Saudi stopover

PM Imran in spotlight

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As these pages have argued in the past that besides being a beneficiary of the dividends of peace in the region, the go-between role for Pakistan in the KSA-Iran tussle may bring it other benefits in the shape of diplomatic support it may require on international forums as well as the economic one.

After visiting Iran, the PM Khan made a brief trip to Saudi Arabia and ‘advised’ the Saudi rulers to exercise caution and avoid any armed conflict in the region. This is a sane advice. Any conflict shall push the region into poverty and the whole world will see the oil prices going through the sky.

Saudi- Iran tension is not new to the region. It goes back some 40 years when after the Iranian revolution the two countries went separate ways. Saudi Arabia being a permanent in the Western camp made use of West’s antagonism against its regional rival. It was only lately that Iran came out of isolation and stringent economic sanctions after the nuclear deal that was reached between Iran the some western countries. When the US announced a unilateral withdrawal from the deal, the whole region went into turmoil again. As it is the wars in Yemen, Iraq and Syria and unrest in Lebanon are enough to pit Riyadh and Tehran against each other.

Lately the attack on an oil facility in Saudi Arabia and the blast on an Iranian ship further jeopardised the tenuous peace. The US announced to increase its troops strength in the Gulf as well. At the same time the US as well as KSA have been using the carrot approach as well. President Trump last month had asked the PM Imran Khan to mediate between the two countries. These two visits were the part of the same exercise. The outcome from KSA after the conclusion of the PM’s meetings with the Saudi King Shah Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was immediately not known. However the Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi speaking to media on Wednesday evening called it a great success for Pakistan. He said that Pakistan’s role was very critical to all this process and it shall bore fruit as well.

Looking at Syria where president Trump thinks the situation was ‘strategically brilliant’ for the US and that the Kurds were ‘no angels’ once again lends weight to this perception that the US can never be trusted in such situations beyond a certain point. It acts at whim, leaving death and destruction its wake without caring for consequences. It is the countries themselves that have to take responsibility for peace in their vicinity. Hence Iran and KSA shall be well advised to exercise restraint. And for once the PM Khan should be lauded for his role in restoring peace to the region.