Wednesday, April 8, 2015

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Video Report - Pakistani lawmakers oppose involvement in Saudi-led war on Yemen

Video Report - The Debate - Saudi Invasion of Yemen (Part 1-2)

Delegates from Middle East, Muslim world to convene in Israel for nuclear conference

Israel will host a prestigious, UN-sponsored international conference next week on the ban of nuclear tests. Around 100 representatives will take part in the meeting, including from Arab and Muslim states that don’t have diplomatic relations with Israel.
Jordanian and Egyptian delegates will also attend the conference. To ensure the safety of the participants, the Foreign Ministry issued safety and travel assurances.

The conference is organized by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization headquartered in Vienna.

The purpose of the gathering is to evaluate and draw lessons from a recent on-site field exercise held in Jordan in November. Senior Israeli officials participated in the exercise, which tested the preparedness of the equipment used by CTBTO to monitor nuclear tests.

There are hundreds of monitoring stations in the world linked to the Vienna headquarters which are ready to monitor, identify and evaluate nuclear tests. Israel is home to two such stations and one laboratory in the small nuclear research reactor at Sorek, 20 km. south of Tel Aviv.

The CTBTO stations were the first ones to trace and identify North Korean nuclear tests nearly 10 years ago.

Lassina Zerbo, the executive secretary of CTBTO, will lead the international delegation.

He will meet with Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz and other Israeli officials. One of the purposes of the visit is to persuade Israel to ratify the treaty. Israel signed the treaty

Saudi Arabia’s trail of foolishness, hypocrisy and mistakes from Syria to Yemen

By Harry J. Bentham

The Saudis and their allies are usually a puzzle when it comes to foreign policy. In their reaction to events in Yemen, they just look like bumbling fools.

After the Saudis and their allies spent multiple years pushing and pushing earnestly to bring down Bashar al Assad’s regime in Syria, he is still in power and stronger than ever, gaining an increasing advantage over the Saudi-backed insurgents. Even as the Saudis meddled in Syria (and even Iraq and Lebanon, according to some reports on their relationship with ISIS), their own walls have started to fall down on them, with the pro-Saudi government of former president Hadi in Yemen collapsing. In other words, the plan that Saudi Arabia wrote for Iraq, Lebanon and Syria has happened to Yemen and destroyed one of Saudi Arabia’s own friends.
Most amusing is the fact that the Saudis and their ideologues in the Arabic media are convinced that Iran is behind the fall of the Yemeni government and the success of the Houthi Movement’s Ansarullah paramilitary wing, effectively “taking over” Yemen. However, as reported in an analysis at Stratfor, Iran is simply too far away to really have any meaningful involvement in the conflict in Yemen. There is no evidence that Iran has provided any money, training or weapons to any of the parties fighting in Yemen. However, Iran’s alleged disrespect for Yemen’s “sovereignty” (according to Hadi and his Saudi freinds, that is something to be determined by foreign armies and planes rather than the Yemeni people) is argued to be the reason for the violent campaign now being waged against Yemen.
Saudi Arabia, unlike Iran, has been bombing the factions it disagrees with in Yemen, killing hundreds of civilian bystanders, and has been airdropping weapons to the groups it wants to kill its enemies in the country. In sum, Saudi Arabia wants you to think some kind of invisible, unproven specter of Iranian connections in the sovereign country of Yemen is an “aggression”; lunatics like US Senator John McCain (see his remarks at the Munich Security Conference) and other anti-Iran maniacs also see Iranian influence in Yemen as aggression… but Saudi Arabia’s blatant airstrikes and airdrops of guns into the country are seen as necessary countermeasures to protect Yemen’s “sovereignty” from Iran.

In reality, Iran has not done anything hostile in Yemen, while Saudi Arabia has committed acts of blatant aggression and is sending weapons to factions in the country.

What is astonishing is that Saudi Arabia and its allies are crazy enough to simultaneously claim to be intervening in countries to keep “legitimate” presidents in power (like Yemen’s Hadi) and intervening in other countries to remove “illegitimate” presidents from power (as in Syria).
Former president Hadi and the so-called Syrian opposition are  not legitimate rulers of anything, but they do have one striking similarity: both are cowering in foreign capitals and suckling on foreign promises, while pretending to rule over their respective countries and denying that their people have rejected them. Cowering in Riyadh is what passes for being a “legitimate” ruler for Yemen in the eyes of Riyadh.

