Iran’s Air Strikes: A Strategic Spiral

On Thursday morning, Pakistan launched missile strikestargeting terrorist hideouts in Iran’s Siestan-o-Baluchistan province in retaliation to missile attack conducted by Iran.

On Thursday morning, Pakistan launched missile strikestargeting terrorist hideouts in Iran’s Siestan-o-Baluchistan province in retaliation to missile attack conducted by Iran on South-Western border of Pakistan on 18 January, 2024. The Government of Pakistan claimed that they attacked ‘ungoverned space inside Iran’ and killed number of terrorists, who were responsible for terrorist acts inside Pakistani territory. Islamabad announced that the action was a “manifestation of Pakistan’s unflinching resolve” to safeguard national sovereignty. Defending its strikes, Iranian Foreign Ministry said, that they had targeted a terrorist group “Jaish-al-Adli” which had alleged hideouts in Pakistan. Iranian claim was later rejected by Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) as strike resulted in civilian causalities including murder of three innocent children, while leaving there citizens injured.

As an initial protest, adequately in line with international norms of peaceful co-existence, Pakistan immediately exercised its democratic right to register a formal protest through its Foreign Office and condemned the irrational missile attacks. To further mount the diplomatic pressure, Pakistan recalled its Ambassador from Iran and blocked the return of Tehran’s envoy to Pakistan, who was visiting Tehran since the conflict emerged.

However, Iran misconstrued Pakistan’s neighborly goodwill for a likely strategic weakness and continued violating Pakistan’s sovereign existence with verbal threats of further hostility. Resultantly, to safeguard its national interest and territorial integrity, the very next day on Thursday January 19, 2024, Pakistan retaliated with missile attacks, killing terrorists in a well-planned intelligence based operation codenamed “Marg Bar Sarmachar, meaning death to the terrorists”.

Clearing Pakistan’s position on will and effort to fight terrorism, Pakistan’s MoFA further stated that, “Over the last several years, in our engagements with Iran, Pakistan has consistently shared its serious concerns about the safe havens and sanctuaries afforded to Baloch terrorists, calling themselves as ‘Sarmachars’ on the ungoverned spaces inside Iran. Pakistan also shared multiple dossiers with concrete evidence of the presence and activities of these terrorists”.Despite Pakistan’s numerous attempts at engaging the Iranian state in a joint venture against terrorism, the Iranian Government broke faith with the country and launched missile attacks on the same day, when Pakistan’s Prime Minister Anwar-ul- HaqueKakar met with the Iranian Foreign Minister in Davos. Moreover, same day navies of both countries held exercise in Arabian Sea to strengthen the defence ties/ naval cooperation.

In the aftermath of Pakistani strikes, Pakistan Army’s media wing- Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) in its press release stated that “our resolve to ensure that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan is respected and safeguarded against any misadventure, remains unwavering. We reaffirm our determination to defeat all enemies of Pakistan with the support of the people of Pakistan”.  They further called for dialogue to mitigate the bilateral issue. “Going forward, dialogue and cooperation is deemed prudent in resolving bilateral issues between the two neighbouring brotherly countries”, it said.

The protection of air space and respect of state’s sovereignty under international law is necessary to maintain the regional stability and avoid tipping off the delicate balance, which characterizes the Asian Continent. But when a state violates the sovereignty of another state – particularly that of a recognized nuclear armed country-breach of established international laws, are surely to be taken as “Act of War”.

Acknowledging that the situation could further translate into a full-scale armed conflict, China being a neighbouring state and close ally of Pakistan urged both states to exercise restraint and opt for a diplomatic resolution.The United States of America also condemned Iranian offensive and emphasized that Iran has violated the sovereign borders of three of its neighbours namely Pakistan, Iraq and Syria. While international community clearly blamed Iran for its offensive venture, India’s hypocritical approach towards the conflict has casted a dark shadow on its often loud claims of staunch custodian of cross-border terrorism.

As unilateral actions by both states are putting crises into commotion, the Asian Continent may face more of this strategic tango.