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‘US will not impose sanctions on Pakistan while it needs help in the region’

Published time: March 12, 2013 14:03

ran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (L) joins hands with his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari during a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the inauguration of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, in the city of Chahbahar in southeastern Iran March 11, 2013. (Reuters/Mian Khursheed)

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Despite the heated rhetoric against Islamabad over its proposed joint pipeline with Iran, Washington will not take decisive action while it needs Pakistani assistance in the region, Ahmed Quraishi of PakNationalists Forum told RT.

Quraishi, president of the lobbying group PakNationalists Forum, said that the United States’ threat of sanctions is just for public show. In terms of bilateral relations, Washington will try to accommodate some of Pakistan’s reasons for proceeding with the project.

RT: Washington was quick to threaten the sanctions before the ink on the project was dry – why is Pakistan still pushing ahead with it?

Ahmed Quraishi: Obviously the United States does not have many options when it comes to Pakistan. They need Pakistan for the withdrawal of American troops and other NATO troops from Afghanistan, and Pakistan is the only way out. As long as they need this route, it is not expected that Washington would really forge ahead with the position of sanctions on Pakistan. But still, it would make sense for them to make these statements right now in order to maintain and sustain pressure on the Iranian government, and of course for the overall purpose of meeting their policy lines with regards to Iran.

So it just seems to me and seems to really many people here in Pakistan that the Pakistani government did not go ahead with this project without taking everything into consideration. One of the key points that I am sure Pakistani decision-makers took into account is the fact that the United States may have to resort to giving some sort of indirect exemptions to the Pakistani government, exemptions from the law that imposes sanctions on the countries dealing with Iran, and of course the US has done this in the case of several companies belonging to countries that are allied with the government of the US. So there is a possibility that the US government, while publicly maintaining pressure, will privately choose a course where it might try to accommodate some of the Pakistani reasons behind going ahead of this project.

RT: Are there purely commercial reasons behind the project? The Iranian leader calls it a 'show of resistance against domination.' Are there similar feeling in Pakistan?

AQ: There is no question that the Pakistani government is also sending an indirect signal here that ‘We have reached a point in time since the alliance between the two countries after 9/11.’ We have reached a point in time where the Pakistani interests are really diverging from those of the United States, and they do not meet or see eye to eye on everything, and certainly they do not see eye to eye on Iran and this project in particular. The United States has given to Pakistan a lot of lip service to Pakistan’s energy requirements.

The US government tried to engage Pakistan, to meet Pakistani energy requirements, but it failed to, for example, meet the key Pakistani demand to spend approximately US $1 billion on a mega energy project in Pakistan that would have solved the energy crisis in the country. The United States, unfortunately, despite passing several pieces of legislation to provide aid to Pakistan, including the very famous Kerry Lugar Aid Bill, failed to commit that kind of money that Pakistan’s energy needs.  I think the Pakistani decision-makers have reached the conclusion that can’t wait longer, and that they have to take decisions that would meet the Pakistani interests. And certainly this decision on Iran’s pipeline is absolutely critical to Pakistan’s security needs and energy needs.

RT: Relations between Islamabad and Washington are not at their warmest, and anti-American sentiment is quite high. How might sanctions impact relations between the two nations?

AQ: Both countries will be able to sort of maintain an acceptable level of engagement with each other, and it is not expected that this project would lead to a major rapture between the countries, and both Islamabad and Washington have faced critical moments over the past five years in their relationship. And they’d managed sort of get over those points of crisis. It just seems to me that this is just one more point of the crisis in the bilateral relations that both governments will manage to overcome. 

Although I can see how this Pakistani decision actually would sort of create a huge dent in the American policy of containing Iran. It would do so, it would create a lot of anger in Washington, DC, but as I said it does not seem that American decision-makers have many options really to pursue when it comes to Pakistan at this point of time, when they need Islamabad for the US hardware and troops withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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