Read more:


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China: Afghanistan’s New Hope


Afghanistan, China’s missing link in its regional diplomacy, needs China’s financial resources, construction industry, and political leverage. The two need to build a strong partnership based on mutual interests.

With the recent surge in direct diplomacy and high level visits between China and Afghanistan there is an emerging hope amongst Afghans that China can be counted on as an honest partner, broker, and good neighbor. An increased economic and security interest in China by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai during his last months in office and the current president, Ashraf Ghani, with his first foreign trip to Beijing are all indicators of a great rebalancing act by Kabul to reach out to China after decades of tepid relations. But this new hope of a partnership should go beyond diplomatic niceties and be based on a strong foundation of mutual interests.
Afghanistan needs Chinese financial, economic, and technical resources and its political leverage at the international stage whereas Afghanistan is the missing link in China’s regional diplomacy and geopolitics. As a rising power, China cannot and should not tolerate an unstable Afghanistan in its neighborhood. A troubled and unstable neighborhood infested with extremists and regional proxy terrorist groups is probably the biggest impediment to China’s rise to a peaceful and responsible power.
History is filled with examples, such as the Byzantine, Ottoman, and Khmer Empires, where rising powers eventually fell or disintegrated due to instability in their neighborhood. Both China and Afghanistan have suffered from imperial conquests and fell prey to various geopolitical games. These empires were mostly supported by outside powers, and today, while China has managed to throw off the influence of those powers and strengthened internally, Afghanistan is still fighting its battle for a united, prosperous, and peaceful Afghanistan.
China has international diplomatic clout, influence in the region, and is an economic powerhouse, all of which can help to facilitate talks with and pressure groups and states to achieve regional stability. While China might have legitimate security and geostrategic concerns over engaging itself in such a controversial international and regional issue (and potentially a never-ending insurgency in Afghanistan), the costs of staying indifferent will be much higher. A neighborhood engulfed in terrorism, the drug trade, extremism, and proxy wars is the biggest threat to the national security and rise of China.
On the other hand, China should stop relying on Pakistan when dealing with Sino-Afghan border issues, particularly when it comes to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. The time has come for China to end its passivity with Afghanistan, directly engage with the Afghan government, and help support build a strong, national government for Afghanistan to serve as a credible partner for China in its neighborhood.
Afghanistan has natural and human resources as well as a prime geographic location that are ripe for Chinese picking. The World Bank has termed Afghanistan as a country with huge potential to serve as a resource corridor between South and Central Asia. China — one of the biggest consumers of raw material and energy inputs — has some of the world’s biggestconstructionrailway, and road companies. They are efficient, experienced, and highly competent companies who have been building infrastructures across the globe — from China to Africa to South Asia. Afghanistan, however, has one of the most underdeveloped infrastructures in the world, barely even tapping into its full resource potential. China should invest in Afghanistan’s infrastructure development to gain access to Afghanistan’s resources and create a land bridge, better connecting China to Central Asia and the Middle East.
Furthermore, Afghanistan is the backyard of the Persian Gulf, and given that the majority of Chinese oil supply passes through the Gulf, it is of vital national security interest for China to expand its economic and political influence in Afghanistan. With some much of China’s energy imports passing through Afghanistan’s sphere, the security of the Chinese energy supplies depends on the stability of Afghanistan.
China has some of the best vocational training institutes and higher education institutions in the region. According to the recent Times Education ranking, Chinese universities and institutes rank among the world’s 100 best universities and institutes. Meanwhile China has also over the years accumulated valuable assembly and manufacturing experience for the international market. China can assist Afghanistan in creating an indigenous manufacturing industry in the country. Afghanistan — a country where much of the population is still illiterate — can greatly benefit from Chinese education and manufacturing prowess.
Chinese business interests and products have mainly been rerouted and exported to Afghanistan via Pakistan because Afghan roadways from China cannot accommodate the demands of the mountainous border between the two countries. The Afghan business communities have a keen interest for partner with Chinese firms and factories. Chinese state-owned companies such as the China National Petroleum Corporation International and China Metallurgical Group Corporation have invested in Amu Darya oil river basinand Aynak copper mine in Afghanistan, though the experience with the two projects has not been encouraging so far. The contractual obligations have either been not met or were asked to be renegotiated.
Despite China’s issues in following through and delivery in Afghanistan, Afghanistan has much to learn from the Chinese economic model. Afghanistan needs to move away from an aid dependent economy move towards a trade and export oriented economy. China’s economic policies have a lot to offer in terms of models and examples. China has successfully used a state capitalism economic model mixed with special economic zones, assembly lines, and export oriented trade to become one of the world’s biggest economies.
In the long run, the benefits of Chinese engagement and influence in building a stable and peaceful Afghanistan far outweigh the costs. China can exert its diplomatic status to bring parties to the negotiating table and use its powerful economy to support mutually beneficial infrastructure development programs in Afghanistan. A stable and peaceful Afghanistan can be both a reliable trading partner with China and bring needed stability to the region. Instability in a country breeds instability in the region, and China cannot afford such a liability. China will have to engage in Afghanistan for its own national and economic security.

