The Iranian government has said it has “reservations” about the appointment of Pakistan’s former army chief, retired Gen. Raheel Sharif, as the head of the Saudi-led coalition. Mehdi Honardost, Tehran’s ambassador to Islamabad, said yesterday that the Pakistani government “had ed Iran before issuing the approval for General Raheel Sharif to join the military alliance, but this does not mean Iran is satisfied with or accept this decision by Pakistan.” According to state-run Honardost had notified Islamabad that Tehran would not join, nor was it asked to join, the Saudi-led coalition.
Comment: Iran has opposed the Saudi-led counter-terrorism alliance of Islamic countries from the very outset. And the Iranian media has long expressed displeasure with the potential leadership role of the Pakistani general in the coalition. But it is the first time that a senior Iranian official has publicly expressed Tehran’s dissatisfaction with the issue.
According to , Pakistan’s current Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa recently invited Honardost to the General Headquarters (GHQ), where Bajwa assured the Iranian diplomat that the move would not hurt Tehran’s interests or strain Islamabad-Tehran relations. The meeting reportedly took place just days before Islamabad issued a no-objection certificate to Gen. Raheel to lead the alliance. In February, Sartaj Aziz, advisor to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on foreign affairs, also traveled to Tehran to address Iran’s reservations. And earlier today, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua stressed that Sharif will not act against Iran. “The Islamic alliance is against terrorism, not any country,” she a parliamentary committee on foreign affairs.
But if Honardost's latest comments are any indication, Pakistan's assurances have failed to assuage Iran’s concerns, and it remains to be seen if Gen. Sharif’s role in the Saudi-led coalition will significantly impact relations between Islamabad and Tehran in the future.