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“Should Pakistan remain involved in the peace process between Saudi Arabia and Iran?”

In the last few years, especially since the outbreak of sectarian violence in Syria in early 2013, the Middle East has gradually moved towards a sectarian regional political order.The surge in sectarian fighting between Shi’ites and Sunnis in Iraq. Syria and Yemen, the proclamation of the Islamic state by Sunni militants in 2014 and the competition of power and dominance between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran have increasingly come to define and shape the current Middle Eastern political order.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are both muslim majority nations but relations prevailing between them have been affected mainly because of different geopolitical issues which are sectarianism which includes different interpretations and leadership issues over the Islamic world, oil export policy and relations with western countries such as US. After the Islamic revolution, relations between both the countries ran down because Iran indicted Saudi Arabia for having relations with US.
Iran wanted to adopt westernized culture which was opposed by the Saudis whereas on the other hand the king of Saudi thought that Islamic solidarity would be something that would actually make both of the countries unite.
The rebels in Yemen killed two Saudi guards which infused the Sunni government of Yemen. They accused Iran that the houthis shouldn’t have been armed due to which in retaliation Iran said that Saudi Arabia shouldn’t have intervened in the Shi’ite insurgency.
The PS+1 deal with Iran was hailed as one of the biggest success stories of diplomacy in the recent past but was met with ferocious criticism from Riyadh and Tel Aviv alike. They termed the deal as detrimental to the peace and stability of the region and would give Iran. The means to pursue its goal of building nuclear weapons. This development has left Saudi Arabia extremely paranoid as it sees the West moving closer to Iran. This paranoia has even led to an approachment between Riyadh and Tel Aviv signaling realigning of allies.
After the July 2014’s nuclear deal with Tehran. Many Western embargoes, including on oil experts, are due to be relaxed soon. Iran has been using this new found freedom by exerting itself in the region. Iran has provided military support for Houthi, Shi’ite rebels in Yemen, who are fighting a Saudi-led alliance. Iran has been a staunch supporter of Bashar-Al Asad in the current Syrian crisis. This recent escalation in tensions between the two powers has raised worrying signs from different countries. Not only will this affect the oil market, it may sabotage attempts to get Iran and Saudi Arabia to collaborate in bringing an end to Syria’s civil war. Intensive efforts are required to bring down the tensions between the two powers.
On 2nd January 2016, Saudi officials executed 47 people who were convicted of terrorism offences. Amongst the executed was the prominent Shia cleric Nimr Al-Nimr. He was a vocal supporter of the mass anti-government protests that erupted in Eastern Saudi Arabia in 2011. The execution led to a fierce response from Iran which condemned the execution and warned Saudi Arabia of the repercussions .The Saudi Embassy in Tehran was ransacked by Iranian protestors. As a result, Saudi Arabia cut off all diplomatic ties with Iran and the GCC countries followed suit. This confrontation between the two regional powers has alarmed the international community due to the effects on an already destabilized Middle East region.
Pakistan’s role in between the two countries ties are not much obvious though it is a sunni majority nation with second largest Shi’ite population after Iran. Pakistan has close diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia and shares a border with Iran.
It is extremely important for Washington and its European allies to adopt a balanced approach to manage their relations with their old Arab Allies without affecting their new “more friendly” policies towards Iran. The worsening of Saudi-Iranian relations is likely to exacerbate the Shi’ite-Sunni tension in the region and complicate efforts to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The situation is extremely delicate and if not handled properly, may escalate to unprecedented levels.
While Iran is a neighbor of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia has provided Pakistan with immense financial assistance and with a war being fought against terrorism at home. Therefore in my opinion Pakistan cannot afford to take sides in this conflict. Pakistan should adopt a policy of neutrality in this conflict with second highest population of Shi’ites, this sectarian divide will trickle down in Pakistan which already has a fragile sectarian set up. It is in Pakistan’s interest to play the part of reconciliation between the two countries. Pakistan cannot afford to ruin its relations with another neighboring country like it did with India and Afghanistan. Iran would provide energy and gas which would benefit Pakistan as a whole along with some financial aid like it provided to insurgent in Balochistan previously.
Pakistan should act as a mediator in Saudi Arabia and Iran’s escalating dispute and should take a stand of neutrality to benefit from both of the countries as Pakistan itself is not stable with the sectarian issues and if side is taken so more sectarian issues would prevail in Pakistan and make it more divided among sects.…...

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