Global politics is a complex web where one development can lead to many others, and one intervention to mitigate a conflict can expose the fissures of many other dormant conflicts. However, it always remains a hard task to find some direct relation between two distant and different conflicts and international interventions in those conflicts such as in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many authors have critically analysed and found some major flaws in the strategies adopted by the US and the West towards the Middle East and Afghanistan, which caused huge human sufferings and triggered multiple conflicts in both regions. The recently released Chilcot report, comprising the findings of the UK’s Iraq war inquiry, has discussed at length Tony Blair’s strategic ambitions about Iraq and how he manipulated Afghan invasion for another war in Iraq.
Hasan M. Sadiq in his book The End of the Great Game has tried to trace a direct link between these two wars. He thinks that these were part of a great game played out by the US whose real target was Pakistan.
A Pakistani-American and computer programmer by profession, Sadiq has tried to analyse a host of very complex issues including the Kashmir conflict, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the nuclear race between India and Pakistan, and pre- and post-9/11 relations between Pakistan and the US in his maiden publication comprising 16 chapters. He has attempted to connect the dots around his basic thesis that the US wanted to control the Middle East to ensure global hegemony, and Pakistan military and nuclear arsenal were major hurdles in achieving this objective; China entered the scene a bit later, distracting the US from its major goal.
Hasan M. Sadiq offers his perspective on the US’s global politics and policies towards Pakistan
He argues that since the first Gulf War, the US has been trying to ‘manage’ Pakistan with a view to ensure that it would not be able to provide military assistance to the Gulf states, in case of any conflict there. A new alliance of China, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan emerged in the region, which has become a hurdle in the way of the US great design. According to Sadiq, this alliance is gradually neutralising American influence not only in the Middle Eastern and South Asian regions but also in the rest of the world. To regain its influence, the US wanted to denuclearise Pakistan and to contain Pakistani defence spending. He also sees the conflict in Afghanistan, which he calls ‘war’ as part of the US strategy. He believes that “the main goal of the US war in Afghanistan, which has now lasted over 14 years, was to degrade Pakistan’s expanding nuclear program, which otherwise has the potential to threaten US hegemony over this vital energy-rich region of the world.”
Sadiq considers the US and Pakistan as vital actors in the regional chessboard and China as an emerging actor, which is also challenging the US hegemony in the region. The last chapter, which depicts the title of the book, provides an interesting viewpoint on what the author calls ‘the great game’. He points out that the US dependence on Middle Eastern oil and energy resources is decreasing but it still wants to control the Middle Eastern oil for geostrategic reasons, which include to prevent the Russians from gaining control of these reserves; control its own installed dictators in the Middle East; fuel the economies of the West by receiving cheap oil; deplete the energy resources of the Arabs to preserve its own energy resources; and bring to market its own energy resources and continue to control the geopolitics of the world from its own shores. Sadiq thinks the larger threat to these US policies in the Middle East is the increasing arsenal of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. He sees all international attempts for reduction of nuclear arms, as part of the US efforts to contain Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities, including the 2010 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty knows as New START signed by the US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
“In May 2001, China and Pakistan publicly announced the joint development of Gwadar port in southwest Pakistan. Gwadar, adjoining the Iranian sea border lies strategically on the waters of the Persian Gulf, also known as the Straits of Hormuz. It is across this strategic access from where most of the Middle East oil is supplied to the West, Japan, and China. If left unchecked by the U.S. this development can undermine its power not only in south Asia, but also in the Middle East. In addition, if U.S. intentions remain on track to control all the Middle East oil, as per my theory, then China with the help of Pakistan could position itself to fight against a U.S. imposed oil blockade from Gwadar port. China already knows how the US reacted when the Soviets marched into Afghanistan in 1979. Being the second largest consumer of oil, is China worried that the US plans to occupy all the Middle East oilfields? If indeed this is the reason why China has entered Gwadar, then there could be some truth to this worry.” — Excerpt from the book
One finds a frequent argument made in the book that Saudi Arabia and China are partners of Pakistan in order to subjugate the US efforts. This is the reason, the author argues, that Saudi Arabia always comes forth to support Pakistan when financial restrictions are imposed on it. Although the Saudis’ Afghanistan policy always remained mysterious and even difficult to predict, the author alludes to a speech made by Prince Turki al-Faisal in 2010 in which he said that Saudis do not want to give up on the Taliban. They will continue to support the interests of the Pakistanis against the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras, who form the Northern Alliance group and are supported by the US and India. Hence, he concludes that “it is highly unlikely that Pakistan would support any peace deal between the Taliban and the US, which denies the Taliban its full representation in any future Afghan government.”
As far as China is concerned in this equation, the author has put in Zbigniew Brzezinski’s words that China appears to be driven by its own interest of consolidating Pakistan “as a counterweight to India and to gain through it a more proximate and safer access to the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf.” Of course, this is not in the interest of the US which sees China’s growing economic, military power and partnership with Pakistan as a threat to its hegemony in the region. The writer sees proxy wars in Afghanistan and pressure on Pakistan’s western borders as a tactic to build pressure on Pakistan.
The book is a very frank commentary based on the feelings of a Pakistani expat in America. The author is not an academic by practice but he has tried to offer his analysis of the US’s global politics and policies towards Pakistan.
The reviewer is a security analyst. He is the Director of Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), Islamabad.
The End of the Great Game
By Hasan M. Sadiq
HMS Books, Pakistan
Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, September 18th, 2016