Is America undermining Pakistan's importance as an ally?
United States strategic shift to the Asia Pacific from the Middle East thanks to President Barack Obama’s Asia Pivot has certainly changed the entire Middle Eastern geopolitical calculus.
We are now witnessing a time period when, for the first time in history, the United States is on the verge of becoming energy sufficient as it surpassed Saudi Arabia in oil production in October, 2013. This happened while the wrapping up of military campaigns in the greater Middle East is translating into reduced military spending ergo, reduced military might in the said region.
These two events are significant as they are a contributing factor in the reshaping of the US strategic policy in the Middle East, about which we can make a calculated guess gauging from the current ripples that it has already created.
The US is currently trying to nurture a bipolar Middle East, reshaping it in a way as to create a balance of power between Iran and Saudi Arabia. This was hinted by the signing of the Iran deal that eased sanctions on Iran, thereby, integrating it back into the international economy (though marginally yet it is just a start to a long rearrangement of the jigsaw). In addition, Iran is indirectly being utilised to police Iraq at this point in time to limit Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) while the US Air Force (USAF) is acting as an air support unit to the Iranian revolutionary guards already on the ground.
This unique US-Iranian collaboration is worrisome for the Petro-Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and interestingly for Israel as well. This mutual concern has given birth to yet another unique and indeed historic regional alliance between the House of Saud and Israel; albeit, being strictly limited to their mutual interests in the region (animosity to the Muslim brotherhood is one of them).
The Middle East is now looking more like a tug of war between the reluctant albeit important Saudi-Israeli alliance and the more traditional Shia crescent, led by Iran with Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah led Lebanon (and surprisingly Qatar due to its differences with Saudi Arabia and support for Hamas). The picture which emerges then is a bipolar Middle East policed by two power centres, balancing out each other yet both channelling their rivalry for a self-sustainable Middle East, seeking American approval at every stage lest they fall weaker compared to their rivals.
For Pakistan, this rearrangement of the geopolitical chess board of the Middle East is significant since it puts Iran in the lime light with partial American approval. It undermines Pakistan’s importance as the only policing state within the region, which it has to rely upon, on policing Afghanistan. A strong Iran will certainly be used as a policing state in Afghanistan (due to Iran’s animosity with the Taliban), and allow a safe passage route to Central Asia and Afghanistan via the rich Iranian sea ports contrary to Pakistan’s troubled land route, that is often compromised with supplies being torched regularly due to political instability in the country.
The current political turmoil in the country and the uncertainty surrounding the entire region is frightening for many. But amidst all this one has to question, would Pakistan still be a vital ally in the US war on terror? If not, it is indeed a worrying sign for a country with a cache of nuclear weapons.