Yemen crises has developed into a military conflict which has further aggravated already existed division between Sunni and Shiite Muslim nations. But, ironically, this crises is unfolding, for both Iran led and Saudi led forces, such disillusionments which may pave the way to Muslims’ unity at least at regional level.
We have already seen in my article “ Muslim Millat and Pakistan’s Role in Ensuing Decade” that Muslims’ economic, political and defense institutions are based on concept of nation state and as such have failed, time and again, to protect economic, political and defense interests of Muslims. The world powers which have based current world order on concept of nation state try their best to make it sure that Muslim nation states should not do away with negative implications of nation state based economic, political and defense institutions. The world powers keep on exploiting the weakness of Muslim nation states sometimes through protecting their vital economic, political and defense interests and sometimes through damaging these vital interests of Muslim nation states. The overall impact of such exploitation of Muslim nation states is to ensure that Muslim nation states could not be united so that Muslims could not be taken out of hegemony of world powers, especially USA. Yemen crises is the latest example proving the impotency of nation state institutions adopted by the Muslims, and once again it is proved that panacea of economic, political and defense interests of Muslim nations lies in the unity of economic, political and defense institutions of Muslim states.
It is due to nation state concept that both Saudi regime and Iran see each other as a threat to each other’s security; it is this hostile perception about each other which defines each state’s role played in Yemen crises. But in the wake of Yemen crises, some important developments have occurred which may lead Muslim nations towards destination of unity.
Saudi regime has been heavily reliant over USA’s military and political power to safeguard the regime’s interests. Saudi regime’s strong reaction to Yemeni internal situation can only be better understood in the perspective of two very important factors: firstly the likely nuclear deal between Iran and USA, and secondly the USA’s refusal to help Saudi regime in this crises. Left to face the hard fact that USA’s umbrella is no more available to protect Saudi regime’s regional interests, and threatened by the likelihood of Iran-USA deal on nuclear issue- which would further aggravate Saudi regime’s security concerns- Saudi regime has learnt a bitter lesson that USA’s umbrella is no longer sufficient to protect Saudi regime’s interests, and that unity in defense field among at least some Muslim nations is essential to safeguard defense interests of Saudi regime and those Muslim nations. This change in the strategic vision of Saudi regime may pave the way to unity among Muslim nations at least at regional level.
Similarly Iran has faced some very hard facts in the wake of Yemen crises. After 1979 revolution, Iran is consistent in its policy of strengthening Iran friendly regimes among Muslim states. But, unfortunately, to achieve its objectives, Iran does not flinch in adopting such policies which are seen, among other Muslim nations, as sectarianism. As all Muslim states- with a few exceptions- have majority Sunni populations, during Yemen crises, the unequivocal support extended by important Sunni states to Saudi regime may have disillusioned Iran of the supposition that any sectarian policy adopted by Iran could strengthen Iran’s security. Disillusioned with chances of success of sectarian policy, Iran would be compelled to adopt other ways to secure its interests and security. One strategy –i.e. nuclear deal with USA and EU- already adopted by Iran to secure and promote its interests may not be of much success.
The latest news suggest that under the proposed nuclear deal with USA and EU, Iran would have to cripple its nuclear capability to such an extent that it would require decades to regain and reinstall such capability. Being impotent in nuclear field, Iran would have to seek some other options to offset its damaged security perception.
It was under severe economic pressures that Iran was compelled to come into terms with USA and EU over nuclear issue. Iran’s GDP, under economic sanctions imposed by USA and EU plunged from $528 b in 2011 to $368 b in 2013. Oil production accounts for only 23% of Iran’s GDP; services sector contributes 50% of the GDP.
In order to promote and strengthen its economic and defense interests, Iran may have two options in this scenario. The first option is to become a member of likely emerging regional economic block consisting China, Pakistan, Central Asia and the Gulf region. The importance and buoyancy of this likely economic alliance depends much upon the proposed Economic Corridor linking China with the Gulf region through the port of Gawadar. Actually it would be China’s and Central Asia's imports and exports to and from the Gulf region and beyond which would give importance to Gawadar project. As a competitor to Gwadar project, ‘Chahbahar’ project is being developed by Iran with collaboration of India to link trade route between India and the Central Asia. But Iran needs to appreciate that ‘chahbahar’ cannot be a real competitor of Gawadar for capturing the Central Asian trade; as Iran cannot compete Chinese investment in the Central Asia, Chahbahar cannot compete Gawadar, if China chooses Gawadar as a trade route between the Central Asia and the Gulf region and beyond. If Iran opts for joining Pak-China led regional economic block, Iran would be having access to the world’s huge market which would be far greater than the market likely to be accessed by Iran through Chahbahar. In order to join Pak-China led economic block including the Central Asia, the Gulf region and Afghanistan as well, Iran would have to compromise its ambitious ‘Chahbahar’ project.
The second option opened to Iran is to become a ploy in the hands of USA to safeguard USA’s regional interests even at the cost of interests of regional Muslim states. The likely Pak-China led economic block would be destined to replace USA’s regional influence; the USA would like to forestall such a situation and may use India and Iran for the purpose. Iran may be used to destabilize the Gulf region; similarly India and Iran may be used to destabilize Baluchistan and Afghanistan. The purpose behind all such moves would be to create hurdles in the way of establishment of likely Pak-China led economic block. For the time being, the USA’s Afghan policy apparently seems to be in line with that of Pakistan. But such a seemingly positive posture of USA’s Afghan policy is aiming at encouraging Pakistan to consume its military resources to fight against Pakistani Taliban who are aligned with Afghan Taliban. Once the purpose is fulfilled, the USA would try to use Iran, India and Kabul regime to make Afghanistan a hurdle in the way of likely Pak-China led economic block. But Iran is not likely to gain much, if they opt to become a watchdog of USA’s interests in the region.
As mentioned earlier, Iran’s 50% GDP is contributed by services (15% by professional services), 23% by oil production, 13% by manufacturing. If Iran opts to be aligned with USA, its oil exports to EU would be increased, but its oil exports accounts for only 23% of the GDP. If Iran opts to be aligned with Pak-China led economic block, its exports to this block may be increased manifolds especially in areas like oil, professional services (which account for 15% of its GDP) and its manufactured goods (which account for 13% of its GDP). The USA and EU may not be conducive markets for services oriented Iranian exports. The best strategy for Iran may be to forge a deal with USA and EU on nuclear issue so that economic sanctions may be done away with and develop economic ties with China and the regional Muslim states through joining the likely Pak-China led economic block.
Furthermore, if Iran aligns itself with USA against Pak-China led economic block, Iran’s security would be threatened much more because Iran is located in the middle of likely Pak-China led economic block. It would be in the better security interests of Iran to align with Pak-China block than to align with USA and India.
We may conclude that Yemen crises is likely to unfold opportunities for the Muslim states to be united in economic and defense fields. The USA’s regional influence was the greatest hurdle in the way to unity among the Muslim states. The Yemen crises is indicating that USA’s regional influence is diminishing and likely emergence of Pak-China led economic block is posing a good omen to replace USA’s regional influence. In other words, the way to unity among the Muslim nations is being paved.