Thursday, April 2, 2015

Pashto Song - A Tribute To Benazir Bhutto

Video - Last Speech Of Benazir Bhutto - Hope Is Lost

Video - Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's Speech

Video - Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto - Islamic Sumit conference 1974 Lahore

Documentary - Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto

Music Video - Ariana Grande - Break Free ft. Zedd

Will the 21st century be a Chinese one?

A book written by Joseph Nyea Harvard University professortitled Is the AmericanCentury Overhas garnered widespread attention in the circle of international strategyscholarsAs Nye is promoting his bookhe has advocated the continuation of US globalinfluenceHe emphasized that the Chinese economy will probably surpass that of the US,and the world will continue to become increasingly complicatedbut the US will maintainits lead in military and political powerThe "American centuryis set to continue for atleast several more decades.
Some of Nye's arguments are clear and convincingbut his firm belief over the "Americancenturyand his specific discussion are contradictoryActuallythe concept of the"American centurywas hardly true in the many years after the mid-20th centuryForinstanceby thenthe USSR had launched the world's first man-made satellitewhile at thesame time a bitter geopolitical rivalry gripped the US and the USSRThusthe "Americancenturywas convincing as a summary at the turn of the centuryyet the idea hardlyapplies to the constantly changing new world.
Arguing over an "American centuryor a "Chinese centuryreflects a zero-sum mentality.From China's perspectivethe 21st century definitely cannot be defined as a Chinese one.Howeveras the Chinese economy snaps at the heels of the USwhile Washington can nolonger influence its allies over whether to join the Beijing-led Asian InfrastructureInvestment Bankthe claim that this century still belongs to the US does not hold water.
The old ideas of the 20th century can no longer describe the new eraHistorical experiencehas provided us with patterns of thoughtbut it will be dangerous if we fail to see theissues today from a new lightInternational strategy scholars should break the shackles oftheir old ideas and be brave enough to create novel concepts.
The US will remain the nation with the strongest comprehensive national strength in theworld for quite some timebut it won't influence the world as it used to.
China and the US will continue to demonstrate their own merits in the 21st centurybutother nations may not fill the role of satellite states as they did during the US-USSR ColdWar rivalry.
Although China follows a unique political paththe concept of harmony advocated byChina will have an increasing influence globally along with China's riseGiven itscomplicated geopolitical environmentChina can only be ushered into the center of theworld by adhering to the principles of harmony.
Sticking to the terms of an "American centuryor a "China centurywill overly simplify acomplicated worldIf the concept dominates the worldit will be a tragedy forinternational politicsWe are already in the initial stage of all-win cooperation amongnationsThe old concepts may force us back on the wrong path.  

