Category Archives: Pakistan

Pakistan to join Saudi Arabia coalition against Iran and Houthis

Pakistan will send troops to Saudi Arabia to join the coalition fighting Yemeni Houthi rebels, a senior government official said on Monday, joining several Gulf states, Sudan, Egypt and Morocco.

Largely Sunni Muslim Pakistan – a regional ally of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf’s main Sunni Muslim power – would join a Saudi-led military coalition conducting air strikes against Shiite Houthi forces.

The air strikes are targeting the rebels’ southward advance on the port city of Aden, the last bastion of Saudi-backed president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan shares a long border with Iran, considered to be the centre of Shiite power, and has a warm relationship with Saudi Arabia, Iran’s main regional rival. An estimated 20 percent of Pakistanis are Shiite.

“We have already pledged full support to Saudi Arabia in its operation against rebels and will join the coalition,” the Pakistani official said.

A Pakistani team, to be led by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz, had been due to arrive in Saudi Arabia on Monday but delayed the trip at the request of the Saudis, the official told Reuters.

On Monday night, Aziz and Asif met with Pakistan’s military chiefs and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

“Pakistan remains firmly committed to supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Pakistan,” a statement from Sharif’s media office said.

“Pakistan stands committed to playing a meaningful role in arresting the deteriorating situation in the Middle East.

There are already about 750-800 Pakistani servicemen in Saudi Arabia but none are combat troops.

Pakistan has already had small demonstrations both for and against military intervention.

Right-wing religious groups demonstrated last week vowing to defend Saudi Arabia. But some civil society groups and opposition politicians spoke against intervention, on the view that it could further inflame sectarian tensions at home.

Sharif has long enjoyed close relations with the Saudi royal family. After his second term as prime minister was ended by a military coup in 1999, he was sent into exile in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia lent $1.5 billion to Pakistan last year to help Islamabad shore up foreign exchange reserves. Pakistani officials initially refused to divulge the source of the loan.

Pakistan May Join Saudi Yemen Offensive, Help ‘Encircle Iran’

Pakistan, the largest Sunni state by far with a strong military and nuclear weapons, says ‘the matter is being examined.’
Pakistani helicopter (file)

Pakistan said Thursday it was examining a request from Saudi Arabia to participate in the Saudi-led military operation against Iran-backed Shi’ite Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Official Saudi news agency SPA reported Pakistan was among five Muslim countries that have “declared their willingness to participate” in the offensive, along with Jordan, Sudan, Morocco and Egypt.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Pakistani Foreign Ministry confirmed that it had received a request from Saudi Arabia, but did not elaborate further.

“I can confirm that we have been contacted by Saudi Arabia in this regard,” Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said Thursday. “The matter is being examined. That’s all I have to say at the moment.”

According to media reports, the Saudis want Pakistan to assist in air strikes and ground operations.

In recent weeks, Pakistani officials indicated that Islamabad turned down a request from Saudi Arabia for more Pakistani troops to reinforce its border with Yemen. While Pakistani soldiers are stationed in Saudi Arabia, their numbers are not known.

Like its close ally Saudi Arabia, Pakistan is a majority Sunni Muslim country, while Shi’ites make up about 20% of the population. But Pakistan has thus far been wary of getting drawn into the war between Saudi and Iranian proxies throughout the Middle East.

Writing in the Asia Times, columnist David Goldman assessed Thursday that the Saudis were doing an admirable job in the diplomacy that accompanies their offensive in Yemen.

“Pakistan is by far the largest Sunni state with a strong military and air force, and its alignment with the Saudi-led coalition is of decisive importance,” he wrote. “Egypt has sent four warships to the Gulf of Aden to secure the southern approach to the Suez Canal, and may have deterred an Iranian naval presence.”

In this context, Goldman noted that Arutz Sheva cited a tweet from a senior editor at Saudi online paper Arab News, according to which Egyptian ships forced an Iranian retreat from the strategic Bab Al-Mandab strait near the Port of Aden.

“Iran may be overextended with major commitments of Revolutionary Guards in Syria and Iraq,” the analyst added. “Its air force flies Shah-vintage American planes, while Saudi Arabia has several hundred fourth-generation fighters, including about 200 F-15’s. If Saudi Arabia can hold a Sunni coalition together, it should be in position to encircle and contain Iran.”