Pakistan “to some extent already has” become a proxy theater for Iran and Saudi Arabia, Gause said, but he added that this was at a relatively low level — nothing like what we’ve seen in Syria, Yemen or Iraq, for instance. That’s because Pakistan is a relatively stronger state that hasn’t been crippled by war. Furthermore, it doesn’t always do what the Saudis want: In 2015, the government in Islamabad passed a resolution ruling out sending troops to join the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, despite pressure from Riyadh.
But there are indications that Pakistan will indirectly provide more support for the Saudi campaign in Yemen, despite the war’s deep unpopularity among the Pakistani public.
Last year, when Pakistan sent an additional 1,000 troops to Saudi Arabia, the defense minister made public assurances that they wouldn’t be participating in the Yemen War. “But it’s interesting that the Pakistani army has developed significant expertise in mountain warfare and counterinsurgency, and they will be transferring these skills to Saudi forces,” Madishetty observed.
The only mountainous region within Saudi Arabia that’s currently a conflict zone? Its border with Yemen.