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Pakistan - Mr Nawaz Sharif, the Saudi-Yemeni conflict is not our war to fight


As the Houthi rebels strengthen their stranglehold over the country, amid the surreptitious flight of the Yemeni president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the long raging civil war in Yemen has finally come into the international spotlight.
Pakistan is, once again, at crossroads with Saudi Arabia, who is attempting to suck in inter-ethnic, inter-religious, and intra-sectarian conflicts into their black hole.
The prospects of petro-dollars coupled with the longstanding romance between the Sharifs and Sauds, buoyed by a rise of the Pakistan Army as a bulwark against both domestic as well as international terrorism, in recent times, might have made the temptation of joining the Saudi alliance irresistible, but it is an alliance which must be resisted.
That Pakistan should not embroil itself in a new war seems a no-brainer. Yet decades of misplaced priorities and mercurial and xenophobic foreign policy-making decisions have clouded or perhaps, blinded us towards our ‘national’ interests and how to achieve them.
The disorder of social amnesia amongst our public may be one of the major reasons for this disastrous ideological bickering among ruling elites. Moreover, the recent statement of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif about his stance on Saudi Arabia seems more like a ploy to support his Saudi ‘brothers’ in their imperialist adventures in the Gulf region, rather than a purely threat-based assessment.
For those of us wise or old enough to recall, the last time the Pakistan army aided a war in the Gulf from 1967-1970, under the command of the infamous General Ziaul Haq, it became known as “Black September”. Thousands of Palestinians were killed and displaced from Jordan, squandering all the goodwill that we had achieved earlier. Therefore, this time around, we must not be on the wrong side of history. But before going further, let’s stop for a bit and analyse the current situation in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia is currently busy helping the ailing Yemeni government to fight off the Houthi rebels – a Shi’ite group of the Zaidi denomination who ruled North Yemen for about a 1000 years. They are mostly concentrated in the north of the country, which used to be a separate republic before it was unified with the south to form modern day Yemen in 1990.
Since then, the Houthis – who named their movement after Hussein Badraldin al Houthi, the man who led the first uprising against the Yemeni government in 2004, and was assassinated subsequently – have steadily gained ground in the past few months, closing in on Sana’a, the capital city of Yemen.
The Saudis have long been meddling in the political upheaval in Yemen. Their current preoccupation is therefore a part of the larger desire to maintain their long established political, religious, and now more so, military hegemony in the Gulf region.
To make matters worse, its nemeses, the ultra-sectarian Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and the al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have also managed to consolidate their power in the chaotic country. The Islamic Republic of Iran, a long-standing Saudi contender for ideological influence in the Middle East, is also stepping up support for the Houthis, their fellow Shiites. Thus, engulfed in a bitter intra-sectarian and inter-ethnic rivalry, the Saudis are desperate for help.
This hodge-podge of sectarian strife, spiced up by the entry of ISIS and AQAP, warrants a cautions and pragmatic policy by Pakistan. In its crusade against the so-called ‘terrorists’ in the country and region, Pakistan must not get carried away and adopt a blanket policy towards all insurgencies.
The Houthis, for example, are not the Taliban or al Qaeda, contrary to what the Saudis might suggest. They do not call for the establishment of an obscurantist and puritanical form of theocracy; instead they are fighting primarily to achieve socio-economic security, and just political representation which has long been denied to them by the dictatorial central government.
We must not, therefore, in principle, be privy to such a coalition. Since principles hardly matter when it comes to Pakistan’s foreign policy, Realpolitik may help deter us from yet another military adventure for two reasons.
First, Pakistan shares a long and porous border with Iran through its troubled province of Balochistan. With a separatist insurgency brewing in its own backyard, irking the Iranians by thwarting their attempts in Yemen could only turn out to be ominous. That Iranians would not retaliate by propping up the Baloch rebels (freedom fighters) is wishful thinking at best and naivety at its worst.
Tensions have already been simmering under the surface of Pak-Iran bilateral relations over the issue of Pakistan’s alleged support for Sunni terrorist groups operating on Iranian soil, and this move will just add fuel to the fire.
Secondly, and more importantly, allying with the Saudis to take on ISIS, AQAP, and Houthis all at once, would only entangle Pakistan into a protracted and tiring war with the Middle-Eastern jihadists, leading to increased hostilities at home and abroad. If the blowback of the ‘Afghan Jihad’ in the 1980s seems lost in retrospect, the recent quagmire of the US, Saudi, Qatari, Jordanian, and Iranian forces battling both each other and the Syrian forces should refresh our memories.
After 70 years of precarious existence, far from what Jinnah envisaged as a democratic Muslim model, we are still grappling with core issues such as basic healthcare, a faltering education system, rampant corruption, and moral and cultural depravity.
Thus, it is time that we stopped meddling in others’ wars and started fighting our own.

