Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Iran-Pakistan Ties: Friends or Foes?

It is commonly accepted that Iran and Pakistan remained the best of friends until the fall of the Shah. Beginning in 1979, the relations between the two neighbors worsened with Imam Khomeni's Islamic Revolution in Iran and General Zia ul Haq's Islamization in Pakistan.

Opposition to Pakistan's Nuclear Program: 

In a book titled "Iran and Pakistan: Security, Diplomacy and American Influence", the Iranian-born American author Alex Vatanka challenges the notion that the rise of sectarianism strained Iran-Pakistan ties.  He argues that the relations began to deteriorate earlier in the decade of 1970s when Shah Mohammad Reza Shah Pehlavi, acting on behalf of the United States, tried to pressure Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to abandon Pakistan's nascent nuclear program.

History of Iran-Pakistan Ties:

Iran was the first country to recognized Pakistan right after the country's independence in 1947. Unlike Afghanistan that opposed Pakistan's admission to the United Nations, Iran enthusiastically supported it.  Iran also helped mediate running disputes between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The relations between the two neighbors grew even closer as both joined the 1955 Baghdad Pact for common defense that was signed by Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and the United Kingdom. It was renamed CENTO (Central Asia Treaty Organization) after the 1958 coup in Iraq that deposed the pro-West King Faisal of Iraq. Later, a regional cooperation for development (RCD) agreement was signed that included Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, all US allies at the time in 1970s.

1971 Loss of East Pakistan:

Pakistan's loss to India in 1971 East Pakistan war caused both the Shah and Bhutto to reassess bilateral ties.  The Shah felt Pakistan had been permanently weakened by the 1971 war with India. It encouraged the Shah's ambition of becoming the regional hegemon in West Asia and the Gulf region.

While the Shah saw an opportunity to assert Iranian leadership after the events of 1971,  Zulfikar Ali Bhutto sought to rebuild Pakistan's strength and to reclaim its status as a powerful nation in the region. Part of Bhutto's plan included building an atom bomb, an effort that was vehemently opposed by the United States. The Shah echoed the American demands in private meetings with Pakistani leadership.

Pakistan's Ties with Gulf Arabs:

Faced with the American and Iranian opposition to Pakistan's nuclear program after 1971, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a secular leader married to a Shia woman of Iranian ancestry, sought closer ties with Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich Sunni Gulf nations of the GCC. Here's an excerpt of Alex Vatanka's response in an interview with Lawfare journal:

"The fact that he (Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) was Shia had nothing to do with it. Bhutto is focused about India: Who can come to my aid, who can foot the bill for my nuclear program that I need to build up because I know that India is just about to get their hands on a nuclear weapon and I cannot lose that military competition on that front? There is no mention from the Saudis, the Emiratis, the Qataris—all of these famously Sunni nations—oh, we don't like Bhutto because he's Shia, you know? There's no sign of that. This sectarianism is something that unfortunately becomes much bigger of a player in the foreign relations of everybody in the last 15, 20 years because of a lot of other factors."

Complicated Iran-Pakistan Ties:

The relations between Iran and Pakistan oscillate between claims of "brotherly" ties and border skirmishes along Balochistan-Sistan border.

As recently as this week, Iranian President Rouhani said in a meeting with Pakistan Senate President Raza Rabbani that "the Islamic Republic regards Pakistan’s security as extension of its own".

In the last decade, Pakistan’s ties with Gulf Arabs have been uneasy while its relationship with Iran hit an all-time low with regular border skirmishes.

Regular diplomatic exchanges and friendly statements between Iran and Pakistan continue to attempt to reduce tensions while glossing over real difficulties between the military and intelligence services of the two countries.


All's not well between Iran and Pakistan. The bilateral relations began to deteriorate in early 1970s when the Shah and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto were still in charge, well before the Iranian Islamic Revolution and Zia ul Haq's Islamization in Pakistan. Iranian-American scholar Alex Vatanka says the key issue at the time was the US-Iran joint opposition to Pakistan's nuclear program that forced Bhutto to turn to Gulf Arabs for help. The difficulties are not rooted in sectarian Shia-Sunni difference. There is a genuine desire and continuing efforts by diplomats on both sides to maintain a good working relationship.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Iran-Saudi Conflict

Pakistan's Nuclear Program

Iran Nuclear Deal

1971 India-Pakistan War

Chabahar vs Gwadar Ports

Did America Contribute to the Rise of ISIS?


Eyaan said...