Yemen: Saudi Arabia’s Vietnam

Still stinging from their last military humiliation 6 years ago at the hands of the Houthi tribal fighters in Yemen, the Saudi Arabian royal family has embarked on what is highly likely to turn into Saudi’s “Vietnam”with their latest attempt at invading Yemen.
In 2009 the Saudi military’s incompetence was exposed when their major offensive against the Houthi’s along the Saudi/Yemen border was routed and in the following Houthi counter offensive a large chunk of Saudi territory was captured by the lightly armed Houthi fighters.
The last time a “Pan-Arab Army” tried to invade and occupy Yemen, in the early 1960s, Egyptian General turned President Nasser was forced to tuck his tail between his legs and pull his army of over 50,000 out of what he was to later sorrowfully admit had become “Egypt’s Vietnam”.
The problems in Yemen are not about Shiite vs Sunni or Iran vs. Saudi Arabia. Its not about Obama, whose particularly inept administration has been forced to sit on the sidelines as the Saudi royal family launched this ill advised misadventure.
The problems in Yemen are all about tribal conflicts going back centuries and the only way to solve them is by a long, tedious process of negotiations. Back in 1990 a peace deal was painstakingly constructed that resulted in the reunification of Yemen. This peace deal which held for over two decades was mediated by what was then the leadership of a rag tag band of independence fighter calling themselves the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front, a fact yet to be acknowledged by anyone covering the present conflict.
The Saudi are launching this war on the Yemeni people in an act of hubris and arrogance, paranoia almost, supposedly fearful of being surrounded by a ring of “Shi’ite enemies lead by Iran”, or at least that is what the talking heads in the western media would have us believe.
The fact is the Saudi royal family is brim full of a fanatically Wahabi fired hatred towards anything resembling a Shi’ite movement, though historically Shi’ites in west Asia hardly considered the Houthi’s of Yemen real Shi’ites.
Saudi paranoia of Iran is based on little in the way of threatening Iranian actions, with the complete lack of Iranian involvement in support of the Bahrain Shi’ite uprising a point of fact. For all the talk of Iranian military support for the Houthi take over of Yemen the evidence to support this charge is not supported by anything concrete.
The Houthi’s, fed up with their continuing neglect by the Yemeni government, and driven by the politics of hunger stalking Yemen, made a deal with former President Saleh, whose son headed the Yemeni army under the deal the Saudi/Gulf States forced down the Yemeni’s throats two years ago, and launched their offensive to take over the country.
Right from the get go the Houthi’s were calling for negotiations, though they did make it clear they were not going to allow the Wahabist “Al Queda in the Arab Peninsula” (mainly composed of exiled Saudi fanatics) any further presence in Yemen.
Having been previously humiliated militarily in 2009, and fearing been seen as weak and incompetent by their subjugated Shi’ite population who reside in the oil rich eastern region of Saudi Arabia, the Wahabist Saudi regime has embarked on what by all appearances will turn out to be their “Vietnam”.
Of course they are doing this under the cover of a Pan Arab banner, with Egypt promising troops in support of the anticipated invasion and occupation of Yemen.
Egypt’s latest General turned President Al Sisi is a particularly reluctant ally, having grown up with the memory of Egypt’s humiliating defeat in its attempt to subjugate Yemen. It is no coincidence that a just a few weeks earlier Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States sent their leaders to Sharm al Sheik to announce over $20 billion in aid and investments for Egypt’s tottering economy, hard cash President Al Sisi came hat in hand to beg for.
Fighting is reported to be raging on the Yemen/Saudi border and it is interesting to note that the Saudi military has yet to make any serious advances there. Being that the bulk of the Houthi fighters are concentrating for their push to capture Aden in the oil rich south of Yemen the Saudi military attempts to invade the Houthi heartland is not going very well.
At this point the Saudi military is still mainly an air war massacre against the defenseless Yemen people. If and when the promised ground offensive begins in earnest will see battle hardened Houthi militia pitted against a supposedly pan Arab army with little experience in real warfare. Fighting to defend their homes and families, as the Viet Cong did in Vietnam, Saudi Arabia will find its self in a Yemeni quagmire, Saudi’s “Vietnam” in Yemen.

Yemen and Ukraine: The victory of realpolitik?

