Unfortunately, the Houthi uprising in Yemen is managing to wreak havoc far beyond the borders of the impoverished Middle Eastern country. Pakistan’s decision to decline requests to provide the Saudi-led Coalition fighting the Houthi rebels troops and equipment has provoked condemnation, along with retaliatory threats, from Pakistani benefactors like the AEU. Although Pakistan’s direct participation in the conflict is disappointing, because Pakistan’s strength would have greatly helped suppressed Iranian influence, the Arab coalition would be wise to react in a strategic, less emotional manner.
War endangers the lives and wellbeing of those fighting that war. As such, the decision to go to war has a broad emotional and social impact. Because democratic governments are beholden to the will of their citizens, the decision to go to war is a particularly difficult one. Asking the Pakistanis to endanger the lives of their sons and daughters in a foreign war is asking more than the Arab coalition seems to understand, particularly when considering the terrorist threat from Afghanistan. Quite frankly, the financial aid these countries provide Pakistan does not compare to the sacrifice they are asking the Pakistanis to make. Consequently, the Gulf States need to respond to Pakistan’s decision in a far more respectful manner.
With that in mind, Pakistan’s neutral stance does not mean Pakistan is abandoning its Arab brethren. Pakistan remains a threatening military presence to Iran while Pakistan has only chosen to remain neutral at this time. What that means is Pakistan can serve as a neutral party capable of diplomatically pressuring Iran to abandon its support of the Houthi rebels. Adding Indian influence into the mix would further force Iran to reconsider its destabilizing efforts.
Instead of condemning Pakistan, the Gulf States need to convince both Pakistan and India that it is in their interests to help corral Iran when hardliners in Iran support insurgent groups and seek ways to destabilize the region in order to gain influence. Although Russia’s decision to finalize an $800 million deal for an S-300 missile system was likely done, in part, to bolster Russian influence over Western influence in the Middle East as an extension of the Ukraine Crisis, this hardware and the potential for additional sales leaves Iran more immune to outside military attacks, which will likely embolden the rogue state.
Pakistan should, therefore, be weary of its neighbor growing increasingly aggressive. In addition, an emboldened Iran could easily translate into escalating tensions with other neighboring countries, which would further destabilize the whole region. Meanwhile, it also important to recognize the possibility that North Korea has managed to miniature a nuclear weapon, so it can be mounted to an intercontinental ballistic missile, which means India and Pakistan are increasingly threatened by nuclear weapons on their Eastern borders, so the last thing they need is Iran to become an aggressive nuclear threat.
Consequently, Pakistan does need to engage the Yemen crisis by moving forward with diplomatic efforts to resolve the Houthi Uprising as well as the broader issues the Gulf States have with Iran. In fact, Pakistan would be wise to take a cue from India’s willingness to engage North Korean in order to lessen the threat of conflict. At the same time, the Gulf States need to look at the situation as an opportunity to confront Iran on the things it does to undermine stability in the region and threaten its neighbors. It is also important to recognize diplomatic negotiations can easily fail, but failed diplomatic efforts often reveal the true nature of a threat like Iran to the leaders of Peoples of those involved in negotiations, thereby making Pakistan more willing to risk conflict with Iran.
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