Islamic State enters fray in Pakistan

Islamic State drew first blood against Pakistan at the weekend when its regional spokesman claimed their fighters had shot dead three Pakistani soldiers.
But how big an advantage does this represent for the group?
Few are willing to speculate.
Most analysts see IS as a phenomenon of the Levant, having hno roots in South Asia.
Recent claims by some sub-groups within the Taliban to having joined IS are seen by many as reflective of their loss of clout and funding due to a Pakistani military operation that ended their sanctuaries in the north-west of the country.
IS has taken nearly six months since its inception in this region to launch its first attack. And it chose a rather easy target.
In mid-October, six former militants associated with the Pakistani Taliban, the TTP, announced they were quitting the group and had vowed their allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The only figure known to the outside world among these six was Shahidullah Shahid, a long time spokesman of the TTP.
And the only tangible loss to the TTP - as confided by a top TTP leader to a credible source - was that of its commander for the Orakzai region, Saeed Khan.
Although largely unknown until he was named by Shahidullah Shahid, Mr Khan's significance is understandable.
Orakzai straddles a mountain range with passes providing access into several adjoining regions such as the Kohat valley to the south, Afghanistan's Nangarhar province to the north-west, and the strategically important Peshawar valley to the north-east.
The region spawned the first version of the Pakistani Taliban way back in the late 1990s, known mainly for their raids on music stores across large parts of the south of what is now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier Province).

