KARACHI: Power politics in the Middle East with a focus on Iran, Saudi Arabia and the superpowers was the main cause for concern among the participants in a round-table discussion held in the library of the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Saturday.
Dr Mohammad Moini, an academic from Iran, said that there have been tensions between Iran and the United States for many years but it has reached a turning point now. But he also said that the US no longer had it in them to go to war against any country.
“The US economy has become addicted to war, fighter crafts, drones and other weapons created by them for killing but raging war is not so easy for them anymore. When the US used to spend money on their military and development of weapons, their economy moved but another war means recession for them. Their economy would simply burst,” he said.
Speaking about the other side — his side — Dr Moini said that Iran, meanwhile, did not underestimate the firepower of the US.
‘A new world order is going to come up … whatever it is, it will be against the Muslim world’
Former ambassador Syed Hasan Habib said that the region can become very hot. “One wrong move by anyone can become fatal. But it is a complex situation. It remains to be seen if the US and Russia will commit all their resources in the conflict. I believe they are looking for some kind of symbolic but substantial action,” he said.
“But there is Iran, which is not making errors while Saudi Arabia is gung ho and ready for action. It has already punished Qatar. The underlying reason for it is also that Qatar has fossil fuels and gas and Saudi Arabia has oil, a resource that will decrease gradually. So there is also an inter-country rivalry in the region,” he pointed out.
“Pakistan has a relationship with all countries. Therefore, our options are limited. We can only issue statements based on morality,” he added.
General Sikander Hayat said that Pakistan is already overwhelmed with its own internal problems and now the latest tensions in the region were adding to them. He also said that the Muslim countries needed to stay united. “Soon a new world order is going to come up and we have to watch for it because whatever it is, it will be against the Muslim world,” he said.
Another academic, Dr Talat A. Wizarat, also said the future of the Muslim world as well as the entire world was at stake here. “If there is an attack on Iran, it won’t be an attack on just Iran but the entire region will be destroyed as a result. Thankfully, Iran has a good defence strategy. But if the US doesn’t attack Iran, it will be looking for other ways of hurting them,” she said.
“So Iran and Saudi Arabia should bury the hatchet in favour of the Muslim Ummah. If there is a need for a charter for regime change, it should be understood that it is exclusively to be directed by the people of a country and no other country should interfere in anyone’s internal affairs. There should be a functional cooperation between all,” she said.
Admiral Arif Humayun said that he was sure that America could attack Iran as it attacked Iraq and Afghanistan. “Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel all want this but President Trump also realises that the US will be used in a proxy war. But it is laughable when he says that he called off an attack at the last minute thinking of the loss of lives it may lead to. When does the US care about loss of life? But if they don’t take action, they will lose face so they might capture an Iranian ship in international waters instead of carrying out attacks. It is also good to see that Pakistan is playing its cards right in all this,” he said.
Mehdi Amir Jafari of the Iranian Consulate said that his county has always respected political solutions and initiatives. “Iran never starts a war but we have shown that we are not afraid of the US either. Saudi Arabia may want to finance war against Iran. But they should know that Iran is not Yemen. Instead why don’t they think of financing the economic situation of the Islamic world?” he said.
Dr Tanweer Khalid, honorary secretary at PIIA, said that diplomacy was of utmost importance here. “Diplomacy means dialogue where everyone’s concerns regarding the situation should be brought to the table. It is also understood that if the US won’t attack Iran, they will enforce more sanctions, which are crippling,” she said.
She also pointed out that in the instance that the US does attack anyone, they always do it on the grounds of morality. They say they are doing it either to defend human rights or promote democracy. Iran and Saudi Arabia should make sure things do not come to that,” she added.
Earlier, PIIA chairperson Dr Masuma Hasan said that they had gathered to discuss the tense situation in the Middle East as they are all scholars and researchers and want to use their scholarship to look at the problem and what could happen if matters worsen or war breaks out.
Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2019