How far will Pakistan support Iran?
Ranbir Singh (Hindu Human Rights Group)
In the Dawn Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Britain Wajid Shamsul Hasan has warned that Pakistan would be compelled to support Iran if Israel attacks it. Iran’s nuclear programme has been causing alarm for some time now in America and Europe. Although President Ahmadinejad claims this is for peaceful purposes he has not convinced western countries who see another dictator stockpiling weapons of mass destruction just as Saddam Hussein did in Iran’s erstwhile foe and neighbour of Iraq. In this case there is far less case of ambiguity regarding weapons of mass destruction. A nuclear Iran will be a serious threat. Ahmadinejad has been candid about his intentions to wipe Israel, a country he does not even recognise, off the map. He therefore openly threatens the Jewish people with a new Holocaust, something which is made even worse when we realise that Ahmadinejad does not even recognise the Shoah even took place, having hosted a conference in Tehran to openly promote revisionism: one of the few places that pseudo-academics such as former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke can actually be taken seriously.
Beyond that Iran also threatens Russia, Europe and possibly India. High Commissioner Hasan’s comments may not be altogether surprising given the country’s inbred hostility to Israel. But this may be complicated by its close relation with Shia Iran’s traditional rival for superpower status in the Islamic world, namely staunchly Sunni Saudi Arabia. Hailed initially by naïve do-gooders as the Arab Spring, the revolutions which have toppled Gaddafi as well as the pro-western despots of Ben Ali and Mubarak can now with hindsight be clearly seen for what they were: the exploitation of the Facebook generation westernised liberal youth as useful idiots for Salafist forces backed by hard cash from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The imminent overthrow of Pashar Assad will lead to an implosion of sectarian conflict. Unlike its more homogenous neighbours, Sunni majority Syria has sizeable minorities of Kurds, Christians, Alawites and Shia. Saudi has often posed as an ally of the west so that it can earn favourable American military backing, always using the weapon of last resort by threatening to cut the oil supply off as it did in 1973 with consequences that haunt the world to this day. But as has been witnessed the masses in even seemingly totalitarian states are restive and Saudi has feared Iran stoking unrest among its disenfranchised masses, especially the Shia who are the most poverty stricken part of the native population despite residing in the main oil producing areas.
Hatred of Israel vies with the odium against India and now increasingly the western democracies as the weak glue which holds the despotic regimes of the Middle East and Pakistan together. While Hasan’s threats should be taken seriously they should also be seen in the light of an internal cold war between Iran and Saudi, with the latter enjoying new vassals in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, to add to its axis with Pakistan, Kuwait and Qatar. As such it will brook no rivals. It remains to be seen if Pakistan will toe the line of its colonial masters in Riyadh or back its Shia rival. Either way it does not bode well for democracy in the region nor the precarious status of non-Muslim and ethnic minorities. Israel’s existence remains in the balance until Saudi can jettison the axis of inconvenience with the west as it becomes increasingly bold and brazen to decide that the Jewish homeland must disappear forever.