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Saudi Arabia’s Pilgrimage to Pakistan

LONDON – Over the last few years, Saudi Arabia has become increasingly estranged from its long-time protector, the United States. It viewed America’s backing for Hosni Mubarak’s fall from power in Egypt – and its subsequent acceptance of the Muslim Brotherhood government – as a betrayal. Then came US President Barack Obama’s refusal to enforce his “red line” in Syria, after President Bashar al-Assad’s regime unleashed poison gas on its opponents. But the final straw was America’s support for the recent interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

Saudi Arabia’s mounting distrust of the US matters, because whenever the Kingdom has felt an existential threat – and it regards Iran’s regional ambitions as such a threat – it has relied on an external power to protect it. But if it can no longer rely on the US, where can the Kingdom turn for sufficient military muscle?

The answer seems to be Pakistan, a country that the rest of the world views as on the verge of becoming a failed state.

Pakistan has previously served the Kingdom’s interests by sending military and security assistance during times of stress. Saudi Arabia received some 30,000 Pakistani soldiers in 1979, at the time of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. And these troops remained in the Kingdom until the mid-1980’s.