Ramifications of a U.S.-Iran interim ‘honeymoon’ for Pakistan

Mansoor Jafar

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The U.S. and its ‘allies’ finally forced Iran to give up its decades old pursuit of nuclear technology and rollback its nuclear program after a dramatic signing of an interim agreement with U.S. and five other nuclear powers. Tehran was probably compelled to ‘surrender’ its right to nuclear technology after prolonged sanctions and the changing ground realities in the region.

Although Tehran announced a temporary halt of its nuclear program and assured the rolling back its major atomic assets, it was smart enough not to hand over its nuclear installations, enriched uranium, other nuclear fuels to the U.S. like Muammar Qaddafi of Libya did shortly before he was dethroned and killed by rebel forces.

Iran’s surrender of its nuclear program sent alarm bells ringing in the only nuclear power of the Muslim world, Pakistan, which is likely to face demands and pressure to sign an Iran-like deal with the Western nuclear powers. Some international observers have begun suggesting the U.S. to force Pakistan to sign such a deal.

Preparing the ground to achieve this objective weeks ahead of the signing of the interim agreement between Iran and world powers, Western media was hit by headlines suggesting that Pakistan’s nuclear program was an outcome of Saudi Arabian investment and Riyadh can call back its nuclear assets anytime.

Although Islamabad vehemently denied that Saudi Arabia funded its nuclear program, the timing of publishing such malicious news reports warrants serious action on the part of Islamabad, especially after the P5+1 deal.

Ruler record

Ironically, the record of Pakistani rulers says they have always been more than willing to serve the U.S. government in all its demands – whether justified or unjustified. The agreement apparently puts Iran in a difficult situation with its tough conditions that warrant re-imposing of sanctions if Iran makes a slight violation.

It also required that Iran have one hundred percent compliance of the conditions, without which the deal will not be considered as implemented. This interim agreement, also dubbed as diplomatic honeymoon by various quarters, is yet another U.S. invention and a new model which can be used against other nuclear powers and those countries vying to acquire nuclear technology.

Pakistan is a unique country which has had had a series of spineless rulers for the last few decades who secretly surrendered the country’s vital assets and territories for the sole purpose of protecting their rule

Mansoor Jafar

Pakistan is a unique country which has had had a series of spineless rulers for the last few decades who secretly surrendered the country’s vital assets and territories for the sole purpose of protecting their rule. Islamabad even allowed drone attacks on its territories under a secret agreement made by former military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf. The deal, which also included the sharing of information about the results of drone attacks with Islamabad was kept totally concealed by his ruling partners and successors, and was only revealed by U.S. officials and Wiki leaks.

When Asif Zardari, widower of former twice-premier Benazir Bhutto, succeeded Pervez Musharraf as president, he also allowed the drone attacks deal to continue. During his first visit to Washington, Zardari was quoted as saying during the meeting with CIA chief Michael Hayden that he was not concerned about the collateral damage, but that the drone attacks should keep targeting the terrorists. I won’t be surprised over the revelation that any past Pakistani ruler or top official had already leaked highly sensitive secret information regarding the country’s nuclear program to U.S. officials.

Long-term agreement

In an interesting development, the Afghan Loya Jirga (grand assembly) approved the long-term U.S. agreement with Afghanistan. The deal allowed the U.S. to leave behind several thousand Marines, contractors, CIA officials and state department employees in Afghanistan after its partial withdrawal from the country next year. These U.S. officials would be exempted from any accountability, arrests, legal action and laws of the land. Sadly for him, President Hamid Karzai, who is going to retire in a few months after completion of his term, had tried in vain to defer the agreement till the next elections.

There are strong fears that the U.S. army – which will station about ten bases in Afghanistan after 2014 – will work on controlling and accessing Pakistani nuclear installations. Washington has already given India a major role as its ally in post-withdrawal Afghanistan. Delhi has set up many installations inside Afghanistan causing serious concerns among the Pakistani establishment.

Islamabad should not remain overly obsessed with the hope that by following the U.S.-Iran deal, Washington would withdraw its objections to the Iran-Pakistan Gas pipeline deal, providing energy-starved Islamabad a relief. There are oblique chances of joining India’s gas pipeline deal, which it gave up due to U.S. pressure a couple of years back. However, it is yet to be seen if Pakistan could rake in some benefits for itself out the U.S.-Iran deal.

Pakistan is quite disturbed over the reports that Delhi was also a key but behind-the-scene player in the U.S.-Iran deal. There is a firm likelihood that Iran can provide U.S. and NATO forces a much safer and cheaper supply line than Pakistan. Such a situation will also damage Pakistan’s strategic position as the only route to connect Afghanistan and the Central Asian republics to the Arabian Sea.

Safer routes

Iran’s strong infrastructure, railway system and land routes could prove much better and safer routes than those of Pakistan. The Iranian port of Chahar Bagh, 72 kilometers from Gwadar, can open new and shorter trade routes between India and Iran. This situation could result in a strong India-Iran-Afghanistan troika in the region that could obviously pose a serious threat to Pakistan’s strategic interests.

It is time Pakistani leadership wakes up and changes its priorities, in view of the fast changing regional situation. Banking only on the strategic importance and allowing the slogans of closing down NATO’s supply route may not prove fruitful any more under the prevailing circumstances.

Which country will become the next U.S. target after it has successfully engaged Iran? Has Pakistan will be affected from U.S.-Iran deal, or will it be the only Muslim nuclear power survive U.S. moves to clip the wings of the country’s nuclear technology?

Pakistan’s leadership appears unmindful about those questions.

Mansoor Jafar is Editor of Al Arabiya Urdu based in Islamabad. He can be reached via Twitter: @mansoorjafar

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.