Washington univocally condemned Tehran’s cross border strike against alleged bases of anti-Iranian Sunni terrorist group Jaish al-Adl [JuA] in the Panjgur district of Balochistan as it violated the sovereign borders of Pakistan and one had expected a similar response from the US on Pakistan’s retaliatory strike inside Iran. But it wasn’t so and instead, US President Joe Biden indirectly appears to have justified Pakistan’s attack by saying, “Iran is not particularly well liked in the region.”
Just like many of Biden’s other utterances this conclusion of his remains a mystery.
If cross border strikes are indeed accurate indicators of a country’s regional popularity as Biden seems to believe, then it’s Islamabad and not Tehran that meets this bizarre criterion better. After all, in addition to Iran, haven’t the US and India targeted key terrorists like Osama Bin Laden [OBL] and terrorist infrastructure on Pakistani soil in the past? Nevertheless, given its known adherence to the “Amicus meus, inimicus inimici mei” [the enemy of my enemy is my friend] philosophy, Washington’s ludicrous logic of taking Pakistan’s retaliatory strike inside Iran as a sign of Tehran’s unpopularity comes as no big surprise!
Both Iran and Pakistan are stoutly defending their respective actions by invoking the international tenets of right to self defence and their proclaimed ‘zero tolerance’ for terrorism; emphasising that they have only targeted terrorist groups [JuA and Balochistan Liberation Army or BLA respectively]. So, if Iran and Pakistan are really telling the truth, it’s clear that both these countries are providing safe sanctuaries to terrorist groups. Such perverse patronage upholds British politician and writer George Galloway’s observation that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,” which is not only unfortunate but downright pathetic.
Whereas Tehran is definitely guilty of sponsoring several terrorist groups, but so is Pakistan- a fact that has been officially acknowledged by Washington many times. Readers may recall that just last year, the joint statement issued by White House on the conclusion of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s US visit had “strongly condemned cross-border terrorism, the use of terrorist proxies and called on Pakistan to take immediate action to ensure that no territory under its control is used for launching terrorist attacks.” [Emphasis added]. However, while the US continues demonising Iran by referring to it as part of the global ‘axis of evil’ and blaming it for creating “regional instability,” Washington finds no fault with Pakistan, its “major non-NATO ally.”
Islamabad’s close association with designated foreign terrorists is no secret. Islamabad may claim to have no knowledge of Al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden [OBL] staying in Abbottabad, but even an ignoramus wouldn’t buy the incredulous story of the world’s most wanted terrorist living undetected along with his entire family just a stone’s throw away from the Pakistan Military Academy. And the very fact that Washington chose not to inform Islamabad about Operation Neptune Spear [its plan to fly-in Navy Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) teams to take down the Al Qaeda chief] clearly indicates that it was fully aware that it was Rawalpindi that had secreted OBL in Abbottabad.
The cross border strikes by Iran and Pakistan raises questions about the latter’s claims regarding sponsorship of armed Baloch groups. If Islamabad’s assertion that BLA is being patronised by Iran is true, then why is it accusing India for the same? Additionally, its unsubstantiated claim implies that armed anti Pakistan Baloch groups are being jointly sponsored by India-and Iran. If this is the case, then Islamabad needs to explain why it hasn’t ever spoken about this unholy Indo-Iran nexus that is facilitating terrorist activities of these groups?
Most importantly, this incident has yet once again exposed Washington’s duplicity when it comes to taking decisive action against state sponsorship of terrorism. Hence New Delhi needs to realise that it’s futile to expect the US to act against or compel its “major non-NATO ally” Pakistan to cease sponsoring terrorist activities in J&K. By attacking America’s most hated enemy Iran, Islamabad has earned Uncle Sam’s goodwill and so Washington will definitely turn a Nelson’s eye on Rawalpindi’s ongoing proxy war in J&K or at best give it a mild rap on the knuckles. New Delhi therefore has no other option but to work out an effective strategy to deal with Pakistan sponsored terrorism on its own.