Published November 17, 2014
Saudi Arabia is rallying Muslim nations across the Middle East and Asia to join an informal Arab alliance against Iran, in a move some U.S. officials worry could draw other troubled nations into the sectarian tensions gripping the Arab world.
Saudi officials have approached Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Central Asian states to lend diplomatic support-and potentially military assistance in some cases-to help stifle a majority Shiite revolt in Sunni-led Bahrain, a conflict that has become a symbol of Arab defiance against Iran.
Saudi Arabia's efforts, though against a common enemy, signal increasing friction with the Obama administration. Its invitation to Pakistan in particular could complicate U.S. security goals in South Asia. The push also complicates U.S. efforts to guide popular uprisings in the Middle East toward a peaceful and democratic conclusion.
The chief of the Saudi National Security Council, Prince Bandar bin Sultan al Saud, asked Pakistan's powerful generals in March to lend support for the operation in Bahrain, according to Pakistani, U.S. and Saudi officials briefed on the meetings.