Islamabad might not know it yet but very soon it is going to feel the heat from Washington’s desperation to slap yet more sanctions on Tehran ahead of President Trump’s chance at reelection in a couple of weeks. This is no doubt a ploy to please hardline voters at home but the damage it can do not just to Iran’s economy but also its business relations with other countries, including the most prominent ones in Europe, not to mention regional dynamics, isn’t something that the Trump administration would have given much thought to. Yet this action will have reactions that will reverberate across the region of which Pakistan is very much a part and a rather crucial stakeholder.
Besides, Iran’s recent long term deal with China, in addition to Pakistan’s own deep relations with the Chinese that are epitomised by CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) implies that Pakistan will have to take a position that favours China’s stance on the matter. Just recently Prime Minister Imran Khan told the whole world in very clear terms that Pakistan’s future was very closely associated with China’s, and the days when we depended on the Americans for just about everything were long gone. This, then, would appear to be the first test of this policy position.
Then there is also the impact this policy is going to have inside Iran. Presidential elections are not too far away in the Islamic Republic either, due next year actually, and such needless pressure and isolation can very easily push an extremist contender to the top, one who will find winning votes very easy just by spitting fire at the United States of America. The Americans know only too well just how volatile the Middle East is and how strongly some of Washington’s Gulf allies have been begging it to bomb Iran for so long, and it is sad that they cannot see beyond their own very narrow interests at the moment; even at the cost of instability in the region. No doubt Iran’s friends, especially China, will stand by it. Pakistan, too, will have to decide very soon.