By Agha Hussain
Informed discourse on Israel, the Middle East and current geopolitical affairs pertaining to Israel is not stimulating the current round of ‘to recognize Israel or not’ discourse in Pakistan. A misreading of the strategic trends in the Middle East and non-cognizance of Israel’s goals and objectives and incapability of placing Pakistan into a real world scenario vis a vis Israel.
Skipping to the most important foreign policy determinant of any competent state – the strategic component – and then placing Pakistan and Israel into each other’s relevant strategic, or more accurately geostrategic, contexts is imperative. This is more so for Israel, which pursues certain goals vis a vis its rivals which it is extremely serious about and which it seeks utilizing methods which a state such as Pakistan ought to be highly wary of.
Only then practical discourse be strung together to answer the question of whether Pakistan should recognize it or not.
Israel and the drive to war with Pakistan’s western neighbour Iran
Colonel (r) Lauren Wilkerson, Chief of Staff to US Secretary of State Collin Powell during the first tenure of President Bush Jr, stated last year what close observers had known for decades: that Israel was trying to get the US to attack Iran.
Having served in a government where the State Department, White House and Pentagon were effectively swamped by the neoconservatives – committed Zionist war hawks who stovepiped false intel derived from Israel on Iraqi ‘WMDs’ or even ‘ties to al Qaeda’ throughout the Bush government to get Iraq attacked – Wilkerson knew what he was talking about.
Alongside Iraq and Syria, attacking Iran remained another top focus of this group’s work, as well as that of the burgeoning network of moneyed lobbyist organizations serving Israel as de facto foreign agents in the US.
Taking down Syria – the conduit for Iranian weapons and supplies to the prolific armed group and Islamist Shia party of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon whose freshwater resources Israel’s founding fathers have coveted for a century – was a major objective and an Iran-centric one.
The general theme of taking down Iran’s government due to its support to anti-Israel armed resistance groups in Palestine and Lebanon is consistent in various neocon-Likud policy papers and publications. Most prominent among these are the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) and the 1996 A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm policy paper which the future Bush administration war hawks wrote for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
With that objective having failed and Iran deeply entrenched in Syria, regardless of US and also Russo-Israeli attempts to curb its influence, Israel could use another route toward bringing the fight to Iran’s frontiers.
Balochistan: An attractive option for Iran-war hawks in Tel Aviv and the US
Iran’s western front is already subject to naval build-up and hostile posturing by its foes, yet its well-known strait of Hormuz trump card and the threat to the GCC of Iranian backlash through its ballistic missiles makes invasion too untenable for the time being.
Israel is not bothered by the global fuel crisis that would result if an attacked Iran shut the strait from which 40% of the world oil and gas shipments pass through. This is because it itself gets its oil smuggled by the Iraqi Kurds – allies of Israel since the 1960s – up north through Turkey and dispatched by sea from Turkish ports to Israeli ones.
Already visibly exploring new geographical avenues for war with Iran via its involvement in Yemen, Israel’s eventual attraction to the potentials of Balochistan as a front to open against Iran seems inevitable.
The 900 km long border between Iran and Pakistan in the vast and largely barren Balochistan region the two share has seen troubles from terrorists attacking both countries in the past. While it has never seen a globally explosive proxy war as was seen in Syria from 2011 onward, the vast expanse possesses several attributes which make it an extremely attractive alternate option for Israeli planners to take the fight to Iran.
Israel has age-old intelligence ties to India, having provided it with intelligence and military assistance during its wars with Pakistan. India, moreover, has long funded Baloch separatists fighting against Pakistan. It has also the Chabahar Port in Iranian Sistan-Baluchestan to run businesses as fronts for this purpose as well, as evidenced by the Kulbhushan Yadav affair.
