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SAUDI-IRAN STANDOFF & PAKISTAN

Fault-line is thousands of years old; it has not emerged only because of Shia-Sunni divide. Arabs have always considered themselves superior than others and Iranians have been proud of their old civilization and Persian Empire. Therefore, both have invested heavily in their hegemonic designs, which have not only polarized Middle East and the Muslim World but also provided good opportunity to the foreign powers to exploit the existing weaknesses.

Besides many other factors, one of the most critical at the time is the lowest oil prices. And the Kingdom is the worst sufferer. Last Saudi budget was a clear reflection of the fact; fiscal deficit has increased, prices of commodities have gone up many times. In this backdrop, Arab League, led by KSA would like to harvest an alliance and escalate the situation in the region which is already war torn and where apparently peaceful countries are also sitting on the brink of war or civil-war. Most of the countries in Saudi led alliance are oil exporters and suffering the same fate as that of Saudi Arabia.
Deep in their hearts is another important factor, and that is Iran-P5+1 Nuclear deal and US/NATO support to Shia led government in Iraq. Therefore, Sunni Arab world wants to be upheld against all odds and listened by the west like in the past. To my best judgement, these are the actual bones of contention behind present Saudi-Iran standoff.
Pakistan has to remain very conscious in its diplomacy & commitments to both Iran and Saudi Arabia. Both problems highlighted above are not Pakistan’s created or affect Pakistan as they to Iran or Saudi Arabia. Present Saudi alliance has enough strength to cater for any Iranian aggression, if at all there is any. Pakistan should stick to its historical commitment of defending holy lands, only in case of Non-Muslim aggression. It would rather be better, if Pakistan takes a proactive stance and offers its services and good offices to mediate between both countries either in its individual capacity or through a group of Muslim countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey and Tunisia.
Divisions in the Muslim world on various contentious issues are quite visible and they are likely to widen with every passing year. Which, west would fully capitalize upon to further their interests. Pakistan, due to the obvious reasons was, is and will always be first choice of KSA and its allies.

Pakistan has to stay very cautious of this fact now and in the coming years and avoid taking sides. Arab League may, in future, threaten Pakistan by deporting its expats and/or barring further recruitment that can pose considerable economic challenge. Therefore, policy makers at home should start looking various alternative strategies instead of giving away in the wake of weak economy. 

Polarization, which is becoming unavoidable in the present circumstances, is required to be mitigated within the Muslim World at all costs. Muslim countries should stop taking sides and start making efforts to bridge Shia-Sunni divide. Why Israel is now quite on Iran-P5+1 nuclear deal? Because they have been made to realize and understand that new era of relations with Iran was important to create standoff b/w Saudi-Iran relations to further Sunni-Shia divide. As the fault-line already existed, this western strategic move will take Muslim world towards its darkest & miserable times, history has ever witnessed.

.....And Israel would be the only beneficiary in this whole mess. 

By: Saeed Muhammad

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