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Protests in Pakistan's capital Islamabad against the Iranian missile attack

Photo: Anjum Naveed/dpa


Iran attacks targets in Pakistan, followed shortly afterwards by a counterattack in another direction.

How dangerous is the current development?

Sanam Vakil:

The last 48 hours have been very alarming and have put an enormous strain on bilateral relations - Iran has violated the sovereignty of a nuclear power with missiles.

Nothing like this has ever happened before and it worries me.

Both sides have long been linked by conflicts in the border region.

But the Iranian attack is very risky and simply irresponsible.

One can say that the Pakistani response was very thoughtful, which at least creates scope for de-escalation.


Tehran justified the rocket attack with armed fighters in the border region of Balochistan who had found shelter on Pakistani soil.

Do you think that's plausible?


It is indeed true that there have long been insurgents in the region who regularly move across the border and carry out attacks in both states.

Most recently, there was an attack on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard shortly before Christmas.

Balochistan is undoubtedly a powder keg.

But that doesn't justify a missile attack.


How exactly did Pakistan react to this?


First of all, diplomatically, by withdrawing the ambassador.

The military counterattack was then directed against two groups including Pakistani citizens in the Iranian part of Balochistan.

So they deliberately did not attack any Iranian facilities or citizens.

Of course there were casualties on both sides, but the Pakistani attack was clearly concerned with proportionality.


Why is Iran acting like this in the midst of countless other conflicts? Is it self-confidence or has the regime simply miscalculated?


That's a good question.

I assume that since the suspected Islamist terrorist attacks on January 3rd there has been pressure from the hardliners to show strength.

Iran has not experienced such an attack on its own soil for a long time.

And over 80 people were killed.

On a symbolically charged day that was actually dedicated to our own victims and martyrs.


There have been skirmishes in the border region with Pakistan for a long time.

Why is Iran now firing missiles in this region?


The regime has already responded to the terrorist attacks in two ways.

First with military strikes in Idlib, Syria.

Then in Yemen.

The attack in Pakistan was now the third.

I think it was about sending a clear signal to other terrorist groups that such activities will not be tolerated on its territory.

At the same time, the regime has just launched a rocket attack on targets in Iraq.

The coincidence of these two events may have seemed like a win-win situation to the regime.

The aim was obviously to restore deterrence, certainly also towards Israel.

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Iranians in the Balochistan region inspect the site of the attack after the Pakistani retaliation



Despite all the conflicts, both countries recently carried out naval maneuvers together.

How do the generals of the nuclear power Pakistan and the mullah regime of the near-nuclear power Iran view each other?


The relationship was long characterized by pragmatic interests on both sides.

Pakistan has economic interests in Iran, and Tehran has also had an interest in stable relations.

This is precisely why the breach of sovereignty through this attack was so extremely dangerous.

Pakistan is, after all, a nuclear power.

You do not violate the territory of sovereign states.

And certainly not from nuclear powers, which basically can hardly accept something like that.

Iran gambled away and obviously overestimated its possibilities.

This will make it difficult to simply resume relationships.


Could the conflict soon extend from Gaza to Pakistan?


I don't think so.

At first glance, it may seem like they are one and the same conflict.

But it's about very different interests.

Iran is of course the sponsor of Israel's enemies and has presented itself as a regional countervailing power.

But since October 7, the regime has made it very clear that it does not want to be directly involved in the conflict in Gaza.

However, the risk of escalation has certainly increased since the attacks in the Red Sea.


You recently told the New York Times that it was almost ironic how Iran, on the one hand, was exporting conflicts like it was on an assembly line, but on the other hand was floundering on its own doorstep.


Yes, it is indeed remarkable how overwhelmed the leadership is again and again on its own soil.

It has recently been noticed how terrorist groups keep challenging it.

This is perhaps the central challenge for them at the moment.

I don't want to deny the danger that he poses internationally.

But on the other hand, I think it is important to see that the regime is acting very opportunistically.

The support of the “Axis of Resistance”, from various actors in a large network, is primarily in their own interest.

The regime is looking to see where it can use tension for its own purposes.

Iran always deliberately tries to export conflicts.


Access to the Suez Canal is effectively blocked, Iran's proxies are still ready to fight in the south of Lebanon and Yemen, there is no end to the fighting in Gaza so far, now this. What does this development mean for the Middle East policy of Joe Biden and Western allies?


I think it's time to realize that the US can't solve everything.

Everyone is waiting for them to resolve the individual conflicts.

But that will happen even less in an election year than usual. If Europe wants to calm the conflicts, it should look more closely for solutions itself.

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