Many among the Alt-Media Community have an over-simplistic view of International Relations whereby they tend to imagine that all countries that support multipolarity are on the same side, which is why they chalk up “politically inconvenient” developments like last week’s tit-for-tat strikes between SCO members Iran and Pakistan as being part of a “5D chess master plan”.
Iran and Pakistan’s tit–for–tat strikes against groups in the other’s territory that each designated as terrorists-separatists was the worst military escalation in these two’s history, yet many among the Alt-Media Community (AMC) are convinced that this exchange was secretly coordinated between them. The very serious statements released by each government contradict that claim, but it’s nevertheless gone viral on social media, hence the reason why it’ll be debunked point-by-point in the present piece.
Cross-border strikes are a major matter that can’t honestly be downplayed by any observer. In Pakistan’s case, Iran joined the ranks of America and India as the only countries to carry out airstrikes against it, while Pakistan became the first country to bomb Iran since Iraq in the 1980s. Each’s prestige was harmed since Pakistan is a nuclear-armed state while Iran is just a threshold one unlike the US and India, and Iran regularly threatens a crushing response if the US or Israel bombs it yet none followed Pakistan’s strikes.
Their tit-for-tat therefore discredited one another’s respective deterrence policies, which could give their rivals a reason to wonder whether a similarly mild response could be expected from each if they were to carry out limited cross-border strikes against them too. Neither’s national security policymakers would ever risk emboldening their rivals in such a way, and those few that might theoretically do would be kept in check by their colleagues, who understand the importance of upholding the integrity of these policies.
It’s also unrealistic to imagine that Pakistan’s Chief Of Army Staff (COAS) Asim Munir and Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who are one another’s ultimate decisionmakers, would ever authorize a convoluted secret operation with one another that entails such counterproductive self-inflicted damage to their security. Objectively speaking, it would arguably amount to treason, and patriotic elements within their permanent national security bureaucracies could revolt by disobeying orders or worse to stop them.
A supplementary point to make is that COAS Munir and Ayatollah Khamenei wouldn’t just be committing treason and discrediting the integrity of their countries’ deterrence policy, but would also risk exacerbating preexisting sectarian tensions within society, which are much more pronounced in Pakistan. As regrettable as it is, a sizeable proportion of Pakistanis hate Iran for purely sectarian reasons, and the extremists among them could carry out retributive violence against Pakistani Shias in response.
That dark scenario was averted by Pakistan’s retaliatory strikes, which served to release the sudden surge of sectarian pressure that the country experienced in the aftermath of Iran’s initial strikes. Nevertheless, the memory of what just happened – non-nuclear Shiite Iran joining the ranks of nuclear-armed historically Christian America and Hindu India, both of whom are reviled in Pakistani society – will likely linger for a while, and this could fuel sectarian terrorist attacks sometime in the future.
There’s no way that COAS Munir or his fellow members of Pakistan’s military-intelligence structures, which are colloquially known as the Establishment and who already have their hands full cracking down on the PTI opposition and responding to TTP terrorist attacks, would ever willingly risk that scenario. An estimated 10-15% of Pakistanis are Shias, who could be at sudden risk of sectarian violence, and the state would struggle to protect them. Any successful terrorist attacks would discredit the Establishment.
The next point to make is that it simply doesn’t make sense why many in the AMC imagine that Iran and Pakistan secretly coordinated their strikes against one another when each has the ability to hit targets within their own territories as proven by them being able to carry out cross-border strikes last week. Neither COAS Munir nor Ayatollah Khamenei would insult their own armed forces by letting their neighbor carry out sensitive anti-terrorist operations within Pakistani and Iranian territory respectively.
Adherents of the secret coordination theory might retort that there’s more glory to be had in striking their neighbor, but that ignores the insight that was shared up until this point, not to mention the way in which one another’s armed forces and society negatively view the other in the aftermath. The threat perception among both indisputably changed once Iran joined the ranks of the US and India in bombing nuclear-armed Pakistan and Pakistan became the first country to bomb Iran since Iraq in the 1980s.
To be sure, it can’t be discounted that each’s armed forces ordered their air defense units to stand down during the other’s strikes for pragmatism’s sake in order to avoid uncontrollably escalating the situation in the heat of the moment. There’s a logic in that decision since the strikes took place in their shared Balochistan subregion, whose border is porous and whose neighboring communities are largely lawless, so neither credibly represented a potentially pressing national security threat of the highest priority.
If their strikes took place deeper inland, then air defense units would likely have attempted to intercept the incoming attack out of an abundance of caution due to ambiguity about the actual target, but that didn’t happen and this in turn helped them de-escalate the crisis. Pragmatism of the kind that was just described doesn’t involve secret coordination since it’s just each independently reacting in accordance with their national interests.
The last point to make is that the AMC’s viral theory implies that Iran and Pakistan either secretly coordinated behind Russia, India, and China’s backs or that those three are playing along with their public statements for reasons that adherents are unable to cogently explain. Russia described these developments as “discouraging”, India defended Iran’s right to strike Pakistan, while China proposed mediating, all of which were sincere statements since no credible proof exists to suggest otherwise.
Russia is worried that tensions could spill into Afghanistan, India is pleased that Iran joined its ranks as one of the few who’ve bombed Pakistan, and China is concerned that lingering mistrust could spoil its plans to connect its BRI megaprojects in Pakistan and Iran. None of these three is faking their reaction, and it’s frankly an insult to everyone’s intelligence to imply that they are or that Pakistan wouldn’t tip off China and Iran wouldn’t tip off Russia and India ahead of time so that they don’t embarrass themselves.
Having debunked the secret coordination theory, it’s now time to close with a few words about why so many folks believe it. While each person is different, many among the AMC have an over-simplistic view of International Relations whereby they tend to imagine that all countries that support multipolarity are on the same side, which is why they chalk up “politically inconvenient” developments like last week’s tit-for-tat strikes between SCO members Iran and Pakistan as being part of a “5D chess master plan”.
These countries’ policymakers are imagined to be such geostrategic geniuses that average people are assumed to be unable to understand the ultra-convoluted ways in which they allegedly always formulate policies. They can’t for the life of them acknowledge that differences naturally exist within the diverse group of countries that support multipolarity, perhaps because this worldview has become akin to a “secular religion” with cult-like dogmatic beliefs for its adherents.
Those who believe in the secret coordination theory are unlikely to change their mind even after reading this piece since they tend to believe many other “5D chess master plan” theories such as the one alleging that Putin and Prigozhin cooked up a false flag coup. Even so, those members of the AMC that have realistic views of International Relations instead of cultish ones might appreciate these points if they were exposed to that aforementioned theory, hence the importance of sharing it to clarify matters.