“Mohammed bin Salman has this strategic view that you’ve got to pressure Iran. And with Pakistan, he’d love to be able to pressure Iran from two sides,” Gregory Gause, head of the International Affairs Department at Texas A&M University, told CNBC.
That presents a hard choice for the Pakistanis, who currently neither see Iran as a major ally nor a major threat, though they are wary of Iran’s increasing cooperation with their own arch-rival, India.
“I don’t think the Pakistanis want to declare Iran an enemy and have a full-on confrontation,” Gause said, “but they have to do something for that Saudi money.”
And the Iranians aren’t taking it lightly — Tehran has long accused Saudi Arabia of fomenting unrest in its border area with Pakistan, which is home to Iranian Sunni anti-regime militants who have launched numerous attacks on Iranian military personnel. The Saudis deny the accusations.
In February, Sunni militants from the extremist group Jaish al-Adl killed 27 Iranian Revolutionary Guards along the border, triggering the accusation from Tehran that Pakistan was housing militants and allowing them to attack Iran.