Zamir Awan for The Saker Blog
Iran’s response to the assassination of its top General Qasim Suleimani in Baghdad attack by the US has created more panic. The situation is more uncertain, instable and rather confusing. Rumors and fake news are dominating the region. Economic activities suffered a lot, the stock exchange has witnessed drop-down, oil price seems going upward. Many people are traveling out of this region to safer destinations. Recent tension between the US and Iran is alarming and extremely dangerous, not only for the whole region but also globally, especially for Pakistan. US-Iran relations were soared since 1979’s revolution. Since then there was a proxy war between the US and Iran, where Israel was the catalyst. But in recent days, the tension has climaxed to a seriously dangerous situation. There are fears of direct confrontation or enhanced indirect confrontation between the US and Iran.
It might have an adverse impact on the whole region, globally and neighboring countries. Especially Pakistan may suffer much more. Pakistan is suffering due to the Afghan situation for the last 4 decades. Where Pakistan suffered 80,000 precious lives including 7,000 personnel of armed forces. An economic loss of estimated US Dollars 250 billion, in addition to huge intangible deterioration in the form of extremism, intolerance, terrorism, etc. Drug culture and gun culture was an additional reward of the Afghan war. Any new challenges due to the Iran situation may harm Pakistan even much more. Hope world should learn from Pakistan’s experience instead of going through a new experience.
The immediate impact may be the influx of refugees. A similar situation arose, in 1979, at the time of revolution in Iran, a huge number of Iranian refugees entered Pakistan. Pakistan has not forgotten the bitter experience of hosting Afghan refugees, which number almost 5 million at peak time. The international community extends assistance in the beginning but gradually reduces its role. Pakistan cannot afford alone any more burden. Pakistan’s ailing economy cannot support any additional burden at all.
Secretary of state spoke to Army Chief of Pakistan to exchange views on the latest development of the region. Pakistan has already declared its position that Pakistan is a peace loving-nation and very well matures. We are a responsible state. Pakistan’s visionary leadership based on consensus has decided to support any peace initiative from any platform. Pakistan believes in the UN Charter and respects the UN Charter. Pakistan wanted the resolve all disputes politically and diplomatically under the guidelines set under the UN Charter. Pakistan hopes the international community may strengthen the UN and the UN may come forward to resolve all disputes all around the globe. However, the 220 million people of Pakistan based on consensus, decided to not support any side in War but extends full support to a peaceful resolution. Pakistan ensures, its soil will not use against any other country at all.
It should be understood that Iran is a Shi’a majority country, while in Pakistan, Shi’a has a considerable existence. By population, may only 25% are Shi’as, but they are well educated, well placed in the society, especially in the key positions in the Government. Economically, they are rich and very well connected with each other. Over-all weight, they might be almost 50%. Any awkward situation in Iran may also have direct social unrest in Pakistan too. There exists enormous pressure on Pakistan at the domestic front as well as international from. But, visionary leadership has declared to side with peace only.
Although Pakistan enjoys very close relations with the Arab World, Iran, being next-door neighbor, have even much more important for Pakistan. It is worth mentioning that the US and Iran do not have diplomatic relations. While Pakistan protects Iran’s interests in the US and Switzerland Protects US interests in Iran. Pakistan Embassy in Washington DC and the Swiss Embassy in Tehran are playing very important roles. Pakistan has been playing a similar role in the past too.
The US may exert more pressure on Pakistan, against Iran, Similarly, the Arab World may also push Pakistan against Iran. But, Pakistan cannot be a party with either of them. Pakistan needs to keep its neutral role or bridge between them. It will be rather a hard task. However, Pakistan cannot afford enmity with either of them. Pakistan played an important role in the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the US in the 1970s. Pakistan played a vital role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table in the Afghan Peace process. The US not only acknowledges the positive role of Pakistan but also admires. Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Tehran and Riyadh last month in efforts to defuse tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Pakistan may be a comparatively small country, with a poor economy, but possess the pivotal strategic location in the region. The US achieved its strategic goals during the cold war era and its war on terror with the vital support of Pakistan. Since the US has written-off Pakistan in 2011, the US has realized it cannot achieve its strategic goals in this part of the world. This is well understood by the US leadership, especially military leadership.
