In a dramatic turn of events this week, airstrikes between Iran and Pakistan have left at least 11 people dead, raising concerns about the escalating tensions between these neighboring nations. The strikes targeted insurgent groups seeking an independent Baluchistan, spanning ethnic Baluch regions in Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Iran and Pakistan share a 900-kilometer largely lawless border where both smugglers and militants operate freely. Long-standing suspicions of supporting insurgent groups on the opposite side of the border have fueled the ongoing conflict. Jaish al-Adl, a Sunni separatist group targeted by Iran on Tuesday, is believed to operate from Pakistan, launching attacks on Iranian security forces. Conversely, the Baluch Liberation Army, suspected of hiding out in Iran, has previously launched attacks against Pakistani security forces and Chinese infrastructure projects.
Pakistan, in its Thursday airstrikes, aimed at hideouts of the Baluchistan Liberation Army and the Baluchistan Liberation Front, sending a strong message to Iran and other neighbors that it can retaliate when provoked. The last time Pakistan took such action was in 2019 during a confrontation with India.
Timing and Internal Dynamics
The timing of these strikes is likely influenced by internal dynamics in both countries. Iran faces growing pressure following a recent deadly Islamic State group attack, Israel’s conflict with Iran’s ally Hamas, and wider unrest against its theocratic regime. Pakistan’s response, according to analysts, is driven by domestic pressures as the government and military feel compelled to show strength in the face of public scrutiny.
Iran has initiated a planned annual air defense drill, including live-fire exercises from its port of Chabahar near Pakistan to its border with Iraq. While fresh strikes cannot be ruled out, questions arise about the preparedness of both military forces, particularly in terms of radar and air defense systems.
Implications for Iran and Pakistan
Launching these strikes allows Iran to take direct military action without risking a broader confrontation with Israel or the U.S., amid heightened tensions over its nuclear program. For Pakistan, the strikes may temporarily alleviate domestic political pressure, but the Baluch Liberation Army’s vow to avenge the killings raises concerns about potential future conflicts.
As both nations navigate this delicate situation, the international community watches closely, wary of the possibility of further escalation and the broader implications for regional stability.