Iran’s nuclear armed neighbour Pakistan has declared its support for Tehran in light of the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA nuclear deal in May 2018, which has paved the way for more sanctions and increased tensions between the West and Tehran. A Foreign Ministry statement issued by Islamabad has described U.S. actions as arbitrary, noting that it “will undermine confidence in the value of dialogue and diplomacy in the conduct of international relations and the peaceful resolution of disputes.” The Pakistani statement further reiterated the country’s support for the nuclear deal, noting that “the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) represents a very good example of a negotiated settlement of complex issues, through dialogue and diplomacy.” It continues: “We had welcomed the JCPOA when it was concluded and hope that all parties will find a way for its continuation, especially when the International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly verified Iran’s compliance.”
The Pakistani foreign ministry statement continued: “We have noted the willingness of the parties to the Agreement to work together on upholding their respective commitments as stipulated in the JCPOA, despite U.S. decision to withdraw from it. Pakistan believes that International Treaties and Agreements concluded through painstaking negotiations are sacrosanct.” Press attachÃ© at the Iranian embassy Abbas Badrifar stated regarding President Trump’s decision “we have witnessed unusual and abnormal steps by him, which surprised the world,” noting that the American leader and adopted “an approach based on aggression, arrogance and bullying and it may be said explicitly that decisions and policies adopted by American government after his presidency had been against the interests of the nations of the world in general and in contrast to the Islamic world in particular.” While Pakistan was a close U.S. partner during the Cold War, playing a key role in the Western Bloc’s war effort against the USSR in the 1980s by supporting jihadist insurgents in Afghanistan, relations have since gradually deteriorated and Islamabad has increasingly relied on neighbouring China to meet its defence and economic needs while reducing its reliance on Western arms and trade.
The United States in January 2018 cut military aid to Pakistan, and has repeatedly accused the country of harbouring Taliban insurgents and providing indirect support to terror groups - accusations mirroring those made against Iran. Pakistan, itself a nuclear power, had suffered harsh Western economic sanctions, a U.S. arms embargo and even threats of preventative strikes from Israel, a Western aligned Middle Eastern power which has threatened similar such action against Iranian nuclear facilities. Islamabad's experience has likely influenced its stance and made it somewhat sympathetic to the Iranian position, with Tehran suffering significant Western pressure despite expressing no intention of developing nuclear arms. Since pivoting away from the Western bloc Pakistan has gained substantial military and economic benefits from its relations with China, from cutting edge joint fourth and fifth generation fighter programs developed with Beijing's assistance to massive investment and participation in the Chinese One Belt Road initiative.
While Iranian President Rouhani and his supporters had long sought closer ties with the Western bloc, economic benefits gained from relations with the West since the JCPOA’s signing have failed to meet expectations. The U.S. withdrawal has further dealt their pro rapprochement position a serious blow. Tehran is likely to look eastwards as a result for new more reliable partners, and may well follow Pakistan's example in relying more heavily on China and other East Asian states for investment - thus facilitating economic growth and modernisation independently of the Western bloc. With China already Iran's largest trading partner, with a far faster growing economy than those of the West, Beijing in particular can offer Tehran far more than Europe or the United States ever could economically, diplomatically and militarily. This possibility has been noted by a number of Western analysts, and remains highly likely in light of the blow dealt to the credibility of the Rouhani led pro rapprochement bloc. East Asian states continue to show interest in gaining contracts to aid Iranian nuclear development - a stark contrast to Western states which continue threaten Iran with economic sanctions over even its conventional weapons programs. East Asian nations' non interventionist policies also bear a stark contrast to European and American human rights campaigns targeting Iran and regular criticisms of Tehran's domestic policies - making Beijing and other Eastern nations preferable partners for the Islamic Republic.