On the other hand, India a traditional rival of Pakistan may play a dirty role in this complex situation, especially against Pakistan too. In fact, India has signed the “Major Defense Partner” (MDP) agreement with the US. In return, India has been benefitted by US economic Assistance, Transfer of technology, Hi-tech, Weapons, political support, diplomatic support, etc. India has become the second-largest beneficiary of US assistance after Israel. India has also developed very close preferential relations with Israel. Israel-Iran is the worst enemy to each other. The US has replaced Pakistan with India in this region as “MDP”. Is India have that capacity? Will India meets the US expectation at a critical time? Can the US depend on India? Let the time will decide, let’s wait and see.
US has allowed India to import Iranian Oil, an exception to sanctions imposed by the US itself. India was planned to penetrate deep into Iran with the purposely. India is building Chahbahar Seaport for Iran and engaged in building the railways & Roads network in the length and breadth of Iran. India may be assigned a dirty task due to its presence in almost all parts of Iran. That is “Ground Intelligence”. Indian intelligence has already present everywhere inside Iran and well aware of everything inside Iran. Any military action might need ground intelligence. For which, India has already well placed. It will give India an additional edge and India may avail this opportunity to harm Pakistan too.
Over-all any confrontation in the oil-rich region may harm the global economy or might change the whole scenario of geopolitics. Middle-East is a major supplier of Energy (Oil and Gas) and fulfills almost 70% of the international demand. While the Energy consumer countries like Japan, China, Europe, all may suffer in the form of shortage of Energy and hike in price. There will be a global economic recession if the tension is not diffused.
Frankly speaking, the US act of assassination is an open violation of the UN Charter, International Law, and the US Law as Congress was bypassed. Suppose, if Iran has done a similar act and assassinated any other high-value target in America or Europe, what will be the world’s reaction. Should not be a similar reaction be expected from the International Community???
Millions of people took part in mourning of late General Qasim Suleimani in Iran, the anger of Iranian can be understood. There is huge pressure on the leadership in Iran for a response. However, if Iran keeps silence and may not take reciprocate action, will the US not encouraged to do a similar act again and again???
Russia and China, may not accept US influence in this region. The sudden visit of Russian President Putin to Syria is a strong message for the US. In fact, the US is not having any local support in this region. Some of the Governments of this region may maintain very good diplomatic of economic ties with the US, but due to anti-Muslim action of the US during the last couple of decades has created anti-America sentiments among the masses in this region. It is worth mentioning that there are 57 Muslim countries, around 2 billion Muslims live in this world spread all over the globe, possess 70 % of natural resources, especially energy reserves, yet politically divided and not united and suffering humiliation. Roughly 12 million Muslim has been killed during the last couple of decades, around 70 million Muslims were forced to leave their houses, either to take refuge in their own country at safe places or take asylum in the Western world. Muslims are humiliated, discriminated and targeted in the Western world in routine life. War cannot be a win with 2 trillion dollar’s weapons if it is true, the Afghan war should be considered the latest example. A nation “We lie, we cheat, we steal” cannot win a war against the will of masses. It is time to think calmly and smartly!
American Congress and citizens are divided on the “Iran War”. Allies are also not in full support of the “Iran War”. Regional environments are not in the US favor, strong resistance from Russia and China is also possible (just like in Syria). Pakistan’s geopolitical location is the pivot and may face more severe challenges. While Pakistan was struggling its survival after 4 decades of Afghan mesh, it may not be ready to face such big challenges foreseen from US-Iran tension.
The international community may act and may act swiftly before it is too late. Save the precious human lives, avert the bloodshed and proactively promote global peace, which is need of time. All Peace-Loving individuals and nations, may raise their voice for Peace and struggle hard to avert any big disaster.
Author: Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomate), Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan.