Abdul Rahim |
The United States of America is the master of designing mini great games in the Islamic world, to secure its national interests, like all other great powers of the past.
Nevertheless, there are indications of a possible fading position of the US in the Muslim world; which is a threat to its regional and global influence. The developing ties between Russia and China, and the Muslim states – especially Turkey and Saudi Arabia- are not in favor of the US. It is in light of this the Alliance role becomes even more nefarious.
Islamic Military Alliance: Securing US’s interests?
In this situation, the US and India will play geostrategic and geopolitical games in the region. Proxy-ism and sectarianism will be heated up in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and also Pakistan.
The Islamic Military Alliance of 37 (IMA-37) will strengthen the position of US in the region, through its influence over the Saudis and other GCC countries. The IMA-37 will enable the US to continue playing a role in the region, that was otherwise waning, a role that will be both political and economic. Geopolitical influence of the US on the Islamic countries will increase, placing it in a better position to keep a check on both Russia and China in this region. Its defense industry will also benefit, from selling more weapons to the IMA-37, helping to keep some of those promises made by Mr. Trump about creating more jobs for Americans.
Read more: Prospects of China’s mediation with Saudi Arabia and Iran; Where Pakistan fits in?
Stressed Saudi-Iran Relations
The relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran were never too friendly and with the IMA-37, the relations are under even more pressure. The historical, cultural and ethnic conflict between these two Muslim States has now become a sectarian conflict engulfing the whole Muslim world. Saudi Arabia is playing the same game as Iran did during the 1960s and 70s and is now once again in the good books of the USA, after troubled relations under Obama Administration, which does not bode well for the Iranians going forward.
Tehran has neither friendly ties with Islamabad nor Riyadh. In this situation, it leaves the field open to Indians with implicit US support to play geostrategic games in the region. Proxy-ism and sectarianism will be further ramped up in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and Pakistan. It helps to secure US interests in Yemen and Syria and Indian interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The alliance stated aims are to focus on anti-terrorist activities, to crush the evil of terrorism in the Muslim world, irrespective of the sects. But, the exclusion of Shiite States, strengthens the prevailing belief that it is a Sunni Alliance. Iran’s serious concerns in this regard, are justified because it knows that Saudi Arabia will never let any opportunity go to destabilize Tehran.
The US wants to play the role of a catalyst that would definitely increase controversies among the Sunni and Shia Muslim States in the world.
Saudi Arabia, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Ummah, wants to use this Islamic military alliance to stabilize KSA’s political hegemonic role in the Muslim world. Pakistan’s all-out support to Saudi Arabia on most occasions has pushed Iran towards India. The construction of Chabahar port and strengthening ties of India with Iran, are serious and threatening for Pakistan’s regional position and stability.
Read more: Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary assures Parliament that Islamic military alliance not against Iran
Pakistan and Iran
Pak-Iran relations have never been good since after the Shah’s overthrow and in fact deteriorated rapidly after the 1980’s sectarian clashes. The construction of Chahbahar port financed by India and the arrest of RAW agent Kulbushen Yadav has kept the two countries relations stressed.
The arrival of President Hassan Rohani on ECO event to Pakistan appeared optimistic, but Pakistan’s decision to be part of the military alliance and appointment of General Raheel Sharif to lead it may draw a clear line of demarcation between Pak-Iran ties. Pakistan is heading towards losing any potential for good relations with an important neighbor.
Pakistan’s decision to join IMA-37 is inexpedient. Tehran has serious concerns over this alliance. The exclusion of Shia States can lead to further conflicts in the Muslim world.
Would Islamic Military Alliance bring peace and unity?
The conflicts between Sunni and Shia military forces in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and the other Middle Eastern States are actually the proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran to counter each other.
Will the appointment of General Raheel Sharif as the head of IMA-37 (Islamic military alliance) bring Iran and Saudi Arabia closer to each other?
The Iran-Saudi rivalry is not new. It is deeply rooted in the blood of Persians and Arabs.
Read more: Iran’s Strategic Move: Reveals its “Reservations” over the “Islamic Military Alliance”; What Next?
The Islamic military alliance headed by former Pakistani COAS General Raheel Sharif will face challenges reducing the gaps between Tehran and Riyadh. Both Saudi Arabia and Iran have been fighting proxy wars against each other since the 1970s. No doubt, the conflicts between Sunni and Shia military forces in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and the other Middle Eastern States are actually the proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran to counter each other.
Pakistan always plays risky and unpredictable games when it comes to the Muslim world. The deteriorated ties of Pakistan with the Shia Muslim States are due to Pakistan’s full on support to Saudi Arabia and like-minded states.
Options for Pakistan
Pakistan must consider the concerns of the immediate neighboring states before taking any important decision at the regional level. Unfriendly Iran will not be helpful to Pakistan, given its already negative relations with Afghanistan and India. India will no doubt go on to cash the situation to enhance her friendly ties with Iran, which is what Chahabar is all about.
Read more: Pakistan Army engagement in the Middle East: Walking a fine line between Saudi Arabia & Ian
Iran has expressed its clears reservations on the military alliance to Pakistan. Pakistan would do well to stay detached from the conflict in the Middle East and not jump into an existing fire in hopes of dousing it.
Abdul Rahim has completed his M. Phil degree with a focus on Talibanization and Imperialist Designs in 21st Century at International Islamic University, Islamabad. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.