Shah imagined himself and Iran as 'The western policemen of the Middle East'; - that was the selling point to the West for the vast armament of Iran i.e, only he/Iran can stop/control the Arabs movements from the eastern end; and on the other end, of course, was Israel.
Pak/Iran relations were not ideal in 70's as well; and Iran tried to dictate on many accounts. Iran was not happy with Islamic summit or Arab Unity. Iran saw it as a direct threat to Iranian interests. Shah vigorously opposed the formation of the left wing government of NAP in Baluchistan and made threats. The subsequent army action had much to do with that pressure from Iran. In the later end of the Balochi conflict, Bhutto, on few occasions, openly criticized Iran on that account. In any case, Shah and the Iranian historicism, in general, were infatuated with Cyrus the great.
It is Deja Vu, once again.
There is a good literature from the Iranian expatriate groups which lobbied US for attack on Iraq and worked for transforming Iran into to regional power or for to revive a mini-empire - as a long-term and reliable solution to the Arab land. Conversely, they argued pursuing this policy for mellowing down the Islamic character of the Iranian regime and only viable solution for regenerating relevance in the current Iranian political environment. Unfortunately, it appears, some sections in Iran have bought into and invested in this misguided concept.

Theo said...

I like the summary; "All 's not well".

Balochistan is the "Wild West" of both Pakistan & Iran. Neither side has been fully able to establish the State's writ over the large province they respectively claim sovereignty over. But blaming each other for this failure isn't going to get far other than downing of drones and lobbing mortars.

The desire to maintain a "working relationship" is one of short-sighted-ness. Iran & Pakistan are bordering nations joined at the waist, their bilateral relations shouldn't be held hostage of those thousands of kilometers away. Iran offered better pricing on it's oil as compared to Saudi's deferment of payments. While KPK/Punjab/Sindh flash around MOUs of $Billions in Oil Refinery investments, Iran was willing to start and self finance projects.

And the working relationships, refueling PAF jets/ providing jets & helicopters, offering discounted fuel for PIA.

Pakistanis can throw a stone into Iran, but yet can't receive visa free entry to the Gulf States, as the recent Qatar easing has shown itself.

Riaz Haq said...

NY Times on ex Taliban chief Mullah Mansour's death after his secret Iran visit:

In the hours before he was killed in an American drone strike, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, then the Taliban leader, knew something was wrong.

He was on his way home from a secret visit to Iran in May 2016, driving across a remote stretch of southwestern Pakistan, when he called his brother and relatives to prepare them for his death.

“He knew something was happening,” a former Taliban commander, who is close to Mullah Mansour’s inner circle, said in an interview. “That’s why he was telling his family members what to do and to stay united.”

It is rare for a Taliban commander to sit for an interview, but this one spoke on the condition that his name or location not be made public, because he had recently defected from the insurgents’ ranks and his life was under threat.

His account offered previously unreported insights into the final hours of Mullah Mansour’s life, and why and how he was killed, revealing a dangerously widening rift with his Pakistani sponsors.


Mullah Mansour had been intent on expanding his sources of support as he prepared an ambitious offensive across eight provinces in Afghanistan last year, they said.

He relied on Pakistan’s Intelligence Service and donors from Arab gulf states, as well as Afghan drug lords, for the main financing of the Taliban, but he was also seeking weapons and other support from Iran, and even Russia. He met officials from both countries on his last visit to Iran.

Mullah Mansour’s outreach to Iran was also aimed at getting the Taliban out from under Pakistan’s thumb, according to his former associate and Afghan officials, so he could maneuver to run the war, but also negotiate peace, on his own terms. That was where his differences with Pakistan had grown sharpest.

While on his way to Iran, Mullah Mansour had stopped in the Girdi Jungle refugee camp, a hub of Taliban activity in Pakistan, where he called on Taliban commanders and elders to gather for a meeting.


The trip to and from Iran was one he had taken before. He always traveled on a Pakistani passport, under a fake name, with the full knowledge of Pakistani intelligence.


For many in the Taliban, Mullah Mansour’s death represented a devastating betrayal by their longtime patron and sponsor, Pakistan, that has split and demoralized the ranks.

About two dozen senior commanders from Mullah Mansour’s Pashtun tribe have defected to the Afghan government or moved into Afghanistan in fear of further retribution from Pakistan.

The Taliban commander compared the strike with Pakistan’s detention of senior Taliban commanders who dared to reach out to the Kabul government, like Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was detained in a joint United States-Pakistani raid in 2010. American officials welcomed his detention but later it emerged that he had been supporting peace overtures with Kabul.

The strike against Mullah Mansour was the first time a top Afghan Taliban leader had been killed inside Pakistan, which has provided a sanctuary for Taliban leaders throughout their 16-year insurgency against Afghanistan.