By Eugene Bai 

The Yemen bombing and the ongoing Ukraine crisis reveal the essence of realpolitik. Such thinking grounded in reality rather than ideology may bring about a compromise between Russia and the U.S.
Pictured: A float depicting United States President Barack Obama, left, Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the traditional Viareggio Carnival parade in Viareggio, Italy, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015. Photo: AP
The war in Yemen is gradually turning into a large-scale international conflict, moving beyond the borders of the armed confrontation between the government and the Houthi rebels. The country is witnessing the unfolding of a political clash between Iran, supported by Russia, on one side, and Saudi Arabia, backed by the United States, on the other.
In drawing comparisons between the war in Yemen and the head-on collision between Russia and the West in southeastern Ukraine, it should be noted that the former is determined to a much greater extent by the concept of realpolitik, although the foreign policy of the major powers is also a measure of its scope.
U.S. support is with Saudi Arabia: Washington approved the bombing of the Houthis by an Arab coalition led by Riyadh, and has agreed to provide logistical support, although military intervention is not on the table. Moscow sharply criticized the bombing of rebel positions in Yemen, but has neither the strength nor the desire to take a more active part in the hostilities.
Yemen and the contradictions of a realpolitik policy
But U.S. strategy in the region is hampered by an obvious contradiction. On the one hand, the United States is providing significant military support to Iraqi troops fighting Islamic State radicals, which accords entirely with the interests of Iran.
On the other, the United States has sided with Riyadh in this momentous confrontation in Yemen, which, according to renowned Russian Arabist Georgy Mirsky, is unfolding between two fundamentalist currents in Islam: Saudi-led Sunni and Iranian-led Shia.
In an article entitled “Why no one likes a realpolitik foreign policy,” The Washington Post summed up the dilemma facing the U.S. government: “If you’re an Iranian fighting ISIS, press 1 for assistance. If you’re an Iranian fighting for the Houthis in Yemen, press 2 for targeting.”
But the White House is powerless to overcome this contradiction. It cannot walk away from Saudi Arabia, its most important ally in the Middle East. Yet, at the same time, open confrontation with Iran is highly undesirable, especially as the P5+1 talks with Tehran in Lausanne over Iran’s nuclear program are nearing the finish line.
Russia, too, is not keen to interfere in the Yemeni conflict, despite its desire to help Iran. In its present economic situation, the Kremlin stands to gain from instability in the Middle East. According to Russian political scientist Ivan Preobrazhensky, “In terms of realpolitik, it would suit Moscow for the war to last as long as possible: Oil prices might creep up and a new bout of instability in a region where Russia still wields influence would increase its clout in Middle East politics.”

How Realpolitik influences Russian and American domestic politics
But no matter how pragmatic or even cynical the interests of the global players are, realpolitik is perhaps one of the few political tools able to prevent global armed conflict. In Ukraine, as in Yemen, as the fighting continues and the deaths increase, the politics on both sides is devoid of the features that define Bismarck’s German-language term Realpolitik, which means politics based on reality as it actually is, not as idealists would like to see it.
The 2016 U.S. presidential campaign got underway recently. The first to throw in his hat was Texas senator and Republican nominee Ted Cruz. He is a staunch supporter of immediate lethal military assistance to Ukraine and tighter economic sanctions on Russia.
Almost concurrently the U.S. Congress passed a resolution recommending that the president approve lethal arms supplies to Ukraine. The document, which is advisory in nature, was backed by 348 legislators with just 48 against. The Obama administration is known to have so far resisted the motion.
The resolution of the U.S. Congress provoked a fairly sharp reaction in the Chechen parliament, where speaker Dukuvakha Abdurakhmanov stated that in response his republic was ready to commence supplies of Russian weapons to guerrillas in Mexico. Moreover, Abdurakhmanov intends to seek retaliatory measures from the State Duma and the Federation Council in the event of U.S. deliveries of lethal weapons to Ukraine.
On the face of it, the initiative could serve as a source of inspiration for Russian satirists. Abdurakhmanov has already been lampooned in Russian media as a “Kremlin mountain dweller” and “Kuzkin’s father” — by analogy with “Kuzkin’s mother,” whom Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev threatened to “show” to the Americans [the Russian idiom “To show Kuzkin’s mother” roughly translates as “You’ll get your comeuppance.”]
But in fact, the passions around Ukraine are so heated that the confrontation between East and West has begun to assume ideological, moral and even religious connotations, which, given the aggressive attitude of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who is seeking to become the spiritual leader of all Russian Muslims, is becoming dangerous.

