Iran-Pakistan Oil Pipeline: Can U.S. Maintain Pakistan Alliance With This?

A pipeline constructed to link Pakistan with Iran is facing pressure from the U.S. and may result in sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program. The project was officially launched at the Iran-Pakistan border. Presidents Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran have both declared the pipeline will play a key role in assuring “security and progress” between the two nations.

To move on with the project despite warnings puts into question Pakistan’s alignment with the U.S. A bold move from Pakistan inherently undermines the sanctions placed against Iran to deter the country from advancing its nuclear program, warranting legitimate concern from the U.S.

The aptly dubbed “peace pipeline” began in 1994, and with talks between governments, the pipeline delivers natural gas from Iran to Pakistan. India was originally on board with involvement of Iran extending the pipeline there, but abstained in 2009 after agreeing to a nuclear deal with the U.S.

Pakistan is in special need of the pipeline project going through, considering the energy crisis which has resulted in electricity shortages due to unpaid power bills. In line of fighting tooth and nail against Pakistan going through the deal with Iran, the U.S. had offered alternative solutions. One included having a pipeline built that would go through Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and finally India. Another was a $7.5 billion effort on the behalf of the Obama administration to pump into Pakistan’s government, which included the intention to start up energy projects for the nation — by upgrading power plants and extending hydro-powered dams. But according to Pakistan, the rate by which the U.S. plans to offer relief pans out too long. This ultimately makes Iran their fastest and best bet.

Reuters once wrote an article titled, “Pakistan and U.S.: allies without trust.” A an Islamabad businesswoman quoted in the article summarizes relations with Pakistan as filled with “instability and violence.” Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the alliance “challenging but essential.”

These examples perfectly demonstrate back and forth nature of relations between the two countries — necessary, but not yet solidified. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty of these particular relations, what can shine as either a saving grace or a shot foot is the nature of each country’s goals. In the case of the peace pipeline, said goals are conflicting — there is the U.S.’s main goal of preventing Iran from possibly building a nuclear bomb. And for Pakistan, it is obtaining a speedy energy pump to sate the needs of the country even at the cost of sanctions.

The next question is whether or not it is feasible for the U.S. to maintain an alliance with Pakistan if their goals continue to clash.