Iran denounced, Thursday January 18, the strikes carried out by Pakistan against "terrorist hideouts" in the south-east of the country, which left nine people dead, two days after a similar attack launched by Tehran on the territory of its Pakistani neighbor.

Iran and Pakistan, the only Muslim country with nuclear weapons, have for decades faced latent insurgencies along their common border, which stretches over a thousand kilometers.

These reciprocal attacks come at a time when the Middle East is shaken by the war between the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip, and attacks by Houthi rebels from Yemen, supported by Iran, against ships of trade in the Red Sea.

Interview with Marc Goutalier, geostrategy consultant.

A specialist in the Middle East, he is the author of the work “The Demiurge and Chaos, American Presidents and the Middle East” (ed. du Félin), to be published on February 1.

France 24 – What do you think of this crossfire between Iran and Pakistan?

Marc Goutalier. 

This is the first time that Pakistan has struck Iran, but it is also the first time that Iran has been targeted by a missile attack on its territory in around thirty years.

At the same time, we have two countries which do not necessarily have much interest in confronting each other, especially at the moment.

The risk of escalation cannot be ruled out because the regional situation is rather volatile.

But Iran's priority is in the Middle East with what is happening in Gaza and Yemen.

A conflict with Pakistan would ultimately be parasitic.

This is not in Iran's interest, nor is it a major security threat.

On the Pakistani side, it was necessary to respond to what was an Iranian provocation.

Legislative elections will take place shortly, so the internal situation is very tense.

The main security threat to Pakistanis is in India and Afghanistan.

But Iran had to be responded to and Pakistan did so quite frankly and quickly.

Escalation is not the preferred scenario, in my opinion.

But once again, we cannot exclude it because the situation is changing.

Which groups are described as terrorists by the Iranians and the Pakistanis?

On the Iranian side, like the Kurds, the Baloch are a Sunni minority in a predominantly Shiite country where Shiism is the state religion.

They also demand a state or, at least, greater autonomy.

They are present not only in Iran, but also in Pakistan and partly also in Afghanistan.

In this region, the borders are poorly controlled and porous.

There is a significant movement of activists from one side to the other.

Separatist groups in Iran are based in Pakistan and separatist groups in Pakistan are based in Iran. 

For several days, the Iranians have been carrying out strikes on Iraq, Syria and now Pakistan.

Is this a message to Americans and Israelis?

This is the message that has been sent for several days.

This is part of this series of strikes, also quite unprecedented, on the part of Iran.

We know the Iranian sponsors.

Generally, they delegate the task of striking adversaries to their relays such as the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Shiite militias in Iraq.

There they struck themselves and claimed responsibility right away.

These are also the Revolutionary Guards, therefore the praetorian guard of the Iranian regime.

It is a message of firmness which is sent both to adversaries but also to Iran's own allies who are very pro-Palestinian.

They believe Iran should do a little more to support the Palestinians against Israel.

This is why one of the strikes carried out in Iraqi Kurdistan targeted a Mossad base: to remind us that Iran is well engaged in this axis of resistance.

In a context where there is possible talk of an escalation, of a possible regional explosion, Iran shows itself ready to intervene, to use major means.

It's not that simple because Pakistan recalled its ambassador.

Iraq, which is supposed to be a state allied, even subservient to Iran, recalled its ambassador to Tehran.

There is a diplomatic crisis between Iraq and Iran which appears to be of a fairly unprecedented scale.

What Iran has done with its direct strikes exposes it more than usual.

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