Tuesday, March 6, 2007

US ally Musharraf in a tangle over Iran

By M K Bhadrakumar
Asia Times

"The intense pressure from Washington on President General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan to be cooperative in the "war on terror" is yielding dramatic results, although perhaps not of the kind initially anticipated.

The Pakistan-Iran relationship, which has never been easy, has nosedived to a low point in recent weeks, even as Musharraf remains under pressure to do more in clamping down on al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan's tribal areas.

The moot point is to what extent Musharraf is willingly cooperating with US regional policy against Iran. He is skating on thin ice. He may endear himself to Washington as a brave leader in the Muslim world, but Pakistani public opinion is averse to serving the US agenda over Iran. This contradiction is fraught with dangers. It can only further accentuate Musharraf's isolation within Pakistan and add to the country's overall political uncertainties.

Washington could be miscalculating that only the Shi'ites in Sunni-dominated Pakistan will feel alienated by Musharraf's unfriendly attitude toward Tehran. The fact is, in emotive terms, the average Pakistani citizen is bound to view US hostility toward Iran as yet another instance of Washington's "crusade" against the Islamic world.....

All this says that, apart from sundry other minority groups of minuscule size, such as the Turkmens, Talysh, Qashqai, Lurs, Gilaki or Mazandarani, with hardly any surplus of militant ethnic nationalism available for inciting, the Balochs (who form roughly 2% of the population) offer themselves as the obvious choice for Washington to train its terrorism weapon against the Iranian regime......

However, there is a sideshow to these happenings that is no less profound. US intelligence operatives must be laughing all the way to Washington that they could manage with such ease what their suave diplomats (and wily Congress members) have had a hard time achieving in recent years - arresting Islamabad and New Delhi from finalizing the $7 billion Iran-Pakistan-India gas-pipeline project. In geopolitical terms, the project holds the definite potential to forge a unified Asian energy market, with deep implications for US energy security......"

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