New mission called Iran
Already occupied with the exhausting Kashmir mission, Prime Minister Imran Khan is now tasked with bringing three hostile players – Iran, Saudi Arabia and the US – closer to each other to ward off a looming conflict in the Middle East, which is likely to escalate and go out of control if once started. The peaceful resolution of the Iran-Saudi Arabia-US conflict will benefit the Gulf region and Pakistan as well. PM Khan told a gathering in New York that President Donald Trump asked him to mediate with Iran for “another deal”. He said he received a similar request from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman before flying to the US earlier this week. As no word has come out after PM Khan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, there is still lot of room to be skeptical about the success of Pakistan’s efforts given the recent statements from Iranian and US presidents.
A lot of backdoor diplomacy is required to bring the three hardline players to an agreement. Trump says French and German leaders have also been trying to defuse the situation by brining President Rouhani and him to the table on the sidelines of the general assembly. Apparent diplomatic moves from Iran and the US, however, are masked with stiff and rigid stances. In the last two days, President Trump has called Iran the epicenter of terrorism, while his Iranian counterpart has refused to do away with his no-talk policy unless American sanctions are lifted or eased. Very surprisingly, the maverick crown prince is behaving very responsibly, which is a pleasant change by all means.
This is the time Iran should open the door to meeting Trump as talks are always the best option to ease tensions. Given the impulsive nature of Trump, it is very likely that the post-meeting media talks are all about the renewal of the nuclear deal and ease of sanctions. A similar gesture should also come from Saudi Arabia for Iran, as it will help the oil rich country to end the Yemen conflict and begin a new era of peace in the region.
Pakistan may not have lots of leverage in the mediation process, but it should follow balanced policies with Iran, without impacting its ties with Saudi Arabia. If the Kingdom is our time tested friend, Iran is our neighbor that does not