq.

  • ljgude

    In the Sunni Shia chess game it is not hard to understand Saudi loaning money to Nuclear armed Pakistan as Iran is about to go nuclear. It is interesting that Pakistan mostly fears India while Iran makes noises about wiping Israel off the map. I wonder if we will see a Sunni Shia nuclear showdown between Iran and Pakistan when they both have the bomb.