At the time, President Barack Obama and other American officials and diplomats expressed satisfaction.

“He was a prime target for the Americans and the Afghan government,” General Raziq said. “He was a terrorist.”

Shams S. said...

According to ex-Iranian president Rafsanjani in 1980s when Gen. Zia was the president of Pakistan, the Pakistani government "sold" complete parts for 500 centrifuges and designs for P1 and P2 model. Rafsanjani who now sits on the executive council of Iran claims that while Iranian president, he personally travelled to Pakistan when Zia was alive and president, to complete the nuclear "deal."

In 1977 when I was in Tehran working for PIA, Bhutto was in Iran as well. It is now known that Bhutto was on his mission to seek funding for his nuclear program, having already received funding from Qaddafi. Shah refused to pony up a penny because Shah hated Qaddafi (he refused to come in for Islamic Conference in Lahore because Qaddafi was invited there before he was). It is Shah's refusal to pay up that pissed Bhutto off. Iran an still continued to give Pakistan oil and gas at charity pricing, but Bhutto cooled off with Iran.

Riaz Haq said...

Shams: "Rafsanjani who now sits on the executive council of Iran claims that while Iranian president, he personally travelled to Pakistan when Zia was alive and president, to complete the nuclear "deal.""

Rafsanjani "now sits on the executive council of Iran"? Really? Isn't he dead already?

Anonymous said...

Statecraft 101

There are no permanent friends only permanent interests.

Riaz Haq said...

Success story IDB picks three Pakistani projects as examples

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has selected three of Pakistan’s hydropower projects as examples for its report about successful financial projects of the multilateral development financing institution.

The three projects – Khan Khwar, Allai Khwar and Duber Khwar – are currently owned and operated by the Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) and were constructed with help from the IDB.
The report will be finalised and presented during the 42nd Annual Meeting of the IDB Board of Governors to be held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on May 17 and 18 for showcasing the organisation’s successful contributions.

Islamic Development Bank offers $500m for TAPI pipeline
The IDB provided financial assistance to the tune of $150.2 million for the construction of the Khwar Projects in Pakistan. This financial assistance included $38.435 million for Allai Khwar, $30.805 million for Khan Khwar and $80.96 million for Duber Khwar.

Riaz Haq said...

#Qatar taps #Pakistan market with direct #Karachi-#Doha route amid #Gulf blockade @AJENews

With UAE’s regional hub off-limits, direct trade routes are opening between Doha and Karachi to boost economic ties.

Doha, Qatar - A Qatari shipping company is set to launch what it calls the fastest direct service between Doha and the Pakistani port city of Karachi this week, as the Gulf state seeks to establish new trade routes amid a land, air and sea blockade from its Arab neighbours.

State-run conglomerate Milaha is overseeing the weekly venture, with the first vessel due to arrive at the newly-inaugurated Hamad Port outside the Qatari capital on September 11 following a transit time of four days - compared to a normally six-to-seven-day journey.

"We have been vigorously ramping up our operations between Qatar and key Asian markets in response to growing demand from traders, importers, and exporters on both sides," said Abdulrahman Essa Al-Mannai, Milaha president and chief executive officer, in a statement ahead of the launch.

The move comes as Qatar counters economic sanctions imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt three months ago.

The four Arab nations severed all diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5 over allegations of supporting "terrorism". Qatar strongly denies the claims.

Prior to the dispute, most of Doha's shipments to and from Pakistan docked at Dubai's Jebel Ali port - a regional hub.

But with the Emirati port now out of bounds as a trans-shipment centre, Qatari companies are increasingly exploring alternative links to effectively penetrate the Asian market.

Besides the direct route, Qatar and Pakistan are also trading via Oman's Sohar port.

"We used to trade via Jebel Ali in Dubai, but because of the restrictions and the ongoing Gulf situation, we are now going direct so Qatar can capture Pakistan's market," Babar Rauf, sales and marketing manager of Rahmat Shipping, Milaha's Pakistani agent, told Al Jazeera.

Earlier in August, Qatar Ports Management Company, Mwani, also kickstarted its direct shipping line between Doha and Karachi operated by the Asian firm Wan Hai.