However, ideological intransigence is not the sole prerogative of Russia. According toReutersa poll of supporters of the U.S. Republican party asked which world leader posed the greatest threat to the United States. 
First place went to Barack Obama with 34 percent of the vote, followed a fairly long way behind by Vladimir Putin at 25 percent, with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad completing the Republicans’ unholy trinity at 23 percent. In other words, over a third of the party believe that the greatest threat to U.S. national security comes from their nation’s own president.
Why Russia and the US should come up with a compromise
In this historical context, renowned U.S. political scientist Zbigniew Brzezinski suggests that the U.S. should seek a compromise with Russia. In an interview with influential British newspaper The TimesBrzezinski stated that the crisis in Ukraine needs to be resolved through a compromise acceptable to both the U.S. and Russia. He asserts that the key is to find a solution in which US and Russian interests are broadly compatible.
Brzezinski believes that the United States should give a guarantee to Russia that Kiev will not join NATO. He also called upon the West “not to humiliate Putin” — this recommendation even appeared in the headline. On the other hand, he argues in favor of Western assistance in helping Ukraine to become a democratic member of the European Union.
Brzezinski is known as a harsh and indefatigable critic of Putin. But the fact that he of all people is now calling on the U.S. and the EU to follow the principles of realpolitik is symptomatic. He and many other foreign experts are convinced that given today’s strained relations and the Kremlin’s aggressive emotional disposition over Ukraine, any other course of action would not only be ill-advised, but ruinous for the entire world.

This applies not only to political and military affairs, but also economics. Bloomberg Newspublished a piece by Russian expert Leonid Bershidsky stating that, “Putin’s economic team is working miracles.”
Last week’s growth in the Central Bank of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves, the first rise since July 2014, may be an indication that the panic caused by the sharp fall in oil prices is coming to an end. Russia’s improving economic data might be enough to persuade Western governments that sanctions are not hurting Putin’s government, wrote Bershidsky, who, like Brzezinski, is generally highly critical of Putin’s policies.
Realpolitik in the Middle East
That position is broadly shared by many experts in the U.S., Western Europe and the Middle East. “It is important for Europe and Russia to stop any further deterioration and address the crisis in a manner that reflects the interests of both. It seems that they have eventually realized this fact and are working to safeguard these,” says Dr. Mohammad Al Asoomi, a UAE economic expert and specialist in economic and social development in the UAE and the GCC countries, in his column “Realpolitik will eventually win in Ukraine crisis,” published in Gulf News.
“The current intentional politics practiced by the West against Russia express very little ‘reality’ and ‘much ideology,’” writes the publication InvestorIntel. “Russia has a huge surplus of foreign capital and can protect itself from the economic storm. The EU is still in austerity mode and failing to recover... Markets respond to realpolitik and the economic wars launched by Washington and Brussels against Moscow will hurt the markets of the former rather than the latter.”
A significant number of experts in Russia posit that if Russia joined the United States in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), Washington would “turn a blind eye to Ukraine.”
Others, on the contrary, believe that no amount of goodwill in the joint struggle against Islamic radicals will save Moscow. But perhaps a few small steps towards a compromise and the rejection of ideologically motivated policy on Ukraine, Syria and Yemen will, sooner or later, result in a mutually acceptable formula. The main thing is for politicians on both sides to display enough wisdom and patience to start untying the Gordian knot, rather than trying to slice through it.

The Iran Nuclear Deal: Highlights, High Hopes, and Haters

Much to the dismay, no doubt, of at least 47 US Republican Senators, a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was reached concerning Iran's nuclear program Thursday, after 8 straight days of final-round negotiations, in Lausanne, Switzerland.

As the tentative agreement is released, official, media, and popular reaction runs from one extreme to the other. The agreement covers five different areas: enrichments, inspections and transparency, reactors and reprocessing, sanctions, and phasing. 
This rough draft has to be molded and refined into a formal accord by June 30th and, as the text itself reminds readers, "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed." In the meantime, here are some highlights from the agreement, and reactions from across the spectrum. 

