Pakistan’s Dunya News reports Saudi Arabia has proposed a “NATO-like” military alliance of Muslim nations, meant not as a defensive alliance against a particular country, “but to combat terrorism and emerging threats like ISIS.”
The report states that Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, was offered the Commander-in-Chief position for the new multi-national force after he retires from his current post. Shareef has been visiting Saudi Arabia with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (no relation, despite the same last name) to observe a joint military exercise.
Dunya News sees the Saudi proposal as part of an effort to firm up their already friendly ties with Pakistan, healing a breach that formed when Pakistan refused to join the Saudi-led coalition against Houthi insurgents in Yemen.
The Saudis would also like to have Pakistan firmly on their side against a nation that probably should not expect an invitation to join Muslim NATO any time soon: Iran.
“Following a diplomatic feud with Iran over the execution of Shiite cleric, Saudi Arabia tried to win Pakistan’s support, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Bin Ahmed al Jubeir and Defence Minister Mohamed bin Salman paid back to back visits to Pakistan in an attempt to convince Pakistan to side with the Kingdom against Iran like a number gulf states who cut off diplomatic ties with Iran, however Pakistan refrained from taking sides and resorted to the role of a mediator,” Dunya News writes, rather breathlessly. “Both the Prime Minister and Army Chief visited Saudi Arabia and Iran in order to diffuse the tensions.”
Dunya delicately notes that it “remains uncertain whether the new alliance will be inclusive of Shiite states as well.”
There might just be a surprise special associate member of Muslim NATO, according to the UK Independent, which notes the Saudi proposal “comes as Israel is reportedly quietly making overtures to Sunni Arab states to push for closer ties,” with an eye toward countering “the influence of Tehran.”