Saudi Arabia and Iran have maintained their current rapprochement through periods of conflict
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Notably, both sides have worked diligently to preserve some modicum of cooperation and prevent the deterioration of the relationship even as regional tensions have escalated significantly. Tehran has repeatedly dispatched envoys to Riyadh over the past several years to assuage concerns, including former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, the supreme leader's personal advisor on foreign affairs, who first embarked on a damage control mission after Ahmadinejad's outrageous performance at the December 2005 Organization of the Islamic Conference summit. As Ali Larijani acknowledged, "We do have our disagreements in certain areas, but overall the relations between Iran and Saudi are very dignified with excellent underpinning." Despite their profound trepidations about Iran, the Saudis have signaled that they are not prepared to lead an anti-Iranian coalition. Riyadh has hosted Ahmadinejad several times, including for the December 2007 hajj pilgrimage – a first for a sitting Iranian president and remarkable given the Saudis' traditional consternation over Iranian troublemaking at the pilgrimage. Riyadh also undoubtedly sanctioned another unprecedented act of regional comity, Ahmadinejad's participation in the annual summit of the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council in December 2007, where he proposed a regional security pact and new economic cooperation between Iran and its Gulf rivals. At the same time, however, the Saudis have agreed to massive new arms sales from Washington and have greatly intensified their diplomatic efforts in Lebanon and elsewhere to combat Iran's sway.
While the Saudis would be highly motivated to acquire some form of nuclear deterrent to counter an Iranian bomb, they would face significant strategic disincentives and technical barriers. Similarily, Pakistan would face strategic disincentives for assisting Saudi Arabia with its nuclear weapons program, despite their close ties. Ultimately, Saudi Arabia is more likely to continue to develop its nuclear energy capacity while using the threat of a nuclear program to secure security guarantees from the U.S. or Pakistan.