Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A troubled triangle: Iran, India and Pakistan

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This month Washington justified its growing involvement in the region when it identified Iran, India and Pakistan as a "troubled triangle": "Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran are a troubled triangle and the US strategy is to involve the US government in the region to reduce the troubled nature," said the US Army War College's Larry Goodson. "The US faces ... a real conundrum in that we have to stay in order to achieve [our] strategic interest of stabilizing and transforming these troubled regions but our very presence there is going to continue to attract some of the more militant jihadists who want to challenge their conception of the US project for the world. Anti-American attitudes are at an all-time high in some areas. We really can't stay and yet we dare not go." Washington, meanwhile, is utilizing a carrots-and-sticks policy as it tries to disrupt the rapprochement between Iran and its neighbors that would end Tehran's international isolation. The Bush administration's carrot is an offer to sell India and Pakistan advanced F-16 fighter jets capable of dispatching nuclear payloads. India has yet to accept the offer and is making noises that it might approach Russia and the European Union as alternative arms suppliers. As for Pakistan, given Iran's close cooperation with arch-foe India, it has steered a more ambivalent course, welcoming a permanent US presence in Afghanistan even as it offers to act as an intermediary between Washington and Tehran on the nuclear dispute.