Some observers believe that the sectarian schism within the ranks of Islam widened, as the Iranian revolution embraced Shia political ideology, as the central pillar of state and society, providing Iran with an extraterritorial handle, to intervene in the entire region.

This privilege was previously monopolised, and jealously guarded, by the Saudi monarchy, on behalf of mainstream Islam.

But in actual fact, geopolitics in the broader region has, for over a century, been defined by armed conflicts, and ethnic-religious wars, military interventions, and quest for domination, over either neighbours or resources, or both.

The sectarian-religious conflicts of today, and the rise of a kind of violent extremism never before evident in mainstream Islam, is the combined result of foreign military intervention, and imploding authoritarian orders, within the region.

As destabilisation spread, it highlighted the failure of existing political systems to reform and restructure. Added to this, was the absence of any framework to address intra regional disputes, and issues.

In particular, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) failed to provide the intellectual basis for a rational religious-sectarian discourse, coupled with geopolitical engagement between contenders like Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Nor did it formulate, or recommend, effective countermeasures against the rising tide of violence and extremism, represented by the emergence, and exponential growth of the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and now, ISIS in recent years.

The dependence of many Muslim states, on foreign military support, together with their backing for extremist ideologies, non-state actors, and violent proxies, has only exacerbated matters, making it even more difficult to find viable solutions and making foreign military interventions, more, not less likely.

Among other things, it has allowed Israel to consolidate its grip over occupied Palestinian territories.

In the existing strategic environment, multiple axes, sectarian. Jihadist, and territorial, criss-cross the entire region, rendering it in a state of permanent flux.

In this context, the resolution of the Iranian nuclear question, has apparently led to some normalisation of its political and economic ties with the international community, but has simultaneously heightened mistrust between Iran and its neighbours. This particular fallout of the nuclear accord has rendered existing conflicts even more vexed, confronting the region with a perfect storm of challenges.

While the UN offers hope for an ultimate settlement of the Syrian conflict, there is unfortunately no framework currently in place, to address the wider ideological and sectarian divide. Without this, the leading players continue to be prompted to use their state, and non-state allies, to manipulate religion in order to advance their regional and geopolitical interests.

Falling oil prices, and the inability of the United States, at least for now, to decisively intervene in the way it did in the past, may yet lead to realisation among major actors, and their foreign backers, that they need to step back from the precipice. None of them currently has the capacity, the capability, or the legitimacy, to prevail, and it is acceptance of this reality, that could create space for disengagement, and compromise.

For its part, Pakistan has also played whatever role it could, in trying to defuse the growing crisis. However, the combination of cards it holds is not necessarily the best, and the protagonists are not yet militarily or economically exhausted, which alone would allow them to display flexibility in their respective positions. Also, Pakistan’s goodwill with Iran is limited at best.

Therefore, hopes that Pakistan’s effort will succeed in bridging a hiatus which has many dimensions, geopolitical as much as religious-ideological were not in keeping with existing realities.