Milaha's new service, called PQX, will mainly bring perishable products and other food items, such as seafood, fruits and vegetables, from Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan to boost ties in different fields
By M. Ishtiaq | Published — Wednesday 17 January 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in a number of different fields.
The two sides signed and exchanged documents of protocol at the end of the two-day long 11th Saudi-Pakistan Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) meeting in Islamabad on Wednesday.
In the closing session, Pakistan’s Minister of Commerce Pervaiz Malik invited Saudi Arabia to invest in renewable energy projects, and in the agriculture, oil exploration and livestock sectors.
“The launching of Vision 2030 in the Kingdom will surely usher in the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the construction and services sectors … I would like my Saudi brothers to increase the quota of jobs for Pakistani workers in those sectors,” said Malik.
He also suggested the Saudi government could establish a “Saudi-specific training sector” in Pakistan to teach the particular skills needed for the Saudi job market.
The head of Saudi Arabia’s delegation, Majid Al-Qassabi, minister for commerce and investment, said the Kingdom was keen to enhance strategic relations with “our brotherly country Pakistan.”
The Saudi minister admitted that the current volume of trade between the two countries is only “moderate.”
“We need to enhance communication, we need to identify opportunities,” he said. “We need to promote investment opportunities, from both ends. We need to clear all the obstructions, all the challenges, that (inhibit) the ease of doing business.”
The 34-member Saudi delegation included participants from 20 different government entities, the chamber of commerce, and the private sector.
“We are really keen to identify opportunities, we really need to work to establish a long strategic relationship,” Al-Qassabi said.
The minister also announced that Riyadh will host the Saudi-Pakistan Business Forum in the second half of this year. “Hopefully that will be the launching pad for new business and investment relations between the two countries,” he said.

Riaz Haq said...

#SaudiArabia joins #Turkey and #China to Block #UnitedStates' effort to put #Pakistan on #FATF Terror Watch List - WSJ

Saudi Arabia joined Turkey and China in a move to block a U.S.-led attempt this week to place Pakistan on an international terror-financing watch list, according to officials involved in the process, in a rare disagreement between Riyadh and the Trump administration.

Saudi Arabia’s move on behalf of Pakistan came just days after Islamabad said it would send more than 1,000 troops to the Gulf kingdom, which has expanded its military posture in the region since its 2015 intervention in Yemen’s civil war.

A U.S. effort to reverse the decision on the watch list was under way Wednesday at a meeting in Paris of the Financial Action Task Force, a secretive international body that monitors countries’ efforts to fight terror financing and money-laundering, according to the officials involved in the process.

The officials said the U.S. effort, which included pressure on the Saudis, raised the possibility of a fresh vote on action against Pakistan as soon as Thursday. The Pakistanis were scrambling to shore up support.

The Trump administration, angry with what it sees as inadequate efforts by Islamabad to combat terror groups, has sought to ratchet up pressure on Pakistan. Last month it said it was withholding $2 billion in security aid until it sees much stronger action against militants. U.S. officials also accuse Pakistan’s military of supporting some jihadist groups as proxies against neighboring India and Afghanistan.

Pakistan denies those accusations and says there are no terrorist sanctuaries within its territory.

Saudi Arabia is a close U.S. ally, with its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, forming a personal bond with the family of President Donald Trump. It was Saudi Arabia’s surprise backing that secured the necessary opposing votes to block the U.S.

If U.S. lobbying is successful and the task force does end up adding Pakistan to its list of countries deemed “high risk” for doing too little to curb terror financing, banks, other lenders and international companies seeking to do business with the South Asian country could rethink financial ties, putting a damper on its already struggling economy.

The U.S. was supported in its effort to put Pakistan on the watch list by the U.K., France, Germany and other countries. The proposal was initiated at a working group, which is responsible for making recommendations to the 35 member nations and two regional groups that make up the FATF plenary. The meeting continues through Friday.

Pakistan was supported by China and Turkey heading into the FATF working-group meeting earlier this week. Turkey and the U.S. are allies as members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, though they are at odds with one another over actions in Syria.

The Trump administration has sought to work with Beijing to constrain North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program, but China has allied with Pakistan as a foil against India, where long-simmering tensions over the border have pitted Delhi and Islamabad against one another.

Pakistan had lobbied FATF member countries to keep it off the watch list. It also took last-minute action against Pakistan-based militant group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, complying with 10-year-old United Nations sanctions against the group, which the international community holds responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people.

“Our efforts paid,” said Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif on Twitter. “No consensus for nominating Pakistan,” he said, adding, “Grateful to friends who helped.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Iran-#Saudi proxy war in #Pakistan. Rtd. Intelligence Col Anthony Shaffer: “Iran is continuing to work to help rebel groups to form in the minority tribal region. There are Sindhi and Baluch separatist groups that Iran will help fund and support” #FoxNews

Iran is stepping up its involvement with political and militant Shiite groups in Pakistan, in what foreign affairs experts see as an escalating shadow proxy war with Saudi Arabia in a country with the world's second-largest Muslim population.

