What Are the Motivations behind Iran and Pakistan’s Airstrikes?

Iran and Pakistan have launched airstrikes that killed at least 11 people, escalating tensions between the two countries. The strikes were aimed at insurgent groups aiming for an independent Baluchistan for ethnic Baluch areas in Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

The decision to strike insurgents in each other’s territories raises questions about the risk of a wider conflagration. Iran and Pakistan share a 900-km lawless border, where smugglers and militants roam freely. Both countries have suspected each other of supporting or behaving leniently toward some of the groups operating on the other side of the border. Jaish al-Adl, a Sunni separatist group, is believed to operate out of Pakistan, while the Baluch Liberation Army, formed in 2000, is suspected of hiding in Iran.

Pakistan has launched strikes in Iran, aiming to target the Baluchistan Liberation Army and the Baluchistan Liberation Front and send a message to Iran and other neighbors that it can fight back if provoked. Pakistan last retaliated against India in 2019, downing two Indian warplanes and capturing a pilot in the disputed Kashmir region.

The strikes are likely prompted by internal dynamics, as Tehran has been experiencing growing pressure for action following a deadly Islamic State group attack, Israel’s war on Iran’s ally Hamas, and wider unrest against its theocracy. Analysts believe that Pakistan’s attack also served a domestic purpose, as the public perception of a strong army has changed, prompting the government and military to respond.

Iran’s military has started an annual air defense drill from its port of Chabahar near Pakistan to its border with Iraq. The drill will involve live fire from aircraft, drones, and air defense systems. The attacks raise questions about the preparedness of both countries’ militaries, particularly their radar and air defense systems.

Pakistan relies on these systems due to its low-level tensions with India, while Iran relies on radar and air defense systems for potential US strikes. Launching these strikes allows Tehran to point to direct military action without risking wider confrontations with Israel and the US, especially over Iran’s nuclear program. However, the airstrikes could backfire on Pakistan, as the Baluch Liberation Army has threatened to avenge the killings and wage war on the state.

airstrikesBaluchistanIranPakistanWhat Are the Motivations behind Iran and Pakistan's Airstrikes?