Post-9/11, Orakzai became of pivotal significance for anti-Pakistan groups seeking to exert pressure on Peshawar, and on the road linking it with the Afghan capital Kabul, a major supply route for Western troops stationed there.
Saeed Khan held important positions in Orakzai under the founder chief of the TTP, Baitullah Mehsud, first as head of the Taliban's Orakzai justice system and later as its operational head.
Under his watch, the Taliban inflicted maximum damage on Western military supplies passing through Peshawar, and brought the city itself close to administrative collapse during 2009-10.
But the rugged and inhospitable terrain of Orakzai does not support the kind of mainstream militancy that was made possible by the availability of easier, friendlier and strategically more advantageous regions like Wana and Miranshah in Waziristan.
However, in the wake of the Pakistani military offensive in Miranshah that started last June, areas like Orakzai can serve as fairly long-term hideouts for smaller numbers of militants.
And this is what many believe was in evidence last Saturday. A group of snipers attacked an army convoy heading from the garrison in Kohat to the upper Orakzai area of Ghaljo, killing three soldiers.
The most spectacular aspect of the attack was IS's claim of responsibility.
Analysts say the fact that the regional head of the IS took six months to launch a rather unimpressive attack on his own remote home ground indicates problems of funding and logistics.
Many say the IS is too preoccupied with Iraq and Syria to commit any significant funds and other resources to what they call Khorasan - a historical region comprising Afghanistan and parts of Central Asia, Iran, Pakistan and India, of which Saeed Khan has been appointed head.
But some official circles in Pakistan admit that IS could emerge as a greater threat to the country than it presently is.
They point to continued defections among the ranks of the Pakistani Taliban, the latest coming as recently as Monday when the new TTP spokesman, Mohammad Khorasani, told reporters their head and deputy head for Bajaur tribal region had stepped down.
The duo - Maulana Abu Bakar and his deputy, Qari Zahid - have not publicly spoken, but many speculate that they may be planning to join IS.
The IS threat in South Asia may be growing, but few believe it can get any worse than its various predecessors - unless state structures in Afghanistan, Pakistan or India show signs of a collapse, like they did in Iraq and Syria.

Pakistan - Iran - Border Tensions

As far as regional relationships are concerned, Pakistan stands at a crossroads. The conflict in Yemen has put Pakistan on the spot and its resulting actions will dictate how its relationship with Iran and Saudi Arabia will pan out. Both nations have a large stake in Yemen, and by extension, a stake in Pakistan’s decision to send troops to the embattled country. Over the past few days both nations have made diplomatic advances towards Islamabad to influence the decision-making process. Pakistan must ensure that its actions do not alienate any of the two contenders, most importantly; it must ensure that its decisions are made of its own free will and based on sound policies. It must resist and nullify actions that seek to force its hand.
On the eve of Iranian Foreign Minister’s, Mohammed Javad Zarif, two day visit to Islamabad – where Yemen will be the predominant issue – Eight Iranian border guards have been killed in a clash with Sunni rebels. According to Ali Asghar Mirshekari, deputy governor of Sistan-Balochistan province, the attacks originated from Pakistan’s side of the border. Tensions along the Iran-Pakistan border have been constant feature, mostly prompted by drug traffickers and Sunni extremist groups, and both countries have resolved to end this through better border management. The attack exposes the shortcomings of that resolve, but its most important ramifications are for Pakistan-Iran diplomatic relationship.
These cross border attacks have been a source of much bitterness amongst the two neighbours, and with their bilateral relations in flux at the moment; such an attack could – and was perhaps designed to – damage any nascent diplomatic understanding. The government must ensure that such misconceptions are cleared and the talks with Iran continue without the spectre of this event hanging over it. Balochistan has been the arena for proxy wars between the Sunni and Shia powers for quite some time, and this attacks hints at what could be in store if Pakistan picks a polarising position in the Yemen crisis.

Russian Expert: Saudi Aggression against Yemen to Result in Al Saud Collapse

A prominent Russian expert described Riyadh's aggression against Yemen as a strategic mistake, saying that the fall of the Al Saud regime will be an imminent outcome of the Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen.
"The Yemeni nation and Ansarullah will surely respond to this aggression which will result in destabilizing Al Saud's pillars of power,” Alexander Kniazev, a famous political expert and director of the regional office of the Russia CIS Institute, told on Wednesday.
By the aggression against Yemen, the Saudi rulers want to convey this message to their people that they will brutally suppress any popular uprising in Saudi Arabia, he added.
Kniazev pointed to Washington and its allies' support for the terrorist groups in the region, and said, "I believe that the US and its allies play an important role in most regional crises and if there had not been Washington's support, Riyadh would have never attacked Yemen or ignored that country's sovereignty."
In relevant remarks last week, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian described the Saudi invasion of Yemen as a "strategic mistake"
"This type of action has made the conditions more complicated and will not help resolve Yemen's problems," Amir Abdollahian said in a meeting with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah in Kuwait city.
Amir Abdollahian cautioned that insecurity in the region will result in increasing extremism and terrorism, and called for a halt to any military operations against Yemen.
He underlined that Yemen's problems merely have a political solution, and asked Yemen's political parties and groups to return to the negotiating table as they have previously agreed upon.
Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen for 14 days now to restore power to fugitive president Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The Saudi-led aggression has so far killed at least 906 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children.
Hadi stepped down in January and refused to reconsider the decision despite calls by Ansarullah revolutionaries of the Houthi movement.
Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi warplanes are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.
Five Persian Gulf States -- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait -- and Egypt that are also assisted by Israel and backed by the US declared war on Yemen in a joint statement issued on March 26.
US President Barack Obama authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to the military operations, National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said late on March 25.
She added that while US forces were not taking direct military action in Yemen, Washington was establishing a Joint Planning Cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate US military and intelligence support.