“Iran is continuing to work to help rebel groups to form in the minority tribal region. There are Sindhi and Baluch separatist groups that Iran will help fund and support,” said retired Lt. Col Anthony Shaffer, an intelligence specialist who currently serves as senior fellow at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies at the London Center.

Shaffer and others believe Iranians have long funded an array of insurgent outfits in Pakistan, in part as a means to destabilize U.S. efforts in the region.

One of those groups, the Tahrik-e-Jafaria Pakistan (TJP), freely acknowledges its ties to Iran, but denies accusations it engages in violence.

“We are alleged to be a militant group, but I refute this statement,” Deedar Ali, vice president of the TJP, in the country’s Gilgit Baltistan (GB) region, told Fox News. “We haven’t participated yet in militant activities, though we Shiites have the dominance in GB."

TJP is officially considered a Shiite political party, founded around the same time as the Iranian revolution of 1979. It has twice been banned by the Pakistani government as a terrorist organization.

The U.S.-based Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC) defines the TJP as a group focused on creating a society based on “pure Islam,” and both a protector and a propaganda distributor of Shiite ideas.

So just how devoted to the Iranian brand of Islamism is TJP?

“We have close links to Iran and a mutual aim under a shared ideology to stand united under the current longtime supreme leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, who is the ultimate power for us,” Ali said. “His words stand no less than a decree for us.”

TJP leaders also frequently visit Tehran, but claim they receive no direct funds from the Iranians.

“We operate under the direct guidance and control of Iran’s supreme leader, which binds us to travel to Iran," Ali said. "I won’t deny the fact that we receive a state guest honor upon our arrival in Iran because we support their ideology as we work together to formulate new strategies to gather mass support. But the members of this group present a monthly amount to run our campaigns; we don’t get funding from Iran.”

The State Department’s most recent Country Reports on Terrorism, released last July, names Iran the world’s “foremost” state sponsor of terrorism, a distinction it has held for decades.

Most notably, the U.S. accuses Tehran of using the Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a cover for intelligence operations and destabilization across the region.

According to several U.S. intelligence and diplomatic officials, the Trump administration is more concerned about Iranian influence in war-torn, neighboring Afghanistan than it is about the activities of other insurgent groups in Pakistan.

Usman Khan said...

Rather over-simplified but well meaning article.

Riaz Haq said...

Should #Iran blame #ISI while it helps #India's #RAW against #Pakistan? Iran also cannot afford to turn Pakistan into an enemy given its current level of hostile relations from #US, #Israel to #GCC countries, shared border logic. #KarachiTerroristAttack

Iran’s blame against the ISI came as a surprise raising many questions: how come Iran is so sure of the ISI’s involvement? Why Tehran did not entertain the possibility of an Indian hand beyond this incident? And why Iran did not take into account the fact that RAW has been operating out of Baluchistan and involved in false flag operations?

Following are the reasons which defy the underlying logic of Pakistan’s alleged involvement in the blast:

Why Pakistan would want to undermine its relations with Iran at a time when it needs Tehran’s supporting role (not spoiler’s role) in Afghanistan.
Islamabad, particularly the Army Chief Gen Bajwa worked very hard to improve ties with Iran.
Pakistan’s policymakers are very much convinced that Islamabad belongs to this region and it took more than 10 years to restore credibility in the eyes of Iran and Russia for forging close relations and for its quest to pivot to Euro-Asia.
Any attempt of undermining Iran means potentially undermining the Entente Cordiale, Pakistan pain strikingly achieved with Russia.
Upsetting China—which sees Iran as long term important friendly country to connect with its ambitious BRI project—is not in Pakistan’s interest; in other words, whatever concerns Pakistan may have with Iran, they may not be necessarily shared by the China which has much bigger priorities as a rising world power.
Any kinetic operation by the ISI in Iran will never get approval a) when Pakistan itself is vulnerable [read Baluchistan] b) having Iranian leverage against its second largest Shia population and c) Shia community has respectable representation at the top echelon of the inclusive Pakistan army forces which will never be bypassed nor behind its back any approval will be granted for any such operation on Iranian soil.
The proximity factor also precludes the ISI of doing any such operation next door to Pakistan’s Baluchistan province (e.g., Sistan/Baluchistan).
The predecessor of the blamed militant outfit was neutralized by the ISI and its leader Ragi was handed over to Iran.
The incident happens on a very unfortunate time when Pakistan is trying to pull off Afghan reconciliation and many spoilers do not want to see Islamabad succeed.
How come Tehran is so sure that this is not a “false flag” operation, when the Indian Intelligence Agency, RAW, is very much active in Pakistani’s Baluchistan border region; after all, it burnt down the province (Baluchistan) in the aftermath of the Mumbai attack in 2008; therefore, the fact that it has the hallmark of the RAW’s false flag operation could not be ruled out.
Pakistan’s big picture with Iran is clear: it has 900 km border with Tehran so cannot afford Iran as an enemy after hostile Indian and Afghan borders hence are not beneficiary in annoying Tehran.