Reduction of centrifuges — Iran will reduce its installed centrifuges from 9,000 installed today to 6,104. 
Level of Enrichment — For at least 15 years, Iran won't enrich any uranium to levels of over 3.67%
Facilities - For at least 15 years, Iran won't build any new enrichment facilities, and it will not enrich uranium, store fissile material or research the enrichment of uranium at its Fordo facility. Only the Natanz facility will be used for enrichment for the next 10 years.

Inspections and Transparency
Inspector Access — The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have access to all facilities, the complete supply chain to those facilities, uranium mines and mills (for 25 years), centrifuge production and storage facilities (for 20 years). It will be allowed to inspect sites, whether declared or not, and investigate suspicious or alleged sites. 
Additional Protocol — Iran will sign the IAEA Additional Protocol, which is a safeguards regime that greatly expanded the IAEA's ability to keep an eye out for clandestine nuclear programs, as well as Modified Code 3.1, which mandates early notification of any new construction plans. 
Reactors and Reprocessing
Arak - The heavy water reactor at Arak, which had generated worries that it would be used to produce weapons grade plutonium, will be redesigned for peaceful research and radioisotope production. Its original core will be removed and destroyed. Spent fuel will be shipped out of the country. For 15 years Iran won't accumulate excess heavy water or build any new heavy water reactors.
EU & US — Once the IAEA confirms that Iran has completed all the nuclear-related requirements, US and EU nuclear-related sanctions will be lifted. Any backsliding by Iran, the US has warned, means the sanctions come back as well. 
UN - Once Iran complies, UN Security council resolutions relating directly to nuclear activities will be lifted, but those relating to things like the transfer of sensitive technologies will be renegotiated. A dispute resolution process will be established, but if parties fail to find resolutions for conflicts arising from the JCPOA, UN sanctions can snap back into place. 
10 years — limit enrichment capacity and R&D, centrifuge limitations, maintain one-year "breakout timeline" (the time needed to produce enough uranium for one nuclear weapon).
15 years — no new enrichment facilities or heavy water reactors, limited enriched uranium stockpile, extra transparency measures.
25 years — robust inspections of Iran's supply chain, access to uranium mines and mills
Permanent — adherence to the IAEA Additional Protocol, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). 
Mixed Reaction
"The political understanding with details that we have reached is a solid foundation for the good deal we are seeking, " said US Secretary of State John Kerry, acknowledging that many technical details are yet to be worked out. 
France was cautious in its optimism, with president Francois Hollande saying: "France will be watchful… to ensure that a credible, verifiable agreement be established under which the international community can be sure Iran will not be in a position to have access to nuclear arms."
Israel's Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, however, did not join in praise of the deal, calling the framework "detached from a wretched reality." And Iran's Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif said "We're still some time away from reaching where we want to be," and that the deal didn't erase other political differences with the United States.
"We have built mutual distrust in the past," said Zarif, "So what I hope is that through courageous implementation of this some of that trust could be remedied. But that is for us all to wait and see."
In unofficial circles, reaction on social media is running the gamut between joyous celebration, and predictions of utter catastrophe. 

Read more:

Video - Iranians Celebrate Nuclear Deal

A Promising Nuclear Deal With Iran

The preliminary agreement between Iran and the major powers is a significant achievement that makes it more likely Iran will never be a nuclear threat. President Obama said it would “cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.”
Officials said some important issues have not been resolved, like the possible lifting of a United Nations arms embargo, and writing the technical sections could also cause problems before the deal’s finalization, expected by June 30. Even so, the agreement announced on Thursday after eight days of negotiations appears more specific and comprehensive than expected.
It would roll back Iran’s nuclear program sufficiently so that Iran could not quickly produce a nuclear weapon, and ensure that, if Iran cheated, the world would have at least one year to take preventive action, including reimposing sanctions. In return, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations would lift sanctions crippling Iran’s economy, though the timing of such a move is yet another uncertainty.


