Monthly Archives: June 2019

Qatar and the Global Energy Market: The Politics of Natural Gas

Pakistan’s position in this dilemma is unique; it enjoys ties with Qatar, as well as with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

On 22 June 2019, Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani arrived in Pakistan on the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan for a two-day state visit. The state visit was specifically aimed at strengthening bilateral ties and improving cooperation in diverse fields between Qatar and Pakistan. In addition to the one-on-one talks between the Emir, Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi respectively, delegation-level meetings were also conducted between representatives of both countries. Notably, one of the most important results of this visit was the subsequent pledge for mutual cooperation with regard to gas exploration and the energy sector. The sheer competitiveness of the energy market is a stark reality. In a bid to secure a pivotal multi-billion-dollar supply contract, the Qataris reduced prices of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for Pakistan in May 2019.

With Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates both offering enticing offers concerning deferred oil and LNG payments for Pakistan, Qatar sought to modify LNG prices in order to successfully secure the deal. It is reported that presently, Qatar exports ‘500 mmcfd [million cubic feet per day] to Pakistan under a 15-year agreement struck at 13.37% of Brent crude price.’[i] Pakistan has been negotiating with a number of countries including Russia, Turkey, Malaysia, Azerbaijan and Italy with regard to attaining long-term gas deals. Saudi Arabia (and state-owned petroleum and natural gas company Aramco) has also shown interest in securing a gas deal with Pakistan. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Economy, Energy, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Russia, The Middle East

Dr Mohammad Moini: Iran-US tension has reached a turning point

If there is an attack on Iran, it won’t be an attack on just Iran but the entire region will be destroyed as a result. Thankfully, Iran has a good defence strategy.

This is the report, by Shazia Hasan, in Dawn on our recent event. Power politics in the Middle East with a focus on Iran, Saudi Arabia and the superpowers was the main cause for concern among the participants in a round-table discussion held in the library of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Saturday. Dr Mohammad Moini, an academic from Iran, said that there have been tensions between Iran and the United States for many years but it has reached a turning point now. But he also said that the US no longer had it in them to go to war against any country. “The US economy has become addicted to war, fighter crafts, drones and other weapons created by them for killing but raging war is not so easy for them anymore. When the US used to spend money on their military and development of weapons, their economy moved but another war means recession for them. Their economy would simply burst,” he said.

Speaking about the other side — his side — Dr Moini said that Iran, meanwhile, did not underestimate the firepower of the US. Former ambassador Syed Hasan Habib said that the region can become very hot. “One wrong move by anyone can become fatal. But it is a complex situation. It remains to be seen if the US and Russia will commit all their resources in the conflict. I believe they are looking for some kind of symbolic but substantial action,” he said. “But there is Iran, which is not making errors while Saudi Arabia is gung ho and ready for action. It has already punished Qatar. The underlying reason for it is also that Qatar has fossil fuels and gas and Saudi Arabia has oil, a resource that will decrease gradually. So there is also an inter-country rivalry in the region,” he pointed out. Continue reading

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Filed under Cyber Warfare, Disarmament, Discussion, Iran, Pakistan Horizon, United States

Analysis: Iran and the Drone Standoff

If Iran plays its cards wisely, it may gain more prestige than the US out of this incident … Iran, the scapegoat for Trump’s goals, has admirably held its ground in the face of a greater power.

The world breathed a sigh of relief when President Trump called off US airstrikes on three Iranian targets this Friday in response to the shooting down of the US Global Hawk surveillance drone. “I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone,” he said, adding that he was “in no hurry” to confront Iran. It is rather ironic that the US should present the sparing of human lives as its key point in calling off the attack when it has profited by selling millions of dollars’ worth of arms to different states involved in regional conflicts in the Middle East and Africa. When trying to understand US behavior it is worth considering two factors: Trump’s short-sighted focus on re-election coupled with the fact he’s a businessman in the guise of a politician.

