The shifting balance in the Middle East is causing understandable heartburn to many folks. A certain section of Pakistan’s intelligensia – both “liberal” and Jamaatia (though at times, it is difficult to tell the difference) is busy churning out material to promote and perpetuate the Iran = Saudi/Sunni vs Shia binary. It is increasingly difficult for this lobby to justify itself even using selective metrics.
Unfortunately, this lobby has still not received the memo that the United States and Europe – which was firmly behind Saudi Arabia for decades – is itself finding it difficult to continue supporting Saudi Arabia. The terrorist attacks from 9/11 to Paris and San Bernardino – ALL committed by Saudi funded/created/sponsored Salafi and Deobandi terrorists on US and European soil are making it increasingly hard for Pro Saudi presidents and prime ministers to continuously bow down to Saudi Demands; as well as justifying Saudi human rights abuses.
Meanwhile in Pakistan, Saudi funded and ISIS-affiliated Deobandi and Salafi terrorist groups are taking out Pro-Saudi rallies. These groups include ASWJ-LeJ/Jaish Mohammad which recently attacked an Indian airforce base.
On the other hand, Pakistan’s Sunni (sufi and Barelvi) and Shias want Pakistan to stay neutral even as Saudi stooge Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wants to embroil Pakistan in Saudi Arabia’s sectarian-driven vendetta against Iran.
This must be a very confusing time for the US administration.
Does it continue to support the same Al Qaeda factions in Syria that attacked it on 9/11?
Does it continue to lecture Pakistan’s civil and military establishment to go after all terrorist groups while (indirectly) supporting many of the same/similar groups in Syria and Libya?
The tactic of the Iran vs Saudi binary is also getting old since Iran does not chair the United Nations Human Rights council. Unlike Saudi Arabia to whom US and UK leaders bow down to, Iran still has sanctions against it. One can and should point out Iran but to make holistic binaries with Saudi Arabia is not only inaccurate, it is also revealing of bias.
In fact the Iran = Saudi binary is the go to tactic to deflect attention away from Saudi Arabia.
If developed Democracies like India, the United States, France, Germany and UK continue to BLINDLY support Saudi Arabia, they are in good company with ASWJ-LeJ/Jaish Mohammad, Harkat ul Mujahideen, Taliban, JUI, JI, Jundullah who are doing the same in Pakistan.
The cop out that “oh we are so neutral but will continue to make the False Moral equivalence of diverting criticism of Saudi Arabia by dragging in Iran” just does not cut it anymore.
If one cannot stand in solidarity with the non-violent anti-oppression stance of the late Saudi dissident scholar, Sheikh Nimr, they are on the wrong side of history. If one celebrates religious activists/leaders like Gandhi and MLK but cannot resist their sectarian bigotry (and typical ambiguity) regarding Sheikh Nimr, then sadly, they are on the wrong side of history.
Agreeing with Iran on opposing ISIS instead of Houthi nationalists and condemning the execution of Sheikh Nimr does not make one an apologist for Iran’s internal rights record. But staying silent on Saudi Arabia’s continual chairing of the United Nations Human rights council does.