From center left: Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, Secretary of State John Kerry  and Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, on Thursday.CreditPool photo by Brendan Smialowski

Iran would shut down roughly two-thirds of the 19,000 centrifuges producing uranium that could be used to fuel a bomb and agree not to enrich uranium over 3.67 percent (a much lower level than is required for a bomb) for at least 15 years. The core of the reactor at Arak, which officials feared could produce plutonium, another key ingredient for producing a weapon, would be dismantled and replaced, with the spent fuel shipped out of Iran.
Mr. Obama, speaking at the White House, insisted he was not relying on trust to ensure Iran’s compliance but on “the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program.”
There is good reason for skepticism about Iran’s intentions. Although it pledged not to acquire nuclear weapons when it ratified the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1970, it pursued a secret uranium enrichment program for two decades. By November 2013, when serious negotiations with the major powers began, Iran was enriching uranium at a level close to bomb-grade.
However, Iran has honored an interim agreement with the major powers, in place since January 2014, by curbing enrichment and other major activities.
By opening a dialogue between Iran and America, the negotiations have begun to ease more than 30 years of enmity. Over the long run, an agreement could make the Middle East safer and offer a path for Iran, the leading Shiite country, to rejoin the international community.

The deal, if signed and carried out, would vindicate the political risks taken by President Hassan Rouhani of Iran and President Obama to engage after decades of estrangement starting from the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Talking to adversaries — as President Ronald Reagan did in nuclear weapons negotiations with the Soviets and President Richard Nixon did in his opening to China — is something American leaders have long pursued as a matter of practical necessity and prudence.
Yet in today’s poisonous political climate, Mr. Obama’s critics have gone to extraordinary lengths to undercut him and any deal. Their belligerent behavior is completely out of step with the American public, which overwhelmingly favors a negotiated solution with Iran, unquestionably the best approach.
Sunni Arab nations and Israel are deeply opposed to any deal, fearing that it would strengthen Iran’s power in the region. This agreement addresses the nuclear program, the most urgent threat, and does not begin to tackle Iran’s disruptive role in Syria and elsewhere. Iran is widely seen as a threat; whether it can get beyond that will depend on whether its leaders choose to be less hostile to its neighbors, including Israel.

Video - Kerry: Iran Deal Is a Good Foundation

Video Report - 'Iran nuclear deal a beginning of new relationship between Tehran and Washington'

Video - President Obama on the International Nuclear Framework with Iran

Pakistan - Joint session on Yemen

IN a sensible and timely move, the PML-N government has, at the urging of the opposition, decided to convene a joint session of parliament to discuss the conflict in Yemen.
The focus will also be on what role, if any, Pakistan may play in what is essentially a civil war inside Yemen —– but one that has been turbocharged by Saudi fears of potential Iranian influence growing in a country that the kingdom shares a border with.
While a joint session of parliament cannot issue a binding resolution directing the government on how to proceed in a matter of foreign policy, it should help clarify at least two things: one, the government’s position, thus far at odds with Saudi claims; and two, what is at stake for Pakistan, both internally and externally, when it comes to intervening — diplomatically or militarily — in a region where Pakistan has to necessarily balance competing interests.
To begin with, there has been some consistency in the official claims made by the PML-N government: seeking a diplomatic and peaceful solution to the crisis in Yemen; declaring that the government’s red line is a violation of the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia (effectively, if the Houthis were to cross the border into the kingdom); and leaving the door open to sending troops at least for defensive purposes inside Saudi Arabia.
What has been particularly troubling, however, is that Saudi officials and the media there have repeatedly contradicted the Pakistani government claims and bluntly stated that Pakistan has already committed to making a military contribution to the Saudi-led coalition presently bombing the Houthis in Yemen that may be followed by a land invasion.
There being a long history of the state here being parsimonious with the truth and making private commitments to outside powers, the fear is that the PML-N government may be saying one thing to its own public and preparing to do something quite different.
In the joint session of parliament to be convened on Monday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself needs to speak, explain his government’s policy and address the conflicting claims made by his government and the Saudi regime.
There is also a significant role for the opposition to play in the joint session: laying out the internal implications of a military involvement in Yemen when the fight against militancy at home is at its peak; expanding on the regional implications for participating in a Saudi-led coalition that is aimed at reducing perceived Iranian influence; and dilating on the proper diplomatic and political role for Pakistan in the Muslim world, which is riven by conflict, both state and non-state.
In particular, refuting the dangerous and destabilising claims in some quarters here that the Yemen conflict is sectarian or that the Pakistan state has a sectarian leaning of its own is something that all of parliament could do together — and forcefully.