Trump is trying to strike what he believes is a “better deal” while also benefitting powerful American military interests. But the ongoing standoff is increasing global volatility, making war almost inevitable. It is also no secret that the US accounts for 34% of all global arms sales selling more than double the amount of weapons than Russia (the second largest exporter of arms). With such a lucrative industry in place and Trump’s business acumen, it stands to reason he would highly benefit by creating a situation that would escalate conflict till just below the threshold of war inspiring enough fear and tension for states to buy arms from the US. On the surface Trump appears to be making good on his promises: a tougher stance on Iran while also not committing any ground troops in foreign lands. He is well aware that the age of conventional warfare is over: the US has been striking back by employing sanctions, engaging in surveillance via drones and launching cyber-attacks. Continue reading

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Filed under Cyber Warfare, Discussion, Drones, Iran, Nuclear Energy, Politics, The Middle East, Trump, United States

Power Politics in the Middle East: Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf

A number of speakers drew emphasis on the United States’ unilateral, militaristic adventurism in the Middle East …

Trump has been threatening Iran and has imposed further major sanctions. He says that he abandoned military strikes so as to save the lives of 150 people who would have died had he not retracted his orders to attack Iran, which he claimed will be obliterated if it did not behave itself. On 22 June 2019, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs hosted a roundtable talk (11:00 am – 1:00 pm)  to discuss the causes, implications and factors pertaining to the heightened volatility in the Middle East, with respect to the string of recent events at the Library of the Institute. This roundtable talk was attended by academics, retired generals and brigadiers, defence analysts and diplomats. One of the main speakers was Iranian Third Consul Mr Mehdi Amir Jafari, who underlined Iran’s respect for peaceful, political initiatives with regard to conflict-resolution but simultaneously stressed that the need for peaceful and diplomatic resolutions must be shared mutually by all actors involved. 

Some of the most important themes that were brought up with regard to the incumbent power politics of the Middle East included thought-provoking questions concerning the place for morality and ethical considerations in realpolitik, the inherent ties of the United States’ military-industrial-complex in shaping American foreign and defence policy and the emergence of a new world-order. General (Retd.) Sikander Hayat specifically highlighted what this new world-order entails, stating that it concerns the rise of China as a giant in international political economy. This point was analysed from an array of perspectives with regard to the Middle East, most notably from an economic, political and defence perspective. Dr. Moeini Feizabadi went into the history of the military-industrial complex and its significance in shaping the United States’ Middle East policy as well. Continue reading

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Filed under China, Discussion, Events, Iran, Pakistan, Politics, Sanctions, United States

The Ongoing Iran-America Standoff: A Dangerous Gamble?

Donald Trump tweeted that Iran made a very big mistake! but has now backed off regarding the shooting down of the US drone. In this post Urooj Hanafi examines the earlier attacks on the Japanese Kokuka Courageous and Norwegian Front Altair. 

Tensions have escalated as regional and global rivalries have come into play due to the recent attacks on the Japanese Kokuka Courageous and Norwegian Front Altair on 13 June near the Persian Gulf. The incident demands that two vital questions be addressed: who committed the deed? Who benefitted the most from the attacks? Iran has been adamant in its denial of the attacks, but the US, citing rather blurry photographic and video-based evidence unequivocally blames the former believing that the infamous Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) use of limpet mines caused the explosions on the two tankers. The Trump administration appears to be taking a gamble: use a “maximum pressure” strategy to force Iran in line with its wishes or risk a conflict in an already volatile region. In December 2018, the US withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) while additionally bringing an end to any sanction waivers that allowed certain countries to import oil from Iran.

