Amb Aizaz Chaudhry Sb
Worthy panelists for today’s event and dear guests.
I would like to welcome you all to the panel discussion on Mediation in the Persian Gulf: Initiatives, Strategies and Objectives. I’m particularly grateful to all of you for accepting IPI’s invitation on a very short notice.
As all of you know Middle East is witnessing one of the most challenging situations since the World War II. The region is largely unstable and ridden with multiple crises that have political, security, economic and humanitarian dimensions. It is unclear what direction would these crises take. The future is as unpredictable as politics of this region.
Tensions between Iran and the United States plus its Arab allies aggravated sharply after President Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was also endorsed through UN Security Council Resolution 2231.
US subsequently re-imposed sanctions on Iran as part of a “maximum pressure” policy, whereas Tehran has reviewed its commitments to limit uranium enrichment activity under the pact and has begun enriching uranium beyond the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal.
The situation has been further complicated by security incidents in the region over the past few months. Initially there were attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman and more lately there was a missile-and-drone assault on Saudi Arabia’s largest oil processing facility and a ground assault on Saudi forces in bordering area of Najran by the Houthis.
The attack on Aramco plant was claimed by Houthi rebels, yet US, Saudi Arabia and their allies pointed fingers at Iran. Iran denied being responsible. It has warned that any retaliatory attack targeting it will result in an “all-out war.” Meanwhile, a new naval coalition to protect Gulf waters has been created, which so far comprises Australia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani offered an olive branch to Iran’s neighbours saying Tehran was willing to “extend the hand of friendship and brotherhood”. However, he has asked Western forces to leave the security of the region to the countries in the neighbourhood.
Pakistan, which has legitimate political, economic and security interests in the region, cannot remain completely removed from the effects of developments in the Middle East. Therefore, it is important that Pakistan’s interests be secured in the face of unpredictable circumstances.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, following his meetings with US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, started a mediation initiative. He discussed it with Iranian President Rouhani in his meeting on the sidelines of UNGA. Mr Khan has been carrying the initiative ahead although he has been cautious about its prospects.
Islamabad Policy Institute has therefore organized this event to deliberate on the evolving situation. While the experts participating in today’s discussion would deliberate on the prospects of the initiative in light of past experiences, we would like this discussion to produce recommendations on how this process should be taken forward.
Thank you once again for being with us today.