- Reneging on Iran Nuclear Deal
“Pakistan is twin target of American policy towards Iran and Pakistan’s nuclear programme. Trump’s success in tackling North Korean has given him confidence to be more reckless. Pakistan must put its own house in order; we must not create new fissures to give space to outsiders to take advantage,” says Wajid Shamsul Hasan, former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK.
Pakistan is understandably upset at the unilateral move by US. The negative impact of scrapping the deal will have a spillover effect on bilateral engagements/agreements between Iran and Pakistan. This includes the gas pipeline project between the two, which will go in further delay.
Pakistan’s position is prickly to say the least. Pakistan is looking towards a bailout from China ad Saudi Arabia to cover the country’s external account deficit in 2018-9 budget instead of asking the IMF. These ‘friendly’ countries have been asked to supply with $6 to $8 billion in form of cash grants. Saudi Arab can grant cash grants or oil at deferred payments.
US and Pakistan’s fallout has been taking place surely but gradually under Trump. The difference is based on differing approaches to regional issues. In an announcement to US to limit movement of Pakistani diplomats in US in the third week of April 2018, it is interesting that the response from Pakistan’s foreign office has come on heels of US decision to walk out of Iran Nuclear deal on May 11, 2018, “Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said that the restrictions will be implemented on May 11 and these will be on a reciprocal basis.” (Local newspaper May 11, 2018)
“So far the Americans are using soft tactics such as restricting movement of our diplomats. They have nothing much to lose. However, they are tightening their noose on us. And their target obviously is our nuclear programme. Regretfully, our foreign policy failures have allowed deeper US, Indian collaboration while even China has conceded a bigger role to India in Afghanistan,” argues Wajid Shamsul Hasan.
The reneging of the deal by America can lead to a conflict involving Israel and Russia. If Iran goes for producing nuclear materials, Saudi Arabia will not likely take it lying down
Statement by former disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s admittance (as being stated) regarding Pakistan in Mumbai attack that has made headline news can create a boomerang effect for Pakistan in a volatile international landscape that is already hostile at man levels. Quote: “Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?” — a reference to the Mumbai attacks-related trials which have stalled in a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court.” (Dawn May 12th, 2018)
Pakistan has to make a decision which may well be unavoidable this once. Whether to go ahead with Saudi Arabia’s diktat and by doing so, also go ahead with the sticky, uncomfortable ‘alliance’ with US or stand with the European allies and Iran. Pakistan will have to weigh her options. US will continue creating issues to try stop China advancement in the region including successful completion of CPEC projects to which Pakistan’s military is totally committed — or toe the line from Saudi Arabia.
If Pakistan takes a walk now, it will be pushing her towards Beijing. Pakistan knows that Trump does not understand the finer points of regional concern Pakistan has, supporting and strongly encouraging India to increase presence in Afghanistan.
Though there is confusion in Pakistan as to the exact line of action to take in light of US leaving the Iran Nuclear Deal — the politicians too much involved in the forthcoming elections, leaving the burden on bureaucracy and other players, the vibes one gets is a ‘wait and see policy’ with a hesitation to break the alliance cleanly. This has a lot to do with putting all eggs in one basket and the fear of not just eventually stepping away but also annoying Saudi Arabia. This may well lead to a continuation of an increasingly poisonous relationship to the detriment of Pakistan’s national interests.
In January of 2018, Trump had issued an ultimatum, threatening to pull out if European allies or Congress failed to “fix the deal’s disastrous flaws.” However, the renewed agreement with the allies sought by Trump aimed to exclude Iran insisted upon by the European allies and UN that all parties must be included.
In March 2018, Pentagon’s top commander from Middle East had told the Congress that Iran’s ability to support proxies in the region has stepped up after the gains made in Syrian civil war by Bashar al-Assad.
Further, Pentagon had prepared itself for any negative cascading effect as an outcome of this decision. Roughly 5,000 US troops in Iraq and 2,000 US troops in Syria were beefed up by aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman in the Eastern Mediterranean.
US military seems to have determined the future course of action. A three-front opposition is in order to stop Russia and China geopolitically in the Middle East, Asia as well as in Europe. “Great power competition, not terrorism, has emerged as the central challenge to US security and prosperity,” claimed Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist while releasing the Pentagon’s $686 billion budget request in January. “It is increasingly apparent that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian values and, in the process, replace the free and open order that has enabled global security and prosperity since World War II.” (Michael Clare April 4, 2018)
The step taken by Trump relies heavily on breaking Iran’s back by creating economic issues. However, getting out of the deal will lead to Iran producing nuclear materials sans checks. Saudi Arab and Israel have gleefully reacted to Trump’s decision which they thought legitimised Iran’s present clerical set-up. On the other hand in his statement Obama said: “Without the JCPOA, the United States could eventually be left with a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East.”
The reneging of the deal by America can lead to a conflict involving Israel and Russia. If Iran goes for producing nuclear materials, Saudi Arabia will not likely take it lying down.
Iran has smartly avoided a knee jerk reaction. A tweet by Javed Zariff states: “In response to US persistent violations and unlawful withdrawal from the nuclear deal, as instructed by President Rouhani, I’ll spearhead a diplomatic effort to examine whether remaining JCPOA participants can ensure its full benefits for Iran. Outcome will determine our response.”
For Pakistan it is crucially important to review the situation in the long run to safeguard her national interests. Can she afford to delay taking the decision?