M. K. Bhadrakumar |
There is something obscene about anyone who held high positions in the government – for example, an Ambassador or an Army Chief – taking up a post-retirement job as an employee of a foreign government. Pakistan’s former army chief General Raheel Sharif should not have accepted the offer made by Saudi King Salman to appoint him as the head of a newly-formed Islamic Military Alliance.
The Saudis’ capacity to lure foreign elites is a legion.
It is common sense that the assignment would effectively make the Pakistani general a vassal of the House of Saud. What was the need for it? A Pakistani general is almost certainly a very wealthy man who really doesn’t need more money. And if Gen. Sharif had an insatiable itch to continue to fight terrorism till the end of his life, Pakistan itself provided ample opportunities.
A bribe to President Trump
Why Saudi Arabia? The only plausible answer is — avarice. The Saudis’ capacity to lure foreign elites is a legion. According to reports, Salman gave away to US President Donald Trump personal gifts alone worth $1.2 billion. One heavy sword made of pure gold and studded with diamond stones weighing 25 kilograms alone was worth $200 million. Then, there is this 125-meter long yacht, which is apparently the world’s tallest personal yacht, with 80 rooms with 20 royal suites.
Read more: Pakistan Govt. rethinking red lines over the military alliance after Saudi Summit
Maybe, the yacht is useful for Trump’s escapades, but what will he do with a 25 kg sword? Obviously, Salman was bribing Trump. As quid pro quo, Salman probably expects Trump to close the file on the 9/11 attacks and drop the idea of seeking compensation for the victims’ families under the US legislation known as Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.
Of course, Saudis do not have to give away such lavish gifts to the elites in Pakistan (or India). A Mont Blanc ballpoint pen, Rolex wrist watch, an odd job for the nephew or son-in-law – that generally does the trick. To be sure, by Pakistani standards, Gen. Sharif must be getting a fat salary.
The Saudi intention is to rally Sunni Muslim countries and create a phalanx against Shi’ite Iran.
However, the amazing part is that the Pakistani government gave him an exceptional ‘No Objection Certificate’ to take up such an assignment. The Pakistani leadership would have known that the Saudis had a certain agenda in creating the Islamic Military Alliance. The Saudi intention is to rally Sunni Muslim countries and create a phalanx against Shi’ite Iran. No matter the gloss put on the IMA being an anti-terror enterprise, the alliance’s Iran orientation was crystal clear.
The Pakistani press reported that Iran’s ambassador in Islamabad Mehdi Honardoost called on army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in Rawalpindi twice during the month of April alone to convey Tehran’s disquiet over Sharif’s appointment. But the government remained impassive.
Read more: Why is Pakistan reconsidering its role in the Islamic Military Alliance
The alliance will fight Iran in secret collaboration with Israel.
The birds are now coming to roost. One outcome of Trump’s visit to Riyadh last week is that the Islamic Military Alliance now stands pretty naked as a Sunni Muslim alliance to fight Iran. Not only that, the alliance will fight Iran in secret collaboration with Israel. The Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has bragged in a media interview,
“We will not wait for the war to be waged on Saudi soil. We will make sure that the war is waged in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia.”
Now, this is all spinning out of control. Imagine Gen. Sharif landing the IMA troops in Badar-e-Bushehr and leading the charge of the light brigade to Shiraz and Esfahan and on to Tehran to overthrow the Iranian regime. Therefore, it is not at all surprising that Gen. Sharif is reportedly developing cold feet and is contemplating to resign from his job and return to Pakistan.
Even if that is not the case, Pakistani leadership should order him to return home. It will be extremely damaging to Pakistan’s interests any which way one looks at it if it gets entangled in the Saudi-Iranian tensions. As the African proverb says, ‘When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets hurt’.
The really bizarre part of it is that Trump’s rhetoric about Iran is all baloney. Trump is a bluff master. He will now walk away laughing with the sword and the yacht.
M. K. Bhadrakumar has served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for over 29 years, with postings as India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998) and to Turkey (1998-2001). He writes extensively in Indian newspapers, Asia Times and the “Indian Punchline”. This piece was first published in Indian Punchline. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.