Normalization between Israel and Pakistan Remains Far Off

Since the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain broke the longstanding taboo on relations between Muslim countries and the Jewish state, there has been ample speculation as to which country will be next to follow suit. Although Islamabad and Jerusalem have engaged in covert cooperation and intelligence sharing since the 1970s, don’t expect Pakistan to take things out into the open any time soon, argue Varsha Koduvayur and Akhil Bery:

What stands in the way of normalization is Islamabad’s long record of equating the Palestinian struggle for self-determination to [local Muslims’] struggle in Indian-controlled parts of Kashmir. To normalize ties with Israel before resolving the Palestinian issue would rob Pakistan of the justifications it has used to bolster its claims over Kashmir. Earlier this month, the Pakistani president Imran Khan said that serious consideration of bilateral ties with Israel would have to wait for “a just settlement, which satisfies Palestinians.”

The pervasive feeling in Islamabad is that the Gulf countries have abandoned their traditional support for pan-Islamic causes, like Kashmir and the Palestinians, leaving Pakistan to take up the mantle of championing Muslim voices—a role Islamabad is happy to play.

[Moreover], the political costs of normalization are quite high for Islamabad. Khan would face the opprobrium of a considerable portion of the public, including his own supporters—thereby delivering a major blow to his reputation. There could also be violent protests and other reactions from Islamist hardliners that would have the potential to metastasize into major security threats. After all, street protests against Israel are not uncommon: thousands protested the UAE’s deal with Israel. . . . The Pakistani military, which would have to sign off on a formal recognition of Israel, would have much to lose from the heightened security risks that a public backlash would engender.

A third obstacle in the way of Islamabad-Jerusalem ties is Pakistan’s relationship with Iran, which appears to be intensifying despite earnest efforts by the Gulf Arab states to peel Pakistan away.

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Read more at Diplomat

More about: Abraham Accords, Israel diplomacy, Pakistan, Radical Islam

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy