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.

Following this point, Admiral (Retd.) Asaf Humayun oriented the discussion towards an examination of the military approach observed in the power politics of and for the Middle East – he pointed towards the United States’ carefully calculated deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier in the Gulf region and its subsequent effects. The speakers underscored how it was impossible to omit the mention of Russia, China and the United States in this discussion as a number of key, international players are involved – each for their own distinct reasons – in the region. A number of speakers drew emphasis on the United States’ unilateral, militaristic adventurism in the Middle East, with some speakers offering a historical backdrop behind the increasing trust-deficit with the United States as a result of its involvement in the region. Dr. Talat Wizarat touched upon the possibilities concerning reconciliation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, suggesting the importance of signing a charter where both states should agree to refrain from interfering in each other’s internal affairs and instead, focus on finding where their common interests lie – cooperation in the oil and gas sector and burying their past to ‘protect their civilians and the Ummah.’

Finally, the talk was concluded after the speakers shared their perspectives concerning Pakistan’s position in this dilemma, with former Ambassador Syed Hasan Habib pointing out that Pakistan has distinct ties with all the actors involved and as a result, its options were limited, with Pakistan only being able to ‘issue statements based on morality’, the growing trust-deficit with the United States, and the need for increasing global cooperation to tackle unilateral and hegemonic ambitions for the region.

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

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