Pakistan - Yemen crisis - Parties’ call

A meeting of leaders of the PPP, ANP, MQM, JUI-F and BNP-Awami held in Karachi on April 1st to discuss the Yemen crisis has called for an all parties conference and a joint session of parliament before the government takes a decision on what role Pakistan should play on the issue. The meeting expressed grave concern over the situation in Yemen and its implications for Pakistan and the region. They called for resolving the crisis through dialogue and negotiations and rejected the notion that one person, as often happened in the past under military dictators, should take a decision of such far reaching import. The concerns of the parties are genuine, and it is comforting to note that the government does not seem oblivious of this or the apprehensions amongst commentators and the general public about Pakistan jumping into a foreign adventure of untold risks. These risks include Pakistani forces, if at all they are sent to Yemen as the Saudis seem implicitly to want, getting bogged down in a multi-faceted, complex war without clear lines or end. An intervention also runs the risk of alienating Iran and impacting negatively the already fraught sectarian situation in Pakistan itself. After the high powered Pakistani delegation has returned from discussions in Riyadh and briefed the top civil and military leadership, it appears that the wisdom of the political parties’ call has sunk in. That is why after reviewing the brief the delegation came back with, the government announced a joint session of parliament on Monday, April 6. This is both wise and timely. All indications point to the government not wanting to offend either Saudi Arabia or Iran or being seen as partisan in the Yemen context. That is why the option of sending a limited number of troops to secure the soil of Saudi Arabia from any attack seems the best choice. This way the commitment to close friend Saudi Arabia to reciprocate its help through the years can be satisfied without getting embroiled in a conflict that is complex and uncertain. Iran too, whose foreign minister is arriving in Pakistan on April 8 for discussions on the Yemen issue amongst others, will feel Pakistan has not strayed into territory it may consider hostile to it. While King Salman has briefed the Kingdom’s ministers on his interactions with foreign heads of state and government, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is about to embark on lightning tours to Turkey and other Muslim countries in the region for consultations on the crisis. Pakistan is desirous of bringing Iran and Saudi Arabia to the negotiating table under the aegis of the OIC, although the move has invited a great deal of scepticism at home because of the perception that the OIC is a toothless and ineffective tiger. Similarly, the call by King Salman for all parties in Yemen to agree to talks on resolving the crisis under the umbrella of the Gulf Cooperation Council seems a non-starter since the Council groups the very Arab countries that are either actively militarily involved in the Saudi-led air campaign against the Houthis and other rebels or at the very least sympathetic to or even part of the Arab coalition in support of deposed president Hadi. Absent from the emerging scene is the UN, with nary a statement of concern let alone diplomatic efforts to bring the fighting to an end or addressing the humanitarian crisis that stems from this latest major war.

On the ground in Yemen, despite the air strikes by the Saudi-led Arab coalition, the Houthis and their allies are driving relentlessly on Aden, the major southern city and port from where Hadi fled into exile in the face of his rivals’ offensive. A Houthi column with tanks is said already to be in the centre of Aden and it seems only a matter of time before the city falls to the Houthis. Calls for a ground invasion by Saudi and other Arab troops are growing in response, but uncertainty surrounds the former’s capacity and the latter’s willingness. The Saudi intervention in the Yemen civil war may yet prove to be its biggest blunder if the paranoia about Iranian influence in its backyard translates into deep hatred by the so far advancing rebels for ‘Big Brother’ in Riyadh.

