Alwaght – As the terror incidents on Iran-Pakistan borders continue to make headlines on the regional media, the speculations on the parties behind them grow more and more intensified.
On April 25, a terror attack by militants killed 10 Iranian border guards in Mirjaveh town in southeast of the country and on the frontier with Pakistan. Jaish ul-Adl militant group, which is blacklisted by Iran as a terrorist group, claimed responsibility, saying that its fighters returned to their shelters in Pakistan territory after the attack.
Although external and regional grounds in Iran’s eastern regions provide proper opportunity for the foreign and regional powers to take destabilizing steps against Iran, the predominant risk comes from the poorly-guarded Iran-Pakistan borders, majorly on the Pakistani side.
The US and Saudi Arabia, which declare openly that they spare no efforts to distrust the growing Iranian power gain, can be the main parties behind the terrorist scenarios against the Islamic Republic. The Commander of the US Central Command Joseph Voltel in late March told the Senate that the US could destabilize Iran through anti-Tehran militant groups operating in east of the country, particularly in Sistan and Baluchestan province. Also recently, Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi regime’s deputy crown prince and defense minster, in his interview with the state Saudi TV rejected possible dialogue with Iran. Giving the two countries’ rivalry a sectarian face, the young prince said that the kingdom will work to transfer the battle on the Iranian territory.
The Saudi defense minister declined to explain what he meant by pushing the fight into Iran but the analysts suggest that the kingdom will work to benefit from regions such as Sistan and Baluchestan province to harm Iran’s national security. This opportunity can be given to Riyadh as Pakistan fails or refuses to tighten control over its volatile borders with Iran. Saudi Arabia finances radical religious schools on the Pakistani border areas with Iran which are run by extremist Sunni militant groups.
It is not only the security drives that make Saudi Arabia try to destabilize eastern Iran. The Saudis also benefit economically from destabilized Baluchestan security. Iran is working, in association with India, on its biggest southeastern project, the Chabahar Port, which is seen by the Saudis as a serious economic threat to the kingdom. The port will enable Iran take a bigger share from oil exports to India, help increase foreign investments, and thus increase the state incomes. Militarily, the sea structure will enable Tehran exercise influence in the Sea of Oman and the Persian Gulf. The Saudis find an opportunity in disrupting the security and fueling the sectarian divides in eastern Iran as they could affect security of Chabahar Port and so push the Indians out of the project and partnership with Iran.
Despite such possibilities, the Saudi threats should not be exaggerated. Riyadh’s risks to the Iranian national security will remain restricted for some reasons. For instance, Islamabad is not willing to sacrifice its ties with Tehran amid ongoing Iranian-Saudi rivalry in the region and of course will not give operational space to the Saudis for anti-Iranian steps.
Some experts blame the lack of enough economic, social, and political consistency between Pakistan and Iran as the major cause lying behind volatility of their common borders. Islamabad is still away from the conclusion that if insecurity breaks out on the shared borders with Iran, its interests will be jeopardized, as in the wake of the terrorist raid on the Iranian border guards Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif visited Pakistan to discuss the attack, but the two countries failed to come out with a considerable security agreement that obliges the Pakistanis to intensify border watch.
The analysts, however, argue that the Pakistani government is suffering from security weakness that makes it unable to secure border areas even if it wants to do so, something providing the foreign sides with scope to use the insecure borders as a launching pad for their actions against the Iranian interests.