Pakistan to Avoid Yemen Intervention for Fear of Sectarian Reprisals


Pakistan will resist Saudi Arabian pressure to intervene in Yemen in a bid to stop domestic sectarian tensions bubbling over, say analysts, as the Iranian foreign minister arrives in Islamabad for talks.
The Pakistani parliament is currently holding a special debate which started on Monday on whether to send planes to Saudi airstrikes targeting Iranian-backed Shia Houthi rebels attempting to overthrow president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in Yemen.

Defence minister Khawaja Asif said on Monday that Riyadh had requested Islamabad to contribute aircraft, ships and troops to support Saudi airstrikes which have been ongoing since March 26.
However, Pakistan has so far been reluctant to support its long-term ally in practice. Analysts say that this is for fear of stoking sectarian conflict within the country, where violence against Shia Muslims is widespread. Shias numberas many as 26 million in Sunni-majority Pakistan, making up between 10-15% of the population.
Addressing parliament yesterday, prime minister Nawaz Sharif called for Iran to contribute to the security debate on Yemen in a move likely to irk Saudi Arabia. So far, no Pakistani parliamentarians have spoken in favour of military intervention. Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is beginning a two-day visit to Islamabad today to discuss the situation in Yemen.
Earlier this year, Sunni militants linked to the Taliban carried out a series of attacks on Shia mosques in Peshawar and Shikarpur, killing more than 80 people. Human Rights Watch recorded the killings of at least 400 Shias in 2013 and at least 450 in 2012 in Pakistan. Shias in Pakistan are often targeted by militant Sunni groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, who were banned by the government in 2001 and are designated as a terrorist group by the U.S.
Oliver Coleman, principal Asia analyst at geopolitical risk company Verisk Maplecroft, believes Pakistan will reach a compromise solution which keeps Riyadh happy whilst not exacerbating Shia fears.
“Pakistan is definitely in a bit of a bind. Saudi Arabia is one of their main benefactors, they’ve been intimately involved in terms of economics and intelligence for a number of decades,” says Oliver. “However, Sharif has to take into account that intervention is pretty unpopular amongst the population and opposition parties, so it’s a bit of a hard sell.”
The conflict in Yemen has been characterised as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the region’s main Shia power. Recent anti-Shia violence in Pakistan shows that “any excuse to inflame sectarian tensions will be taken”, according to Coleman.
He believes that, if Islamabad does sanction troops or aircraft to back the Saudis, this would come with conditions - for example, deploying troops in non-combat roles such as defending Saudi borders from Houthi incursions.
Professor Stephen Cohen of Washington-based thinktank the Brookings Institution agrees that fighting a proxy war thousands of kilometres away in Yemen is a problem which Pakistan doesn’t need.
“I think Pakistan’s support for Saudi Arabia is going to be more in word than deed. To get involved directly would divide Pakistan domestically,” says Cohen.
Pakistani government officials originally pledged to support the Saudi airstrikes with troops if necessary. The two nations have close ties - Riyadh sheltered Sharif when his second term was ended by a military coup in 1999 and the Gulf state lent $1.5 billion to Pakistan last year to boost foreign exchange reserves.
However, Pakistan shares a long and unstable border with Iran. Militants whoreportedly crossed from Pakistan killed eight Iranian border guards in the southeastern town of Negur in the Sistan Baluchistan province yesterday. In the talks with Zarif today, Coleman believes Pakistan will be keen to mediate between its territorial neighbour Iran and its ideological neighbour Saudi Arabia.
“Sharif wants Iran to play a constructive role in reaching a settlement in Yemen,” he says.
Sectarian tensions in Pakistan can be traced back to the 1980s, when Sunni cleric Haq Nawaz Jhangvi founded the political party Sipah-e-Sahaba with the aim of neutralising Shia influence in Pakistan following the 1979 Iranian revolution. Violence has escalated in recent years. In January and February 2013, bombs in the city of Quetta killed at least 180 Hazara Shias, the highest death toll in sectarian violence since Pakistan’s independence was declared in 1947.

