Putting forth our point of view amicably, logically
Pakistan would do well to take a leaf from Iran’s diplomatic ledger and learn a thing or two. Let us look at some interesting facts. Efandiar Rahim Mashaie, a candidate leading the Presidential race since the very first ballot, was out when division was created in the ranks of Council of Guardians of the Constitution and Rohani elected in his place. Efandiar Rahim Mashaie was the head of Intelligence Service. LA Times reports, “Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, was not only his top advisor but also an in-law and comrade during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war. He will retain his lesser posts. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who wields the ultimate power in Iran, intervened in 2009 to prevent Mashaei from serving as first vice president, a role that would have put him next in line as head of the government.”(April 9, 2011)
The National Review claims, “Rouhani is Khamenei’s agent but with a smile and style he’s now hailed as the face of Iranian moderation. Why? Because Rouhani wants better relations with the West. James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, had testified in Congress that only Khomeni could decide as one man whether Iran should build nuclear weapons. The Ayotullah is said to have issued a fatwa against development of nuclear weapons. Foreign Policy reported, “Iran argues that it has rejected nuclear weapons as incompatible with Islam and cites a fatwa of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as proof. …the issue is really governed by Shiite Islamic principles. Khomeini ruled out development of chemical and biological weapons as inconsistent with Islam,” Rafighdoost said.” (Rafighdoost was Khomeni’s bodyguard and head of his security detail. He was also a founding member of the IRGC) Published October 14, 2014.
Iran has finally broken the shackles of the deadlock that was holding down the nuclear deal talks after years of dedicated diplomatic strategy encompassed in diplomatic tactics. The sanctions have badly damaged the country. Tehran’s role in Middle East reconstruction becomes prominent in this backdrop of a changing relationship between both nations. Yemen is a hot potato. Javed Zarif, Iranian Foreign Minister’s visit to Islamabad and concurrence to resolve conflict in Yemen diplomatically is an acknowledgement of the prominent role Pakistan can play in bringing about such a settlement.
UAE has slammed Pakistan’s role to offer diplomatic support to settle Yemen’s issue in a resolution by the Parliament, which it deemed as being neutral. According to Al Monitor, “Salman specifically wanted a Pakistani military contingent to deploy to the Kingdom to help defend the vulnerable southwest border with Zaydi Houthi-controlled north Yemen and serve as a trip-wire force to deter Iranian aggression. There is precedent for a Pakistani army expeditionary force in Saudi Arabia. After the Iranian Revolution, Pakistani dictator Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq deployed an elite Pakistani armoured brigade to the Kingdom at King Fahd’s request to deter any threats to the country. In all, some 40,000 Pakistanis served in the brigade over most of a decade. Today only some Pakistani advisers and experts serve in the Kingdom.” Interestingly, coinciding with this scenario is the report that United States is speeding up arms supplies to the Saudi Arab to fight the Houthis. Interestingly, and paradoxically, the Houthis are an effective, and if I may add, the only check on the Al-Qaeda in Yemeni boundary. Interestingly too, whether Saudi Arabia wins or loses, it remains a win-win situation for USA.
‘This is a diplomatic tightrope for Pakistan. Our government will do well to remember that Pakistan shares no borders with Yemen and Saudi Arabia, that it is Yemen that has been invaded not Saudi Arabia and ‘if Pakistan intervenes militarily in any country it will be allowing others the right of hot pursuit within her border as well. Remember that India had threatened us with exercise of that right as America had done it in Iraq and Afghanistan though none of the two was its neighbours,’ says Wajid Shamsul Hasan, former High Commissioner of Pakistan to the United Kingdom. I could not agree with his opinion more. We all agree that Pakistan has suffered grievously from ‘war on terror’, yet here we are, contemplating to offer ourselves in another war. Even such contemplation in light of history is ludicrous. Understandably, Pakistan does not desire to irritate Arab tempers yet it simply cannot afford to jump into the fray militarily. Let me strongly state: declining to interfere militarily does not mean it is a claim to neutrality. Let me also state that this may turn out to be a prolonged conflict and should this be true, it will result in Yemini backlash at some point that will only bloom into something uglier.
Iran understands the need to strengthen ties with the west now, hence Rouhani’s call to Putin in which both leaders ‘exchanged views on the sharp deterioration of the situation in the Republic of Yemen. The Russian side stressed the urgency of an immediate cessation of hostilities and of stepping up efforts, including by the UN, to develop options for a peaceful settlement of the conflict.’
Delhi looks on, holding its breath with events unfolding, waiting for Pakistan to wade into the Gulf quagmire to claim the intervention in Yemen is a gross violation of international law. What a gleeful pleasure that would be for India and to Pakistan’s chagrin, being caught with both feet on the back foot. Here I will remind my readers of the earlier quoted opinion by Wajid Shamsul Hasan.
“Iran must not be happy over our overly friendly relations with Saudi camp, there must be groups in Afghanistan not happy with the same. India has always been itching to teach us a lesson for claimed cross-border terrorism and no action against Hafiz Saeed and Lakhvi,” says Wajid Shamsul Hasan.
Lest we forget, let me jog memories here that India and Iran signed an agreement in 2003. The “deal gives India the right to use Iranian military bases in the event of a war with neighbouring Pakistan, while India will provide Iran military hardware, training, maintenance and modernisation support.” (Global Beat Syndicate (KRT) March 3, 2003)
Alastair Crooke poses a thought provoking question in his piece: “But if the prospect of a Sunni coalition force does prove to be a chimera, and Yemen a Saudi failure, we shall surely see as a by-product more firing-up of jihadists in Syria and Iraq (the old remedy again).” (The WorldPost posted 04/06/2015)
Pakistan has one option: to throw its weight behind ensuring the diplomatic efforts to bear fruit. Half-hearted, tepid efforts will lead nowhere and spell trouble for Pakistan. The need of the hour is to ensure diplomatic efforts succeed. One suggestion here would be to use former President Mr Asif Ali Zardari as Special Emissary to Iran for this dispute, comments Manzar Qureshi, a leading political analyst from UK. With Iran’s newfound sense of diplomatic balance, this may well be a relatively easier task than handling Saudi Arabia who may feel short-changed by Pakistan. This of course is not true but playing independent when placing oneself in the role of a ‘Bakhshu’ can never be easy.
Second concurrent option for Pakistan is to ask Saudi Arabia to formally request UN or OIC countries to formulate strictly a ‘peacekeeping force’ to maintain the sanctity of the borders to be posted at Aden. This will help diffuse the volatile situation forcing the parties involved to come to the negotiation table.
Pakistan will do well to learn diplomacy from Iran. Put forth our point of view amicably, logically and diplomatically to our Saudi benefactors on one hand and work hard to bring a settlement to this issue as soon as possible on the other.