Pakistan’s complaint with Iran about terror groups and Khan’s visit: A litmus test

Pakistan’s tone toward Iran when it comes to inimical elements operating on both sides of the border has continuously been a polite and cooperative one. Assurances of not allowing Pakistani territory to be used by the likes of Jaish al Adl terrorists have been translated into actions, with Pakistan helping rescue kidnapped Iranian guards from such groups.

Now, however, following the Ormara terror attack by Baloch separatists against Pakistan, Pakistan has lodged a complaint with Iran a day before Prime Minister Imran Khan embarks on his Iran visit on 21 April. Pakistan has complained about Iran not acting upon intelligence provided to it regarding anti-Pakistan terrorists operating on its side and the issue will likely be taken up with Iran when Khan visits.

Members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC), separate to the country’s official military and answerable directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, accused Pakistan of complicity in the 13 February blast which killed 27 IRGC members.

As the author discussed in this February article on the nuances of Iran-Pakistan relations and the ample overlap between their security interests and even ideological viewpoints, the outbursts by certain IRGC generals against Pakistan were likely encouraged by the Indian side whose Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj stopped over in Tehran briefly a day after the blast on the IRGC.

The IRGC generals were eventually proven wrong, however, as Pakistan in late March rescued via an intelligence-based operation (IBO) 4 Iranian guards abducted by Jaish al Adl. The Iranian side expressed gratitude and declared relations were ‘back on track’, but Pakistanis will still remember the statements of the IRGC generals and the timing of their bellicosity which came when tensions with India was reaching a boiling point.

The continued ignorance of Iran as to the fact that it is not Saudi Arabia, whose influence over Pakistan Iran heavily overestimates, but India who foments trouble in Balochistan as a strategic endeavour it heavily invests in will ultimately be perceived as an insult by Pakistan should Iran respond to the recent complaints in a negative manner.

There appear no signs of Iran understanding that the US granting waivers for India’s Chabahar activities and its transport corridor from Iran into Afghanistan – two countries far from ideal for foreign entities to invest in long-term and trade with for numerous reasons – is because of US blessing for India’s strategically-motivated West Asia ambitions. That these ambitions and their blessing by the US, approved of by Iran’s hated Israeli foe given the startling Israeli influence over the US Treasury’s sanctions function (information unearthed and documented by the indomitable Grant F Smith of IRMEP), involve stoking conflict in Balochistan make Iran’s insistence on shutting its eyes to the Indian factor dangerous for Pakistan and Iran.

Should Iran respond to Pakistan’s complaint negatively and make its traditional allegations that Pakistan is being motivated by ‘Saudi money’ as opposed to security concerns, things may head south rapidly for Pakistan-Iran relations.

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