The ‘Trumping’ of the Iran nuclear deal has had the effect of setting back the hopes of the recovery of what was fast becoming a festering sore. Sages have, over the ages, pointed to the harmful effects of ‘jumping to conclusions’; Trumping to conclusions is proving to be just as dangerous, if not a tad more so. A discreet look over the shoulder at the recent history of the region may not be out of order.
Ever since Putin’s visit to Iran, coupled with the message conveyed by the participants of the summit of the five riparian Caspian Sea countries, there appears to have been a profound impact on the complexion of the ground realities of the region. President Putin was understandably concerned about the imprint he would be leaving on the pages of the history of his country and of the region. He was also extremely sensitive to any attempt to belittle the role of the Russian Federation in the affairs of the region that was once the hinterland of the erstwhile Soviet Union. Putin, consequently, has tried his utmost to raise the profile of the Russian Federation and to reassert its great-power independence.
It may be worthwhile recalling that during his visit to Tehran, President Putin had made it amply clear that Russia would be dead against a replay of the (Iraq) bloodbath in the Middle East. He had put it across plainly and unambiguously that, more than any other world power, Russia continued to have an abiding interest in keeping stability on its southern border. He made it clear to Washington that Russia would not look kindly at any military adventure against Iran. He also warned any regional state against offering facilities to the United States. Putin’s message was clear as he added, “We should not even think of making use of force in the region. Not only should we reject the use of force but also the mention of (the use of) force as a possibility.”
We in the Land of the Pure would do well to take notice of the turn of events. It goes without saying that, as a neighbour and long-standing friend of Iran, Pakistan had been genuinely concerned about the deteriorating situation due to the nuclear stand off between Iran and the Western world. The Nuclear Accord, therefore, had come as a welcome respite, only to be ‘Trumped’ by the trigger-happy US President.
The turn of events cut short the breathing space afforded to Pakistan to fine-tune its policy vis-à-vis the nuclear stand-off between the United States and Iran. At the same time, this afforded Israel an added impetus to pop-up out of the box ideas regarding the ‘containment’ of the Iranian nuclear programme. It goes without saying that Iran has the right to the peaceful use of nuclear power, which ‘right’ is once again in the melting pot!
On its part, Pakistan would do well to realise that it has an obligation towards the maintenance of peace in this region. Already embroiled in America’s open-ended ‘war on terror’, Pakistan can ill-afford another conflagration near to its borders. By the by, as the largest single contributor to United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world, Pakistan is also an active member of the United Nations Peace Building Commission that is charged with proposing integrated strategies for post conflict peace building and recovery. This policy is – or at least should be – a testimony to Pakistan’s commitment to work for peace and harmony and not only in our immediate neighbourhood. Whether our diplomats can turn this into an advantage remains to be seen.
This said, it needs no reminding that the situation in the Middle East is fast deteriorating. Every passing day brings with it forebodings of even more dangerous developments. The situation is like tinder and the least provocation could set it ablase. There is already the extreme danger posed by the widespread terrorism and extremism. To these dangers has been added the threat of such desperate acts as suicide bombings. The urgent need for settling the festering conflicts within the region can hardly be over-emphasised.
Recent and not so recent developments in Afghanistan and the compulsion to prop up the Northern Alliance prior to partial withdrawal was another reason for the United States to ‘mend its fences’ with Iran. President Trump’s shoot-from-the -hip approach has had the unsettling effect of dumping everything back into the melting pot. An already tense world is waiting with bated breath for what new rabbit President Trump may pull out of his over-size hat!
The turn of events may well lead to the re-emergence of Russia as a leading player on the chessboard of the political arena in this part of the world. Given the somewhat lackadaisical – and self-defeating – record of the sole superpower and its cohorts so far, the emergence of the Russian Federation as a leading player may not be seen by the regional forces as such a bad portent after all.
Our mandarins may need to have a second look at all the paradigms about the power politics in this region. For all we know, there may be imperative need to discard the existing ones and draw them up anew. It is a matter of regret that some commentaries in the media have been based on the assumption that a US ‘attack’ on Iran may be imminent. This assessment would appear in many ways to be unwarranted. There should be no reason at all to assume the worst. But then, in the age of Trump, one never knows!
— The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.