The prospects of a MOSSAD presence directly within Iran via liaison with India’s RAW are real and problematic for the Iranians considering MOSSAD has supported the anti-Iran terrorist group Jundullah in Balochistan in the past. India’s contacts among inimical elements in Balochistan and India’s willingness to commit to strategic endeavours harming Pakistan in any way presents an invaluable, easily utilizable asset for Israel in seeking to use both sides of Balochistan against Iran.
Balochistan has a huge black market economy and rampant smuggling, facilitated by the porous nature of many parts of the Iran-Pakistan border and corruption among border security officials. While this has come in handy for Iran during periods of sanctions vis a vis selling huge quantities of oil to smugglers in Balochistan, it also contributes to the lack of ability of Iran and Pakistan to track potentially large money flows into the region.
This helps foreign agencies send financial assistance and weaponry to proxy groups such as Jundullah or Baloch separatists with greater ease. The MOSSAD is perhaps better placed than any other agency to exploit such an opening given its extensive links to billionaire black market arms dealers, as was revealed by the Iran Contra Affair of the 1980s, and move weapons and funds beyond the radar of or documentation by any state authority into the sensitive Balochistan region.
Moreover, Iran’s tendency to hubristically blame Pakistan for not doing its part to reign in anti-Iran terrorists in Balochistan, despite Pakistan’s rescues in November last year and March this year of abducted Iranian soldiers, and ignoring the Indian role may prove highly useful to Israel should it and India jointly attempt to destabilize Balochistan.
Pakistan, which does little to pressure Iran to own up to the Indian role or to weaken the very brittle Indo-Iranian relationship, may become an easy scapegoat and enable effective plausible deniability for the MOSSAD as it attacks Iran covertly and pins the blame – with India chiming in agreement – on Pakistan.
Can Pakistan broker a détente in the Persian Gulf?
This is often suggested in quick reaction to exposure to the realities prevailing around Israel and its region. It comes, with all other talking points in contemporary Pakistani discourse on Israel, sans any idea of what is going on with Israel and its enemies. What Pakistan would even get following the hypothetical brokering of such a détente is never theorized either.
Israel’s push to war with Iran goes back decades and seeks the accomplishment of objectives Israel as a state itself is engineered toward attaining. The notion that a country as weak in terms of influence over Middle East geopolitics as Pakistan could convince it, or the US whose Middle East policy the Israel Lobby reigns supreme over, to abandon the war path is preposterous.
Israel’s deeply-entrenched lobbyists have pushed through for sending the US into war on Israel’s behalf for very long and have repeatedly sabotaged genuine US interests and even the welfare and safety of American citizens when necessary. A state like Pakistan which the US has a history of leaving high and dry in difficult situations cannot and will not change anything about this dynamic.
Nor would Pakistan be able to use diplomacy with the US to keep Israel from seeking to utilize Pakistan’s territory against Iran given that the US has never really been able to tell Israel what to do.
A fruitless experiment
Israeli consulates in Pakistan would achieve little other than making the facilitation of anti-Pakistan and anti-Iran terrorists with funding and even Israeli passports to move abroad and meet with other potential benefactors. Pakistan would be both directly affected by the instability and have its ties with a vital neighbouring country ruined if successfully scapegoated for anti-Iran terrorism.
The ‘recognize Israel’ debate in Pakistan takes place in a vacuum, cut off from the most impactful and gripping geopolitical and regional realities. It is driven by a delusion that ties with a certain state can be managed as some manner of bilateral and uncontroversial business relationship where neither bears any consequences for its ties with other states.
There is relatively nothing good to be gained for Pakistan from Israel ties, and there are numerous signs Israel will soon more proactively involve itself in the hyper-aggressive Indian state’s anti-Pakistan designs as well. Balochistan-based terror groups could, yet again, be used for sabotaging Pakistan.
What can and will come to Pakistan from Israel is far from good for the country, and the angry crowds that will throng the streets in protest at recognizing Israel will only add salt to the wound of a bad decision.
Agha Hussain is freelance editorial contributor with focus on Middle East affairs and Pakistani foreign policy