Riaz Haq said...

Iran Primer: Iran and the Gulf States - Tehran Bureau | FRONTLINE | PBS

Modern Iranian leaders -- from shahs to ayatollahs -- have sought a dominant role in the Gulf region because of Iran's economic and demographic weight, as well as the value of Persian Gulf oil shipping lanes. In the 1960s and 1970s, Iran was the preeminent Gulf power and guarantor of U.S. national interests in the region.
Iran's 1979 revolution dramatically altered Tehran's regional stance. Revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called for the overthrow of existing pro-American monarchs in the Gulf. Iraq's 1980 invasion of Iran pulled the Gulf Arabs and the United States into the brutal eight-year conflict, mostly on Baghdad's side.

The end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988, the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, and the rise of more pragmatic leadership in Tehran led to an easing of tensions between Iran and the Gulf Arab states. The two subsequent "Gulf wars" in 1991 and 2003 weakened Iraq, thereby strengthening Iran's relative regional power. Iran's relationship with the smaller states of the lower Persian Gulf has historically been centered on trade. The emirate of Dubai has emerged as Iran's most vital Gulf trade partner and an occasional outlet to skirt sanctions.


The future

* An Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities could spark a wider regional war with dramatic repercussions for the Persian Gulf region, leading to a skyrocketing oil prices, and potential conflict between Iran and America's key Gulf Arab allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

* The world's major oil players have largely abandoned Iran, but are active in Iraq. If Iraq achieves its ambitious oil targets, it could surpass Iran as the Gulf's second largest producer within a decade. This would have repercussions for the regional balance of power.

* The Iran-Dubai trade relationship will be tested by sanctions and U.S. pressure. But historic links are too deep to imagine a drastic reduction in trade, even though Iranian merchants may not feel as welcome as in the past.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan latest #nuclear power to condemn killing of #Iranian #scientist as world remains on edge: "Such acts not only run contrary to all norms of interstate relations and International Law but also threaten the peace and stability of ... the region"

Pakistan is the latest nuclear power to condemn the killing of a top Iranian atomic scientist, deeming the act a destabilizing event in a region already plagued by widespread unrest.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a former Revolutionary Guard officer who led the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research was shot dead last Friday east of the Iranian capital in a yet unclaimed assassination that has fueled suspicions of Israeli involvement. While Iran has always denied possessing or seeking a nuclear bomb, several nations with such capabilities, such as Pakistan, have spoken out against the slaying.

"Pakistan condemns the assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Tehran," the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said Thursday in a statement sent to Newsweek. "We extend sincere condolences to the family members of Mr. Fakhrizadeh and to the Iranian people."

The attack comes about a decade after a series of similar slayings targeted other leading Iranian nuclear scientists and, more recently, in the wake of ongoing tensions between Iran and its top foes Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Islamabad worried such violence may only further entrench the Middle East in turmoil.

"Such acts not only run contrary to all norms of interstate relations and International Law but also threaten the peace and stability of an already fragile region," the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said. "Pakistan strongly urges all sides to exercise maximum restraint and avoid further escalation of tensions in the region."

Pakistan neighbors Iran and Pakistani officials have previously expressed to Newsweek the importance they place on stability along their country's border with the fellow Islamic Republic.

Pakistan, one of nine countries believed to be in the nuclear weapons club, conducted its first public nuclear test in 1998, largely in response to a test conducted just two weeks earlier by rival India. Pakistan is believed today to hold around 160 nuclear weapons and India 150, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

While India—which has developed increasingly close ties to Israel and its top ally, the United States—has remained quiet, other world powers with nuclear stockpiles have spoken out.

Days after Fakhrizadeh's death, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters on Monday her country was appalled by the act and called on those responsible to be exposed.

"China is shocked by the killing of the Iranian scientist and condemns this violent crime," Hua said. "We hope that the incident will be thoroughly investigated."

Like Islamabad, Beijing worried about the potential ramifications in an already restive region.

"China opposes any act that aggravates regional tensions and undermines regional peace and stability," Hua said. "As the current situation in the region is highly complex and sensitive, all parties should work together to ease regional tensions and maintain regional peace and stability."

China is believed to possess up to about 320 nuclear weapons, having tested its first atomic weapon in 1961, just years after an ideological split with the Soviet Union led to tensions between the two communist powers.

