Iran FM in Pakistan Amid US Tensions 05/24 06:39
ISLAMABAD (AP) -- Iran's foreign minister was in Pakistan on Friday, a
critically timed visit amid a simmering crisis between Tehran and Washington
and ahead of next week's emergency Arab League meeting called by Saudi Arabia
over regional tensions.
The purpose of the visit by Mohammad Javad Zarif, who held talks with his
Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and also Prime Minister Imran
Khan, was not made public. But there has been speculation that Iran is looking
to Islamabad and its close relationship with Riyadh to help de-escalate the
Ahead of Zarif's arrival, Pakistan's foreign ministry called on "all sides
to show restraint, as any miscalculated move, can transmute into a large-scale
Zarif has been criticized by name this week by Iran's supreme leader,
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who named him and President Hassan Rouhani as failing
to implement the leader's orders over Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world
powers. Khamenei had claimed the deal had "numerous ambiguities and structural
weaknesses" that could damage Iran.
The official Iranian news agency IRNA quoted Zarif in Islamabad as warning
of anarchy if world powers did not unite to stop what he called U.S. aggression
--- Iran's official parlance for Washington's pressure on Tehran.
Tensions have ratcheted up recently in the Mideast as the White House
earlier this month sent an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the region over
a still-unexplained threat it perceived from Iran. And on Thursday, the
Pentagon outlined proposals to the White House to send military reinforcements
to the Middle East to beef up defenses against Iran.
The crisis takes root in the steady unraveling of the nuclear deal, intended
to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The accord promised economic
incentives in exchange for restrictions on Tehran's nuclear activities.
The Trump administration pulled America out of the deal last year, and
subsequently re-imposed and escalated U.S. sanctions on Tehran --- sending
Iran's economy into freefall.
Khamenei's criticism of Zarif signaled a hard-line tilt in how the Islamic
Republic will react going forward amid President Donald Trump's maximalist
Iran declared earlier this month that the remaining signatories to the deal
--- Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia --- have two months to develop a
plan to shield Iran from American sanctions.
On Monday, Iran announced it had quadrupled its production capacity of
low-enriched uranium, making it likely that Tehran will soon exceed the
stockpile limitations set by the nuclear accord, which would escalate the
Several incidents have added to the crisis.
On Thursday, Saudi Arabia said Yemen's Iran-aligned rebels again targeted an
airport near its southern border with a bomb-carrying drone. The Saudi military
said it intercepted the drone, while the rebel Houthis said it struck a Patriot
missile battery at the airport. The Houthis have claimed three times in recent
days to have targeted the airport, which also hosts a military base. It comes
after the Houthis last week targeted a Saudi oil pipeline in a coordinated
Pakistan was quick to condemn the attacks and promised Saudi Arabia, a
staunch ally, its full support. The kingdom this week announced a $3.2 billion
deferred oil and gas payment package for energy-strapped Islamabad.
With neighboring Iran, Pakistan walks a fine line and their relationship is
sometimes prickly. Islamabad has little leverage with Washington, although
relations between the two have improved since Pakistan expressed readiness to
help move talks between the Afghan Taliban and Washington forward.
IRNA also reported that Zarif came to Pakistan with a proposal to link
Iran's port of Chabahar on the Arabian Sea with Pakistan's Gwadar port, mostly
being developed by China as part of the multi-billion-dollar One Road project
that will connect the Arabian Sea with China.
The proposal is unexpected because Pakistan's rival India has been Iran's
partner in developing Chabahar while Iran's key regional rival, Saudi Arabia,
has been in talks to develop an oil refinery facility at Pakistan's Gwadar,
though no agreements have been signed.
Meanwhile, Oman's Foreign Ministry said it was working to "ease the
tensions" between Iran and the U.S.
The ministry in a series of tweets on Friday morning attributed the comments
to Yusuf bin Alawi, the sultanate's minister of state for foreign affairs, and
cited an interview in Asharq Al-Wasat, the London-based newspaper owned by a
Saudi media group long associated with the Al Saud royal family.
In the interview, bin Alawi warns war "could harm the entire world if it
breaks out." He doesn't confirm any current Omani mediation but says both the
U.S. and Iran realize the gravity of the situation.
Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said spoke last week by telephone with U.S.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Oman, a nation on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, has long been
an interlocutor of the West with Iran. The U.S. held secret talks in Oman with
the Iranians that gave birth to the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.