Wider war: Pakistan’s entry to Yemen would be a mistake

The latest unfortunate idea to emerge from the Middle East and South Asia is a request from Saudi Arabia for Pakistan to furnish aircraft, warships and ground forces for the fighting in Yemen.
Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia’s bombing of Yemen, which has proceeded for two weeks with U.S. support and killed many civilians, hasn’t stemmed the tide of Shiite Muslim Houthi advances toward controlling the whole country. A ground invasion of Yemen may be needed if the Houthis are to be stopped. Saudi Arabia has few effective troops, doesn’t like to use them and needs them at home to defend its 1,100-mile border with Yemen against Houthi retribution.
But Pakistan has a large army, with experience in deployments as peacekeeping forces around the world. It, like Saudi Arabia, is Sunni in its Islamic orientation. Pakistan always needs money, and Saudi Arabia has lots of it. Both countries could claim that the Pakistanis will be fighting terrorists, but the application of that label to the Yemeni Houthis is not accurate.
For the United States, the introduction of South Asian troops to a Middle Eastern conflict among Yemenis, some of them arguably proxies for regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, is not useful and it complicates an already complex, bloody conflict.
Adding Pakistan to the equation is also not useful in terms of U.S. aims in Afghanistan. For better or worse, America wants Pakistan to help provide some coherence to the evolving situation in Afghanistan. The United States is still trying to extract itself from the 14-year-old war. A successful exit will likely involve some sort of political agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban, which operates in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan’s cooperation in that would be indispensable.
For Pakistan now to jump into the Yemen-Saudi Arabia-Iran war will unavoidably distract it from working on a resolution in Afghanistan, a development that is not to America’s advantage.

Pakistan MPs speak out against intervention in Yemen

Pakistani members of parliament spoke against becoming militarily involved inYemen on Wednesday as they resumed a one-sided debate on a Saudi request to join a campaign against Iran-allied Houthi forces in Yemen.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was due in Pakistan on Wednesday when he is likely to urge Pakistan to reject the Saudi request.
"The Yemen war is not our war...Our advice to the government is that the army should not go," said opposition member of parliament Shireen Mazari.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said he will defend Saudi Arabia's "territorial integrity" but not spelled out what, if any, commitments he has made.
Mazari said Pakistan would be obliged to defend Islam's holiest shrines, but there was no present danger to the shrines in Saudi Arabia.
"As Muslims, we are duty bound to counter any threat to holy shrines but there is no such threat today," she said.
Opposition Senator Tahir Hussain Mashadi said the "aggressors" were the Saudis and the victims were the Yemenis.
"Now the aggressors are asking another sovereign state, Pakistan, to come to provide military aid to Saudi Arabia."
The Sunni royal family of Saudi Arabia and Iran's Shi'ite theocracy are rivals for power in the Middle East. Their competition frequently fuels sectarian violence.
Last month, a Saudi-led coalition began conducting air strikes in Yemen against Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia and Yemen share a border and Saudi Arabia says it is afraid that instability might spill over to its territory.
Saudi Arabia wants its staunch ally, Sunni-majority Pakistan, to join the coalition, and has requested ships, aircraft and troops.
Pakistan's parliament began debating the request on Monday and no legislator has spoken in support of sending troops for Saudi to use in Yemen.
On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia presented a gift of 200 tons of dates to Pakistan, which in return "conveyed the warm sentiments of the people of Pakistan of their Saudi brethren for their love and affection", the Nation newspaper said.

Although there are many groups in the complex Yemen conflict, Pakistani lawmakers fear it could develop into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and inflame already simmering sectarian tension at home.