Pakistan Faces Tough Choices Over Yemen Intervention

By Frud Bezhan

Pakistan is grappling with a dilemma -- should it join a Sunni Arab military coalition fighting Shi'ite Huthi rebels in Yemen, or keep its troops at home?

A Saudi-led coalition for the past week has been conducting airstrikes against strongholds of Iran-backed Huthi rebels who have seized large swaths of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa.
Islamabad has said it will defend Saudi "territorial integrity," but has yet to respond to Riyadh's request that it provide troops to the coalition's mission in Yemen. Pakistan's parliament will convene a special session on April 6 to discuss the request.
If Sunni-majority Pakistan chooses to stay out of the conflict it could risk angering Saudi Arabia, a close strategic, religious, and historical ally. But if Islamabad does intervene it risks overextending its armed forces, which are already engaged in a vicious fight against militants at home.
There has been fierce debate over the issue in Pakistan, with Sunni religious groups calling for military action. Civil-society activists, however, warn that foreign intervention could further inflame domestic sectarian tensions.
Stretched Military
The army is already battling Pakistani Taliban militants in the country's northwest tribal areas, while also maintaining a heavy troop presence on its eastern border with arch-enemy India.
Talat Masood, a political commentator and former military general, says Pakistan's military resources are too stretched to contribute in Yemen. "The greatest threat for Pakistan is internal," he says. "The military is already heavily preoccupied."
Islamabad is also wary of getting bogged down in a regional ethnic and sectarian conflict pitting regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia against each other.
"It doesn't make much sense to get involved in a conflict which is not going to help Yemen," Masood says. "It's an internal conflict that experience shows should be settled internally rather than through the meddling of foreign powers."
Inflame Sectarianism
Tehran has a history of supporting proxies in the region, and analysts say the Iran-Saudi rivalry is being played out in part in Pakistan, which has seen a growing number of sectarian attacks and reprisal killings.
Sectarian violence has soared in Pakistan in recent years, most of it targeting the Shi'ite minority, which makes up around 20 percent of the population.
"If Pakistan was to get involved in Yemen, its involvement could inflame tensions between Sunni and Shi'ites at home in Pakistan as its involvement could be interpreted as a sign of the state leaning explicitly toward Sunni Islam," Pakistan observer Akhilesh Pillalamarri wrote in the National Interest on April 1.
While Pakistan is wary of fanning sectarian discord at home, it will also be reluctant to anger its neighbor Iran, which has strongly criticized the intervention in Yemen.
Can't Afford To Say No
But Pakistan will find it hard to say no to the Saudis, according to analysts.
Saudi Arabia has provided Pakistan with huge financial support in the form of cheap oil and loans, including one worth $1.5 billion last year. That assistance has been crucial for Pakistan, which is dealing with a struggling economy and energy crisis.
When Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted in a military coup in 1999, it was Saudi Arabia that received him in exile.
Muhammad Taqi, a U.S.-based Pakistan political analyst, says Islamabad does not have the luxury of refusing Riyadh's request for military support. "Pakistan is beholden to the Saudis for the last 30 or 40 years, and for Sharif both personally and on a government level," he says, adding that "there is no such thing as a free lunch in geopolitics."
Saudi Arabia could consider holding back on aid and the cut-price oil it provides to Pakistan if Islamabad refuses to get involved in Yemen.
But history suggests that Pakistan will come to Saudi Arabia's aid, says Pakistani security expert Ayesha Siddiqa.
Pakistani forces have helped protect the kingdom on several occasions in the past 50 years.
Siddiqa predicts Islamabad will heed the calls from Riyadh in some capacity because Islamabad "will not risk spoiling the crucial relationship."