As far as I understand, the USA's Middle East policy more or less revolves around Israel and its security. The countries which had antagonistic policies toward Israel were either taken out by Israel or the USA one after another.

To my understanding, the only outliers are Iran and Pakistan.

I concede that both of them have huge and powerful militaries; that is one of the reasons they are still on the world map. However, while Iran has faced repeated sanctions, Pakistan has been spared time and time again.

For example:

  1. Pakistan was allowed to continue its research on nuclear weapons
  2. In 1998, Pakistan was put under sanction for testing nuclear weapons, and the sanction was lifted in a short time
  3. Pakistan never faced any sanction when Osama bin Laden was found in Abbottabad
  4. In 2011, Pakistan stopped the NATO supply routes and there was no repercussion from the US side
  5. Pakistan possess a missile named Shaheen-III which has an effective firing range of 2500-3000km

Why has Pakistan never faced the wrath of the USA similar to other countries in the region, especially Iran?

  • 34
    Your understanding is incorrect, or at least incomplete. US Middle East policy revolves around the security of the US. (The security of Israel might be seen as supporting that.) Both Iran and Iraq attacked the US. Pakistan always maintained at least plausible deniability - "Bin Laden was living in Abbottabad? Gee, we didn't know that!"
    – jamesqf
    Feb 20, 2021 at 17:31
  • 16
    @jamesqf, US Middle East policy revolves around the security of the US. --- that's what politicians and governments from the USA would like to say. But, numerous incidents prove otherwise. For instance, moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has nothing to do with US security.
    – user366312
    Feb 20, 2021 at 17:58
  • 34
    @user366312: You're right that it has nothing to do with US security, but it also has basically nothing to do with policy. It was a decision made by the idiot who happened to be President at the time, to please the evangelical Christians among his supporters. They wanted the move for reasons that have nothing to do with US security. (Or IMHO reality :-)). I admit to not really understanding those reasons, but they're tied up with apocalyptic theology.
    – jamesqf
    Feb 20, 2021 at 20:51
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    @Mazura: Yes, given that 15 terrorists (out of 19) involved in 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia (and none from Iran/Pakistan/Afghanistan), "Why has Saudi Arabia never faced any wrath of the USA?" could probably be asked instead. I'm not sure there's an official, non-cynical answer to that one. Feb 21, 2021 at 9:10
  • 23
    I think the premise of your question is wrong. Pakistan is not in the Middle East, and it's a mistake to naively draw parallels between it and countries in the Middle East. Pakistan is located geographically and -- more importantly -- politically in South Asia, and the US's treatment of Pakistan lies in the politics of South Asia. The simple answer to why Pakistan has not "faced the wrath" of the US is because they are, historically, political allies in the region.
    – Zorawar
    Feb 21, 2021 at 17:14

4 Answers 4


The US relationship with Pakistan is complicated, but for decades it was viewed as an ally. In the 1970's and 80's, India was somewhat friendly towards the Soviet Union (while remaining nonaligned). That encouraged a relationship between Pakistan and the US. After India developed a nuclear weapon, the US (as I understand it) looked the other way while Pakistan developed theirs.

The enmity between the US and Iran really goes back to the 1953 coup in which the CIA imposed the Shah on Iran. After he was overthrown, and ever since, the new government has been extremely hostile to the US, and that hostility has been reciprocated.

This question basically amounts to asking "Why is the US nicer to its friends than its enemies?" To be sure, Pakistan has recently often been something of a frenemy, but has not been overtly hostile in the way that Iran has.

  • 17
    The 1953 coup is not actually the main root of tensions between US and Iran, remember that US supported the Shah who was de jure king of Iran and after that there was a strong alliance in 1953-1979 between Iran and US. The real problem started in 1979 and after the revolution in Iran(hostage crisis). Unfortunately the Islamic Republic tries to blame the west for tensions and it claims that the problem started in 1953. Please be cautious about it and study the 1953 coup carefully.
    – user35692
    Feb 21, 2021 at 4:54
  • 17
    Iran had a democratically elected parliment that was overthrown in 1953 by a US sponsored coup. The US then had a strong alliance with the dictactor they helped install during the coup. There were certainly tensions between the people of Iran and the US, dating back to at least 1953. These tensions were partly motivated by the strong alliance between the US and Iran's dictator.
    – andypea
    Feb 22, 2021 at 2:58
  • 4
    @andypea Please don't comment on something you're not sure about. At first, There was not any tensions between people of Iran and USA at all till revolutionaries(Islamists and communists) took the power(after 1978). In addition you claim that US helped install Shah without mentioning that Shah became the king 12 years before that coup and he was the de jure king. Mussadeq planned the coup that was put down. Coup d'état is done by someone to overthrow a reigning regime/government.
    – user35692
    Feb 22, 2021 at 7:07
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    @Coditoergosum According to US then legal status, the kings of England were their legal sovereigns. So, Washington's attempt to independize was illegal. It doesn't mean that it wasn't popular among their citizens, and if another country (say, Spain, for example) would have fought alongside the british to keep the USA subjugated to the British Empire, the new independent country would not have had the best initial relationships with Spain. Your legalistic POV is worthless. Mussadeq was very popular, and when the US-sponsered dictator was ousted, the new government was not friendly.
    – Rekesoft
    Feb 22, 2021 at 11:14
  • 5
    What we're both saying becomes a lot closer together once you realise that the "communists" and "islamists" were people of Iran.
    – andypea
    Feb 22, 2021 at 20:52

To quote UK Essays. (November 2018). Geopolitical Position Of Pakistan History Essay, " Pakistan has a significant geopolitical position as it is situated in a region that is of high grandness due to its political, economic, and strategic position. " The primary reasons for the incentives that Pakistan enjoys from the US despite the repeated betrayal of Pakistan or, as Trump had mildly put it, "The US has gotten 'nothing' from Pakistan aid" are as follows.

