Iran-Pakistan ‘lifeline’: Pipeline aims for global power balance

32e4iran pakistan pipeline Iran Pakistan ‘lifeline’: Pipeline aims for global power balance

The pipeline, which would bring Iranian gas to Pakistan throughits western Balochistan province, will stretch almost 1,000 miles(1,600 km) from Iran’s gas-rich Asalouyeh region into the Pakistaniheartland, supplying major cities like Karachi and Islamabad withmuch needed, reliable energy while carrying a pricetag of roughly$1.5 billion. Similarly, the project is critical for Iran as itstruggles to survive and grow amid the hostility of US-Europeansanctions.The Benefits for Both CountriesIt is against the backdrop of brutal, draconian sanctionsinitiated by the US and its European partners, that Tehran hastaken the countermeasure to develop itself and the region,constructing an economically independent framework of relations notbeholden to Western financiers.  Undoubtedly, the centerpieceof this strategy of economic independence as a means ofanti-imperialist resistance is the Iran-Pakistan pipeline. The project, already nearing completion on the Iranian side of theborder, would bring desperately needed Iranian gas toenergy-starved Pakistan – a country battling a perpetual energyshortage.  Needless to say, the project is critical for theeconomic survival of both nations.For Iran, the pipeline means economic stability at a time oftremendous turmoil.  While the Islamic Republic oftendownplays the impact of the sanctions, the reality is inescapable:an inflation rate hovering around 30% , the lossof key regional markets such as India, and the continued shortage ofmedicines and staple foods among other things .  Theseproblems plaguing the Iranian economy require both short-term andlong-term solutions.  The pipeline conveniently addresses bothas it provides Tehran with much needed energy revenue today, whileoffering the potential for increased revenue and infrastructureexpansion in the future.  Essentially then, the pipeline isreally more of a lifeline, anchoring the Iranian economy fordecades to come.Like their Iranian neighbors, Pakistan also has had to addressglaring economic deficiencies, particularly with regard to theenergy sector. A recent poll unsurprisingly showed that energyshortages, along with unemployment, remain the greatest economicissues facing the country.  Public anger over the inability ofthe government to meet the country’s electricity demands has boiledover in the form of riots numerous times, most recently in thesummer of 2012 .  This type of public unrest over the energyissue serves to delegitimize the government, especially the rulingPakistan People’s Party (PPP), and weaken their hold on politicalpower.For Islamabad then, the pipeline means energy security which, inturn, means political stability.  Moreover, the project as awhole is, at least in small part, a way of resisting Washington andthe Obama administration’s continued violations of Pakistanisovereignty.  By pushing forward with the project, in the faceof countless threats from Washington, Pakistani president Zardariis walking a fine line between maintaining a working relationshipwith his US partners and forging new relations from which Pakistanwill benefit while the US loses.A Sectarian Bridge?One critical aspect of the Iran-Pakistan pipeline is the simplefact that it brings together two countries that, if westernimperialists were to have their way, would always remainenemies.  Pakistan (a majority Sunni Muslim country) and Iran(a majority Shiite Muslim country), have historically been at oddswith one another, choosing rather to align themselves with otherSunni and Shiite countries respectively.  This fundamentalconflict has, for more than a century, been at the heart of theimperialist/colonialist strategy. Whether British, French, or American, western powers have longdominated the vast energy resources of the Middle East and CentralAsia by dividing the Muslim populations along these sectarianlines, exploiting the differences between them in order to preventindependent economic development.  However, the Iran-Pakistanpipeline flies in the face of this “divide and conquer”strategy.  Bringing together these two countries throughmutually beneficial economic development, the project seems tosignal a major change in the Muslim world in the 21stCentury.  No longer will the imperialists be able to controlthe destinies of nations in the region by exploiting theirdifferences.  Rather, it is the imperial powers themselves whowill have to reevaluate their strategy and come to terms with achanging world in which their unchallenged hegemony becomes a relicof the past.The Geopolitics of the PipelineAlthough the Iran-Pakistan pipeline is economically andpolitically significant to both nations, it takes on perhaps itsgreatest importance in the context of world geopolitics.  Theproject fundamentally alters the balance of power in Asia and theworld for a number of reasons.First and foremost, the pipeline links two countries that, eachin its own way, seek to undermine US hegemony in the Middle Eastand South Asia.  While Iran has been the implacable foe ofWashington since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Pakistan hasmaintained relations that at one time made them close allies, butin recent years have deteriorated to the point where the UnitedStates is seen as Public Enemy No. 1 in the streets.  Thepipeline brings the two countries closer together and, in so doing,helps to solidify a relationship united by a common mistrust of theUS.Secondly, the Iran-Pakistan pipeline could quite easily becomethe Iran-Pakistan-China pipeline if Beijing decides to finally getinvolved.  In this very plausible scenario, China wouldfinally get the “holy grail” it has sought for years: land-basedaccess to energy imports from the Middle East.  For China, anenergy-starved economy that continues to grow, this would greatlyenhance their regional position.  It would also transform thebalance of power in Asia, as the era of US domination of energyresources in the Middle East would be over.  So, were theproject to be extended to China, the pipeline would become thefocus of a new power paradigm, making it one of the most importanteconomic development projects in the world.Additionally, the pipeline shows the growing power and influenceof international alliances and organizations that represent acounterweight to the imperialist establishment of the West. Iran has taken on the role of leading the Non-Aligned Movement,thrusting itself into the forefront of the anti-imperialistbloc.  At the same time, both Iran and Pakistan seekmembership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), led byRussia and China, which is showing signs of developing into afull-fledged strategic alliance that provides a check to US-NATOdominance.  In this way, the pipeline becomes the tangiblelink between various organizations and alliances which seek to beata path independent of US hegemony.  It is for this reason,more than anything else, that the United States has vigorouslyattempted to subvert the development of the pipeline, going so faras to heavily promote the much-toutedTurkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, seen asthe main competitor to the Iran-Pakistan project.  However,despite the fierce opposition from Washington, the project will goahead while the TAPI still remains on the drawing board, subject tosecurity concerns in Afghanistan and elsewhere along the route.When seen from the broadest perspective, the Iran-Pakistanpipeline fundamentally transforms power relations in the MiddleEast, South Asia, and throughout the world.  Not only does itbenefit the two nations involved, but all other nations and peopleswho have been oppressed, controlled, or otherwise coerced by theWestern powers.  In this way, the Iran-Pakistan Pipelinerepresents peace and progress.  In short, it is the promise ofa better future.

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Iran-Pakistan ‘lifeline’: Pipeline aims for global power balance

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