A bird’s eye view of the current Middle East (ME) situation makes for an extremely fascinating study. The ME is a veritable stew of super power ambitions gone awry, disastrous and failed military campaigns, excruciating terrorism, blatant attempts at regional dominance, conflicting spheres of influence, sectarianism and ill-considered attempts at imposing western style democracy on some very conservative people. The geostrategic and geopolitical paradigms remain unpredictable and dynamic. The overall regional environment is becoming even messier, more incomprehensible and intractable by the hour!
The study reveals a very nervous and apprehensive Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) making strong diplomatic and military moves to maintain domestic stability, safeguard its territorial integrity and to secure its interests in the region. It also sees Iran, despite multidimensional challenges, making moves on the same geopolitical chessboard to acquire an even more ascendant position there. Were Iran to acquire the sort of influence it is allegedly seeking in Yemen then both oil and trade choke points of Hormuz Straits and Bab el Mandab/Suez Canal would virtually fall under its control with the concomitant leverages at the regional and global levels.
The US-Israel led West however, appears to be prowling in the shadows, as usual, waiting for the right moment to strike, exploit and benefit from this contrived battle for dominance between the Arab and the Ajami (Persian).
The main beneficiary of this middle-eastern imbroglio will be the US-Israel combine. In the 1980s, the world had seen Iran and Iraq in a mutually destructive war which decimated their power potentials drastically. Are we going to witness another episode of Muslim versus Muslim war where both belligerents will again be encouraged and supported by the same western powers?
Further, the Arab Spring movement supported by the West failed to usher in an era of western style democracy in the Middle East and North Africa. Is this then a deep manoeuver by the US-Israel led West to exploit the Shia-Sunni divide to its abiding benefit? Is Shiite-Islam going to be the sword used to slay these Sunni/Wahabi Arab monarchies and replace them with western style democracies once and for all? Starting off from the South in Yemen, is it intended to sweep up north and take the KSA and all other GCC countries in its stride? Will the Houthi rebellion in Yemen instigate the Shiite majorities in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia’s oil rich eastern and north eastern provinces to rise up against their monarchies? Will this lead to democracy in the Arabian Peninsula/GCC or to utter mayhem as witnessed in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and so on? Is Iran becoming an unwitting tool of the crafty US-Israel led West in the demolition of these Arab monarchies and the imposition of western style democracies in their place? Is Iran next?
Is the Islamic world not alive to this probability? Should it not unite and move to forestall it? Democracy, desirable as it might be, must evolve willingly from within the public, the proletariat; it must not be thrust or imposed upon it!
The KSA is clearly facing enormous domestic and external challenges at the geopolitical and geostrategic levels and has sought Pakistan’s help in overcoming them. It feels threatened and overawed by the diplomatic and geopolitical manoeuvers of Iran in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and now Yemen. It feels claustrophobic as if caught in a double pincer movement with Iran’s influence and presence in Iraq in the north-north east and Yemen in the south. Any upheaval in Shiite majority Bahrain would threaten its stability as well and may encourage the Shiite population in its own oil rich eastern and north eastern provinces to rise against the Saudi monarchy.
Pakistan must approach this situation from the national point of view, completely shunning all sectarian angles and personal debts of gratitude. It must follow a balanced two pronged policy engaging both the KSA as well as Iran. If it decides to send troops to the KSA then it must assure Iran that it (Pakistan) will be cognitive of its (Iran’s) sensitivities as well. Supporting KSA should not necessarily translate into opposing Iran!
Pakistan has a few options available to it. First, it can act as a bridge between the two belligerents and try to stabilize and resolve the issue without any further resort to arms. Pakistan must endeavour to see the issue in the correct perspective of regional dominance rather than a sectarian one. It then must be approached and resolved accordingly. Second, it must seek the good offices of the Arab League, OIC and the UN for constructive intervention; failing which, third, Muslim countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Bangla Desh et al must take it upon themselves to collectively engage both parties, mediate and ensure peace and stability in the region.
Fourth, if Pakistan eventually decides to send troops to KSA then it must be seen and portrayed as an attempt to stabilize the regional situation rather than being partisan. Pakistani troops’ roles must be well defined and restricted to within the borders of the KSA. Period. Their main purpose ought to be to bring stability within the kingdom and the region. Their presence must act as a deterrent and forestall all ill-considered moves at the domestic and regional levels to destabilize the kingdom and it’s Government. Pakistan must try to further increase the capacity of the Saudi forces to deal with the situation through extensive joint training opportunities.
The presence of Pakistani forces in KSA will have manifold benefits. First, it will help stabilize the regional and domestic situation in KSA. Second, their presence will also halt further schisms within Islam by foreclosing all exploitations of Shiite Islam to demolish all Sunni/Wahabi monarchies on the Arabian Peninsula. Third, they will forestall attempts to force democracy on to the people of the region which must essentially sprout from the free will of the people themselves. Fourth, it will act as a deterrent to any misadventures at the domestic and regional levels. And finally it would firmly reinforce the abiding Pakistan-KSA bonds.