Today, however, Beijing and Moscow are perhaps more aligned than ever. Both see the U.S. as a destabilizing force in the Middle East and support Iran economically despite Washington's tight sanctions and, after the recent expiration of a U.N. arms embargo, perhaps soon militarily as well.

Riaz Haq said...

The Guardian of
Pakistan’s Shia
By Alex Vatanka

The town of parachinar, located in a far-flung corner of western
Pakistan, is fondly called by some Iranian Shiites “Little Iran.” The majority of the town’s residents are ethnic Pashtuns who belong to the Shia
faith. It is also the capital of Kurram Agency, one of the seven tribal districts that make up the politically volatile Federally Administrated Tribal
Areas. In recent years, Parachinar has effectively been under siege by Sunni militants.
Since 2007, waves of sectarian violence have killed hundreds of Shia from Parachinar.
In reaction to this, Parachinar has become a potent symbol of Shia suffering, and the
plight of its Shia residents has become a rallying cry for elements of the Iranian
The tragic state of affairs in Parachinar may be seen as a reflection of the mounting sectarian strife which has threatened in recent years to engulf the Pakistani nation.
It may also be used as a yardstick to measure the willingness and ability of the Islam -
ic Republic of Iran to protect Shia communities wherever they might be. After all,
the Tehran regime is often looked upon as the global champion and guardian of the
Shia. And historically, the Islamic Republic has actively supported Shiite militancy
internationally, including in Pakistan.


In the end, Tehran can disguise the international pursuit of its political objectives
as religious outreach, but Iran’s influence among Pakistan’s Shia should not be exaggerated. Iran’s clerical government and its religious practices are by no means acceptable or appealing to all the Shia of Pakistan. Moreover, because Tehran’s actions
do not match the rhetoric of some elements in the Islamic Republic, Pakistan’s Shia
are increasingly unlikely to view Iran as a reliable guardian or benefactor. Indeed,
Tehran’s reaction to the siege of Parachinar is a good example of the political cautiousness of Iran’s clerical rulers, and of the fact that Iranian support for the Shia in
Pakistan has become as much, if not more, a product of geopolitical calculation as it
is of religious sympathy or Islamist ideology.
Despite this, Iran’s outreach to the Shia of Pakistan has historically fluctuated as a
function of sectarian relations inside Pakistan and of Tehran’s overall relations with
Islamabad. When sectarian tensions rise in Pakistan and Tehran-Islamabad relations
are poor, Iran’s support for the Pakistani Shia has historically been at its strongest. In
the early 1980s to the mid-1990s, for example, when sectarian tensions and violence
expanded in Pakistan, the Iranian regime became a strident supporter of the Shia
and of militant Shiism. Now, given the deteriorating state of Shia-Sunni relations in
Pakistan, and also given the fact that Iran’s clerical establishment is under attack by
“Shiite nationalists” at home, conditions may be ripe for Iran to take renewed interest in the plight of Pakistan’s Shia once again.

Riaz Haq said...

#Saudi Amb Ali A Asseri: #SaudiArabia & #Pakistan are back on track. It augurs well for both brotherly countries, as their historic friendship faced an unfortunate rupture last year. It will open diplomatic space for joint #economic development. #ImranKhan

What is worth stating, however, is that Saudi Arabia is, and will remain, the heart of Islam for the Muslims of the world, and no other country can claim such a right: That the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is the sole representative body of 57 Muslim countries and no attempt to create an alternative Muslim bloc will ever succeed; and, of course, the fact that Saudi-Pakistan ties are well-rooted in the love and affection that their people have for each other, and hence no conspiracy can hamper their organic evolution as historic partners.

That is why the false narrative regarding the OIC’s role in Kashmir did not take hold for long. That is why the dismal portrayal of Saudi economic support for Pakistan finally failed the test of times.

Fortunately, both nations have formal and informal channels of communication to overcome any instance of grave misunderstanding or deliberate misinformation impacting their relationship.

Their bond is unbreakable as it is founded on the will of the two peoples.

Hence, the two brotherly nations have always stood shoulder to shoulder with each other in difficult times. From defending the sanctity of the two holy mosques to defeating the scourge of terrorism, Pakistan has always been a key Saudi partner.

Likewise, Saudi Arabia has never disappointed Pakistan when it is faced with hard times, be it the wave of terrorism post-9/11 or the devastating earthquake of 2005.

The two countries also closely cooperate to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan. The current or emerging Saudi engagement in Pakistan reflects the same spirit of camaraderie with Islamic roots.

In retrospect, what the visit of Prime Minister Khan to Jeddah shows is that the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is back to the level it was at when the crown prince visited Islamabad more than two years ago.

