Analysing Iran strike

Becoming hostile to another country is not the first step.

It is the last. Unfortunately, sometimes, the journey from any bilateral trajectory going from ‘strained’ to ‘sour’ and then ‘hostile’ is overlooked. Hence, Iran’s blatant aggression against the ‘brotherly’ country of Pakistan smacks of a well-thought-out plan as targeting an ‘Iranian terrorist group’ with missiles and drones is not possible without putting a proper strategy in place. That takes time. Pakistan is neither Israel nor Iraq or Syria. Equating Pakistan with these three states and that too by an apparently friendly Iran could not be conceived easily. The absence of any open, sudden and grave provocation or aggression from Pakistan points towards the presence of a deep-rooted toxic sequence of events that culminated in the use of brute force. Clearly, there is more to it than meets the eye.

The message is conveyed in the loudest and clearer manner possible. The fact that Iran did not deny violating Pakistan’s territorial integrity has saved us from the hassle of connecting the dots. Otherwise, there was a forest full of ‘miscreants’ who might have been considered for investigation. From India to Afghanistan to Israel to TTP, our intelligent minds would have been entangled in an unending puzzling predicament. On the other hand, focusing on who might be the ‘accomplices’ would be an exercise in futility. It hardly matters if the deplorable action was taken after consulting a few foes or any friend. Iran has admitted it attacked with missiles and drones itself. End of story. Why Iran resorted to brute force is more important than to search for the collaborators. Another disturbing fact. Ordinarily, even if Iran wanted to declare war against Pakistan, a warning was in order or an announcement that due to such reasons, Iran was constrained to recall its Ambassador from Islamabad. Expressing one’s aggression or anger in such a grave manner, defying all norms of diplomacy or ‘brotherhood’, must have come as a huge surprise particularly to those who are not following the political and geo-strategic history of the region since the withdrawal of the Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1988-89. The Afghan transit trade, the refugees, smuggling, border skirmishes, allegations of undesirable activities within each other’s territories and serious security concerns, the unfortunate IP gas pipeline project, Iran-US-Pak triangle, India-Iran trade and investment initiatives and a host of other issues kept Iran and Pakistan wondering about the RCD and ECO days. Any idea since when Pakistan stopped expecting any support from Iran on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute? 

Seemingly, Iran had calculated Pakistan’s response. Somehow, it had an idea. Otherwise, such an attack against a nuclear power is utterly undesirable if not unthinkable. Perhaps, it is following the South Asian recent history where mature ‘restraint’ was exhibited in response to a cruise missile landing accidentally and violations committed in all three areas of warfare. Wisely, Pakistan has once again shown restraint and stopped after conveying a strong message in the diplomatic domain. The question is: if combating terrorism is a common endeavour, why a friendly Iran would not request Pakistan to help eliminate the ‘Iranian terrorist group’ together? Did Iran provide some conclusive proofs to Pakistan before jumping the gun? If yes, what was Pakistan’s response? If no, why Iran took such a huge risk? What if things take a dramatic turn and Pakistan also decides to pay Iran in the same coin? Clearly, there was a lot at stake.

It is conceivable that Iran might have followed the Indian model of dealing with the likes of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. In that case, Iran must realize that Kulbhushan Yadev used to travel to Pakistan from Iran….!!! At a time when the first line of defense should have been activated, Pakistan has recalled its Ambassador from Tehran. Agreed, it was in response to what Iran did by drawing the first blood. However, does Pakistan desire to completely cut off all lines of communication with Iran? If yes, then we are looking at an awkward situation turning into a possible diplomatic disaster. If no, then we must quickly decide to contact Iran at the highest possible level and try diffusing a potentially dangerous situation. In addition to the uneasy terrains of bilateral relations with India and Afghanistan, let us not open a new hostile front with Iran. Let us not declare Iran an enemy and focus on removing each other’s misgivings amicably. 

One would like to give Iran the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps, Iran misunderstood. Perhaps, it misconstrued the attack as promoting its national interest. One more thing. These are not normal times for Iran particularly in view of its direct and indirect involvement in the Middle Eastern rigmarole, its apparently stalled nuclear program and its uneasy internal political and social conditions. Also recall the two terrorist attacks on 3 Jan near the burial site of Qassem Soleimani in the city of Kerman, killing and injuring several hundreds of mourners. These are testing times for Iran. No matter what happens, the Iranian missile and drone attack inside Pakistani territory cannot be undone. Better to be wise than sorry. Considering Iran’s helplessness in not attacking Israel instead, Pakistan must consider to wait for a ‘clarification’ from Iran. Meanwhile, let us take a deeper look into what has happened to forestall any such future eventuality. Among other things, the following may be taken into considerations: 

One: Introspection helps finding additional ways and means of strategizing for the future. 

Two: An enemy’s friend could also be an enemy. However, Iran’s cordial relations with India does not necessarily make it an enemy. 

Three: A friend’s friend could also be a friend. In this regard, Beijing’s ‘telling’ response on the Iranian attack needs to be examined but with utmost care and caution.

Four: Efforts may be made to stop Iran from going to the Court of Arbitration on the IP gas pipeline project. That who created hurdles in the way of this tremendously useful venture must be urged to compensate at least for the financial losses. 

Five: To combat terrorism, Iran must be taken on board. It’s a common endeavour and must be dealt with accordingly. 

Six: Understand that Iran needs ‘posturing’ as an important player in the Middle East geo-political and geo-strategic domains. Let it be. Meanwhile, accord priority to Iran and address at least the important bilateral issues. 

Time to refresh our memory and recall one of the sterling lessons of international relations. There are no permanent friends or foes in international relations. What remains permanent is the national interest. 

-- The writer is a former Ambassador of Pakistan and author of eight books in three languages. He can be reached at

The writer is a former Ambassador of Pakistan and author of eight books in three languages. He can be reached at

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