ANALYSIS: Can Pakistan afford confronting US for Iran?

Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mahmoud Quraishi greets his Iranian counterpart Jawad Zarif in Islamabad. Zarif’s visit came days before the expected arrival of US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in Pakistan. (Press Information Department via AFP)
Updated 01 September 2018
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ANALYSIS: Can Pakistan afford confronting US for Iran?

  • Pakistan’s improved relationship with Iran inconsequential due to US sanctions – former envoys
  • Political analysts say US will not be pleased if Pakistan tries to side with Iran now

ISLAMABAD: At a time when Pakistan’s newly-elected government is striving to improve its foreign policy stance with the United States and Muslim countries, former ambassadors and analysts suggest exercising caution, especially in enhancing its relationship with Iran.
“Pakistan needs to review its foreign policy but it should not antagonize the United States by cozying up to Iran at this critical juncture,” Former ambassador Ayaz Wazir told Arab News.
The debate over the country’s foreign policy hit the refresh button following a two-day visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. The meeting, which concluded on Friday, also stoked a fresh controversy after Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi issued a statement supporting Iran on its nuclear deal.
Zarif visited Islamabad just days ahead of a planned visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for high-level talks with Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government.
“Pakistan stands with Iran in this hour of need,” Qureshi said in the backdrop of the US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear agreement signed in Vienna, in July 2015, between Tehran and the P5+1.
“With regards to the JCPOA, while supporting Iran’s stance, Mr.Qureshi expressed the hope that the remaining parties to the agreement would uphold their commitments in letter and spirit,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office said.
Wazir, however, said that Pakistan’s improved relationship with Iran is of no use considering the current political climate. “Islamabad cannot increase its trade and economic activities with Tehran due to the United States’ sanctions,” he said. “Also, Iran cannot help Pakistan at any international forum due to its isolation in the international community but other Muslim countries and the US can.”
He added that Pakistan is faced with a looming balance of payment (BoP) crisis and it should look toward friendly Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia, to resolve the issue.
Pakistan would require the help of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank he said, adding that Pompeo has already warned that the US would be closely watching to see whether or not the IMF bails Pakistan out.
Aziz Ahmad Khan, another ex-ambassador, said that Pakistan is not in a position to irk the US at the cost of Iran and should be careful in maintaining its bilateral relationship with the latter.
“The US has withdrawn unilaterally from Iran’s nuclear deal and slapped economic sanctions on it as well. I think this should have been enough for our leadership to keep in mind while promising to stand with Iran,” he told Arab News.
Khan said that Pakistan should improve its bilateral relationship with all neighboring countries including India and Afghanistan for peace in the region. “We should not give an impression to the international community that Pakistan is trying to improve its relationship only with Iran,” he said.
Political analysts and experts of international relations also suggested that the newly-elected government keep international scenarios in mind while reviewing the country’s foreign policy.
“Everybody knows that Donald Trump is fiercely opposed to Iran and his administration will not be pleased if Pakistan tries to stand by Tehran,” Tahir Malik, professor of international relations, told Arab News.
He said that the US is a superpower and has been pushing for Pakistan to cooperate with it to stem the scourge of terrorism from the region, especially Afghanistan. “Our Foreign Office should come up with suggestions to address the US’s concerns instead of further deteriorating the relationship in the name of foreign policy,” he said.
US-Pakistan’s relations remain frosty due to a deep and longstanding trust deficit. But the US has not imposed sanctions on Islamabad and continues to engage with it at a diplomatic level.
Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, an academic and political analyst, said that Pakistan has limited clout in the international community and it is not in a position to defend Iran’s stance on the nuclear deal.
“Pakistan should try to get its house in order first and avoid interfering in matters that could cause its isolation in the international community,” he warned.
Jaspal said that the Pakistani leadership is getting a unique opportunity in the form of Pompeo’s visit next week and should focus on it.
“Pakistan cannot afford confronting the United States for Iran and it should not do this for its own interests,” he said.


Eiffel Tower evacuated after climber spotted on monument

Updated 14 min 24 sec ago
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Eiffel Tower evacuated after climber spotted on monument

PARIS: The Eiffel Tower was evacuated on Monday afternoon after a man was spotted climbing up the Paris landmark, the company that operates the structure said.
"A climber has been spotted. It's the standard procedure. We have to stop the person, and in that case we evacuate the tower," an official with the SETE operator told AFP, adding that police were on the scene.
The esplanade underneath the monument was also evacuated.
"We kindly advise our visitors to postpone their visit," the SETE added on Twitter.
Police have made contact with the climber but do not yet know why he began his ascent via the iron beams, a police source told AFP.
The tower is regularly the target of rogue freeclimbers hoping to scale one of the world's most famous structures, often for bragging rights.

An unidentified man (L) climbs the Eiffel Tower, which had to be evacuated, in Paris, France, May 20, 2019. (Reuters)

But police have also been called in several times in recent years to try to thwart suicide attempts.
In October 2017, a young man ventured out on one of the beams and threatened to jump before police were able to convince him to come back.
In 2012, a British man managed to climb to the very top of the 324-metre-high tower before plunging to his death.
Nearly seven million people a year visit the 324-metre-high structure, which last week celebrated its 130th anniversary.


The first two floors can be reached by either elevator or stairs, but only elevators whisk people to the top observation deck.
That didn't stop the French urban freeclimber Alain Robert from making it one of his first targets in his campaign to scale the world's biggest buildings with no technical climbing gear.
He got to the top -- not including the antenna-- in the mid 1990s.