The decision by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to roll over $2 billion loans to next year implies the resumption of their respective financial relief packages, which Pakistan desperately needs to ward off the devastating effects of the third wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The visit is expected to kick-start work on the $20 billion Saudi development projects in Pakistan, especially the Aramco oil refinery and petrochemical complex in Gwadar.

To boost bilateral trade, a comprehensive customs cooperation accord is also reportedly on the agenda.

Moreover, General Bajwa’s almost week-long interaction with his Saudi counterparts, and the recent appointment of retired Lt. Gen. Bilal Akbar as Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, will ensure enhanced coordination in defense and the strategic relationship between the two countries.

In fact, this time the relationship is expected to deliver deeper cooperation beyond defense and the economy, on issues of climate change in particular.

Khan shares the vision of the crown prince as set out in the recently announced Saudi Green and Green Middle East initiatives, which align with his government’s Clean and Green Pakistan initiative.

And, luckily, this promising moment in Saudi-Pakistan ties is occurring amid a favorable turnaround in regional geopolitics, marked by the Saudi olive branch to Iran, the end of the Qatar crisis, and the India-Pakistan cease-fire in Kashmir.

These developments surely open up the diplomatic space for Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to concentrate their joint efforts for economic development and regional stability.

Riaz Haq said...

Pak-Saudi reset
The countries have reiterated their resolve to graduate their relations to new heights

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have reiterated their resolve to graduate their relations to new heights, and agreed to work collectively on issues of regional and international concerns. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who was on a whirlpool visit to the Kingdom, to iron out the upcoming itinerary of Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammad bin Salman’s visit to Pakistan, took the opportunity to seek renewed investment in Pakistan, and assured that the country is striving to pull out of degeneration through forward-looking policies. Riyadh had been of great support in cushioning Pakistan’s economy in times of crisis. It has recently rolled over its $3 billion cash tranche for another year. Besides, the assistance in the wake of monsoon destruction is highly valued, and the PM made it a point to thank Royal leadership for their sustained generosity.

The visit will make way for Prince Salman’s visit to Islamabad next month, wherein he is scheduled to open new investment opportunities. Saudi Arabia has already signed MoUs and other protocols for over $20 billion investment in refinery and other power sector avenues, and the leadership will take a review of it, accordingly. Shehbaz also addressed the ‘Future Investment Initiative’ conference and underlined the importance of clean energy resources, as well as other multifaceted aspects that can be tapped bilater- ally. The Middle Eastern state is home to Pakistan’s biggest diaspora, and expatriates are the backbone of the economy who funnel in more than a billion dollars per month.

Shehbaz’s two-day sojourn has come at a time when Pakistan is passing through a critical phase of instability and economic hardship. The PM is scheduled to fly into China in the next couple of days, and it seems the visits are part of grand initiatives to pull the economy out of slumber, and kick-start a new phase of development. The rapidly evolving power equation in the region, especially in the backdrop of the Saudi-US tension, has poised a new fulcrum and Pakistan’s tilt is of immense importance on either side. This is where Islamabad’s proactive diplomacy counts, and is a tangible factor in realpolitik.

Riaz Haq said...

Top leaders of #Pakistan, #Iran inaugurate border #market in Pishin, #Balochistan, in their first meeting in 10 years. It's the first of 6 markets to be constructed along the Pakistan-Iran border under a 2012 agreement signed by the two sides.

Located in the remote village of Pashin in Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province, the marketplace is the first of six to be constructed along the Pakistan-Iran border under a 2012 agreement signed by the two sides.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi also inaugurated an electricity transmission line, which will provide some of Pakistan’s remote regions with Iranian electricity.

In a televised meeting, Sharif, sitting next to Raisi, assured him Pakistan would do its best to improve security along the Iranian border. He added that both sides agreed to enhance trade and economic ties, and extended an invitation to Raisi to visit the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Iran-Pakistani relations have been contentious because of cross-border attacks by Pakistani militants along their shared border.

Small separatist groups have been behind a long-running insurgency calling for Baluchistan’s independence from the central government in Islamabad. Pakistani anti-Iran militants have also targeted the Iranian border in recent years, increasing the friction between the two countries.

This is the first visit of its kind since 2013, when the two nations signed an agreement allowing Pakistan to import Iranian gas despite American opposition. Tehran at the time said that “the West has no right to block the project.” The agreement could not be implemented because of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Pakistan has close ties with Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia, but has tried to maintain a relationship with the predominantly Shiite Iran. Riyad and Tehran, long-time rivals, restored ties earlier this year in a Chinese-brokered agreement.