The economic effects have been dire forcing the Iranian economy into a slump as the finance sector and oil revenues have taken a serious hit. However, the US policy of “maximum pressure” is highly questionable because inciting forced radical change is likely to lead to an eventual backlash. Even if Iran were to capitulate to US demands, most likely through the imposition of US-leaning leaders implementing western ideals, the people would retaliate possibly leading to a second Iran revolution setting rapprochement with Iran decades behind. It comes as no surprise that Saudi Arabia, a current US favorite due to its purchase of US weapons and a buffer against Iranian influence in the Middle East, loyally stands by US claims and has generously promised to increase oil production along with the UAE in order to help re-stabilize global oil prices. Continue reading

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Filed under China, Disarmament, Discussion, Iran, Pakistan Horizon, United States

Sudan Crisis: A Struggle for Democracy

Media coverage as well as the response to the Sudan crisis has been abysmal

Since the talks between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Alliance for Freedom and Change have broken down, Khartoum has been plagued by violence. When the military capitulated to popular demand and brought an end to the 30-year long oppressive rule of Omar al-Bashir, the people rejoiced. Sudanese spirits were at a high much like the same demonstrators who managed to overthrow despots during the Arab Spring Uprising. Unfortunately, after that uprising it soon became clear that the military is often as authoritarian as its governmental counterpart. It cleverly employs a tactic of appearing to appease the people, allowing the dust settle which is then followed by strict military rule. Fortunately, the Sudanese appeared to have learnt from history as the Alliance for Freedom and Change called for a total civil disobedience campaign after the military’s very brutal crackdown on a protestors’ camp on 3 June when it refused to hand over authority to a civilian administration preferring to concentrate power in its own hands.

There have been serious human rights violations as the Central Committee for Sudanese Doctors (CSSD) has put the death toll at 118 victims while hundreds have been injured. About 40 “bloated” bodies have been recovered from the Nile- an attempt by the military to lower the official death toll. Additionally many women have suffered from rape with numbers likely understated due to the societal stigma attached to such an offense. Much of the atrocities have been committed by the paramilitary force known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) headed by General Hamdan. It is this same force that was responsible for the genocide in Darfur for which Mr. Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court and gives rise to the question: why are similar crimes currently committed by the same force not being taken seriously by the international community? Continue reading

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Filed under Africa, Corruption, Discussion, Human Rights, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Sudan

Pakistan Horizon: Latest Abstracts

The Pakistan Horizon is the flagship journal of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) which we have published continuously since 1948. Research at the PIIA is published either in monographs or in Pakistan Horizon, the quarterly journal of the Institute. The first issue was published in March 1948. Since then, it has been published without a break; it contains articles, speeches, surveys of Pakistan’s diplomatic relations, book reviews, chronologies of important events and documents. Notably, our respected journal is the oldest journal on International Relations in South Asia. Apart from adding to the learning on politics, Pakistan Horizon aims to combine rigorous analysis with a helpful approach to international issues. It thus features articles related to Pakistan’s foreign policy, regional and global issues, women’s concerns in international relations, IR theory, terrorism and security studies and emerging environmental concerns. The abstracts for all our latest articles from PAKISTAN HORIZON, Volume 72, Number 2, April 2019 are available below.

As part of its public diplomacy programme, PIIA arranges roundtable sessions, lectures and seminars on a regular basis. These sessions have been addressed by world leaders, scholars and academics including: Presidents Ayub Khan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Pervez Musharraf; Prime Ministers Liaquat Ali Khan and Benazir Bhutto: Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, President Habib Bouraqiba, Prince Karim Aga Khan, Madame Sun Yat SenSir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, Henry Kissinger, Rauf Denktash, Justice Philip C. Jessup, Lord Clement Attlee, Prime Minister Sutan Sjahrir, Prime Minister SWRD Bandranaike, Professor Arnold Toynbee, Professor Andre Siegfried, Professor Y. V. Gangovsky, Michael Krepon, Walter Russell Mead, Professor Kishore Mahbubani, Professor Francis Robinson CBE (see here) and the unsurpassable Rajmohan Gandhi (see here). Continue reading

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Filed under Climate Change, CPEC, Discussion, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Politics