  1. India advocated and followed a principle of "non-aligned movement" under its first prime minister during the initial phases of the cold war. US policymakers saw this is as aligned with USSR. Pakistan gained an all-weather friendship and became a pivot of US in the region.
  2. The next powerful prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi, was also seen as USSR friendly. Indian Army got Russian weapons and airplanes. India became a nuclear power, further adding value to Pakistan as a partner for US.
  3. USSR role in Afganistan cemented the ties between Pakistan Army and US functionally in some sense.
  4. Pervez Musharraf supported US operations in Afganistan after 9/11 in a whole-hearted manner.
  5. Pakistan kept its promise in providing free access to the US military on its soil. Since the US had free access finding Osama in Pakistan was not brought against the Pakistan government.

You've somehow answered your question:

the USA's middle east policy more or less revolves around the security of Israel.

But there are many differences between Iran and Pakistan's foreign policies, the Islamic Republic(IR) has always announced that it wants to annihilate Israel,and even you can see digital countdowns in the streets of Tehran showing the date of the end of Israel, have you ever seen such things in Pakistan? certainly not.

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Besides, IR's belligerent behavior goes beyond its animosity with Israel, remember that IR has a long history of anti-American activities:

  • Iran took American diplomats hostage in 1979, this was the beginning of the problem between these countries.

  • Explosion of U.S. embassy in Beirut in 1984, that is said to be done by Iran backed groups.

  • Detention of many American citizens such as Robert Levinson and Xiyue Wang, that complicated Iran-US relations.

  • Besides, you should consider Iran's presence or interference in Iraq, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen, activities that make the U.S. have a tougher stance against Iran.

In fact, there has been hostilities against the U.S. by terrorist groups that are related to both countries, Al-Qa'ida and Taleban are in Pakistan and IRGC, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad are supported by Iran, but the difference is that Al-Qa'ida and Taleban aren't official organizations in Pakistan and even Pakistan has launched operations such as Zarb-e Azb to remove them, but IRGC is an official organization in Iran and Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad are officially supported and sponsored by IR.In addition, remember that Al-Qa'ida has recently been connected to Iran .

Finally, the history of Iran-US relations is really more complicated comparing to Pakistan-US relations, and in fact, Pakistan is considered as an ally and Iran as an enemy. And the natural policy should be the one that is in practice now.

  • 13
    This explains why the US has a bad relationship with Iran, but you don’t explain the US relationship with Pakistan. After all, there are plenty of points you can make against Pakistan too, for instance the safe haven they offered to the Taliban during the Afghanistan war. What explains the US considering Pakistan an ally?
    – divibisan
    Feb 20, 2021 at 19:53
  • 2
    I’m not arguing with any of that and I’ve upvoted, just pointing out that this answer is incomplete. It makes a great combination with Raghu’s answer
    – divibisan
    Feb 20, 2021 at 23:02
  • 3
    @Codito ergo sum: Why do you think the Iranian government is not a terrorist group? (Or to be more accurate, an Islamic theocracy that uses terrorism, along with other tactics, in pursuing its de facto war against the non-Islamic world.)
    – jamesqf
    Feb 20, 2021 at 23:41
  • 4
    @Coditoergosum They weren't. Prior to the coup, the US had a friendly relationship with Iran's government and a friendly disposition from the Iranian people. Afterwards, they had a friendly relationship with a despised dictator who was in charge of the country, and only till he wasn't anymore.
    – Rekesoft
    Feb 22, 2021 at 11:17
  • 4
    @Coditoergosum As an iranian (exile, I presume), you are entitled to have whatever opinion about Iran, the USA and their mutual relationship. Your opinion about what the majority of the population of Iran thought then or now about the USA is, well, your opinion. The anti-american propaganda started with the islamic revolution, but the islamists could have never achieved a succesful coup if they hadn't been able to capitalize on anti-Sha and anti-western sentiments prevalent among the population, since islamism was far from majoritary in 1979 Iran.
    – Rekesoft
    Feb 22, 2021 at 12:48

A lot of it finds sense in the fact that India has always been an untrustable ally and a string country on its own given the huge markets and other powers in negotiation that it gains. It has always been observed that the US takes sides in a binary quarrel and so it b had realised for a long time that its better to be on the side of India than Pakistan since Pakistan is a country politically less democratic and a country whose government unlike India is very less answerable to its people which is why a puppet regime is better stored for Pakistan.

Also the geopolitical position that Pakistan has caused almost all superpowers interested in Middle East to form allies with Pakistan. The father of the nation of Pakistan during the partition of India was once said to have been asked so as to how will they run Pakistan as an independent country given that majority of natural resources were located in India? To this Jinnah is believed to have said that the geopolitical position of Pakistan is within itself such a resource that will feed the needs of Pakistan for centuries to come!

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