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What Drove Pakistan to Execute Airstrikes in Iran? The Human Cost and Rising Tensions

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Pakistan’s air force executed retaliatory airstrikes in Iran, targeting alleged militant hideouts. The strikes, which occurred on Thursday, have amplified existing tensions between the two neighboring nations and resulted in the tragic loss of at least nine lives.

The tit-for-tat attacks appear to be a response to an earlier strike by Iran on Tuesday, where both nations targeted Baluch militant groups operating on either side of the Iran-Pakistan border. The ongoing accusations of providing safe havens to these groups within their territories have strained diplomatic relations.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry labeled the recent airstrikes as “highly coordinated and specifically targeted precision military strikes.” The action was taken based on credible intelligence indicating an imminent large-scale terrorist threat. The ministry emphasized that the move exemplifies Pakistan’s unwavering commitment to safeguarding its national security against all threats.

Utilizing a range of military assets, including “killer drones, rockets, loitering munitions, and standoff weapons,” Pakistan’s military sought to neutralize the perceived threat. The use of standoff weapons implies that Pakistan’s fighter jets did not breach Iranian airspace. The casualties from Thursday’s strike, as reported by Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province, included three women, four children, and two men near the town of Saravan along the border. Importantly, the victims were not Iranian citizens, adding complexity to an already delicate situation.

The Baluch Liberation Army, an ethnic separatist group operating in the region since 2000, claimed that the strikes targeted and killed its members. In response, the group issued a stern warning, vowing to avenge the attack and declaring war on Pakistan. As the situation unfolds, concerns about the potential escalation of hostilities linger. Both nations have a history of suspicion and accusations regarding militant attacks, and these recent events only serve to exacerbate existing geopolitical complexities.

The airstrikes come at a time when the Middle East is grappling with multiple crises, including Israel’s conflict with Hamas and Iran’s airstrikes in Iraq and Syria in response to a suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State. The risk of further escalation remains palpable, especially as Iran plans to commence its annual air defense drill along the border with Pakistan. The drill, named Velayat 1402, will involve live-fire exercises featuring aircraft, drones, and air defense systems.

The geopolitical considerations in the region add another layer of complexity to the tensions. Pakistan’s military, which relies on foreign fighter jets, including those from the U.S., China, and France, underscores the intricate relationships at play. China, a key partner for both nations, has called for restraint, emphasizing the need to avoid an escalation of tension.

As the international community watches closely, the cross-border attacks between Iran and Pakistan raise questions about the preparedness of their respective militaries and the potential implications for regional stability. The situation remains fluid, and the coming days will be crucial in determining whether diplomatic efforts can diffuse the heightened tensions between these two nuclear-armed neighbors.

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