Middle East happenings

November 8, 2017

In the past week some major developments have taken place in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia and Iran being the center of them. Political and regional developments involving the two major Muslim countries are bound to have an effect on Pakistan. Pakistan has always maintained close ties with Saudi Arabia, as far as Iran goes as a neighboring country that also has a major stake in Afghanistan Pakistan simply cannot ignore Iran. ┬áJust a few days back the global media’s attention diverted towards Saudi Arabia after it arrested 11 princes; including a prominent billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, and dozens of current and former ministers. Saudi Arabia’s attorney general has said that the arrests are only “phase one” of a drive against corruption. The anti-corruption drive is being seen by many independent analysts as a move by crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman to consolidate his newfound power. The anti-corruption purge comes at a time when Saudi Arabia is at war with neighboring Yemen and has enforced a blockade on Qatar. On the night the wheel of the anti-corruption drive was set in motion Yemeni rebels in a surprise move targeted an airport in Saudi Arabia’s capital with a ballistic missile. The missile was however intercepted by Saudi Arabia and didn’t do any damage. CNN quoted Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir of saying that the missile attack is an act of war by Iran and the Kingdom will take “appropriate” action when the time is right. If these developments weren’t enough last week also saw the surprise resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. What was more surprising was the way the announcement was made, a pre-recorded message on a Saudi-owned TV station from Riyadh. Analysts suspect that the resignation came as a result of pressure from Saudi Arabia. The moves in the region by both Saudi Arabia and Iran are being seen by many as a prelude to heighten tensions between the two regional arch rivals. The Iran-Saudi Arabia tension is likely to put Pakistan in a tough spot due to its close ties with both countries. Chief of Army Staff (COAS), during his three-day official visit to Iran, had meetings with President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in addition to meeting Iranian military leadership. It must also be kept in mind that former Army Chief General (retd) Raheel Sharif is currently the commander of the Saudi led Islamic Military Alliance. The current Middle East tension could potentially put Pakistan in a tough position.

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