For 20 years, Iranian officers have stated they needed the US navy out of Afghanistan. Iran provided Afghan insurgents with weapons to make use of in opposition to American troopers. It sheltered al-Qaida’s prime leaders in Tehran. It courted the Taliban with diplomatic visits, covertly after which publicly.
But when the United States lastly left Afghanistan in August, the swift Taliban takeover caught Iran off guard.
Suddenly, Iran, a Shiite Muslim theocracy, had a militant Sunni theocracy on its border that’s extensively seen as anti-Shiite. The upheaval has additionally despatched a flood of Afghan refugees into Iran, has led to fears that Afghanistan will once more develop into an incubator for terrorism, and has trapped Iranian leaders in a diplomatic tangle in coping with a Taliban authorities seen as each a possible enemy and associate.
The episode has was a basic lesson in “be careful what you wish for.”
“Iran has come to understand that the enemy’s enemy is not your friend, and the Taliban are a more complex problem than Americans,” stated Mohammad Hossein Emadi, a former Iranian diplomat who suggested Afghanistan’s authorities and labored within the nation for the United Nations. “The consensus is to deal with the Taliban very carefully and pragmatically.”
Iran’s greatest concern, officers stated, is the resurgence of the Afghan department of the Islamic State, which has carried out large-scale assaults in opposition to Shiites in Afghanistan and will use Afghanistan as a base to launch terrorist assaults in Iran.
The Taliban, regardless of their guarantees to offer safety and stability, have to this point confirmed unwilling or unable to stop ISIS assaults on Shiites in Afghanistan.
A guard at a Shiite mosque in Kandahar, Afghanistan, that was bombed by the Islamic State group. Iran is frightened that the Taliban are unwilling or unable to stop such assaults. (Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times)
Iranian officers are additionally involved concerning the destiny of two minority ethnic teams, the Hazara, who’re Shiite Muslim, and the Tajiks, who’ve shut cultural ties to Iran.
The Taliban eradicated the casual power-sharing association that inspired illustration for these teams within the authorities, and so they have been accused of finishing up extrajudicial killings and compelled displacements of members of each teams. The Taliban have denied these accusations.
The Taliban takeover has additionally despatched a brand new wave of refugees into Iran, including to the greater than 2 million Afghans who fled to Iran throughout earlier instances of upheaval. Their arrival has stretched Iran’s sources at a time when the nation’s financial system has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic and worldwide monetary sanctions.
But any Iranian response to the brand new scenario in Afghanistan has potential prices.
Recognising the Taliban might set off a backlash at house amongst Iranians who see the Taliban as a terrorist group and tarnish Iran’s branding of itself as a protector of Shiites within the Muslim world.
Rejecting the Taliban, then again, might undo the beneficial properties of Iran’s cautious courtship of the group through the years, and shortly flip a tenuous relationship hostile. Iranian officers concern getting dragged right into a protracted battle it neither desires nor might afford.
For now, Iranian officers say they’re taking a middle-of-the-road strategy.
Officials have acknowledged the Taliban are a actuality however stopped wanting recognising them as Afghanistan’s reliable authorities. They have additionally expressed concern concerning the security of resistance leaders resembling Ahmad Massoud, who leads an anti-Taliban militia with historic ties to Iran within the Panjshir Valley in Afghanistan, though they haven’t publicly endorsed his trigger, and diplomats and analysts stated they’d seen no signal that Iran was supporting it financially or militarily.
Ahmad Massoud, son of the slain hero of the anti-Soviet resistance, Ahmad Shah Massoud, at his home in Bazarak, Panjshir province Afghanistan on Sept 5, 2019. (Reuters/File)
“We are in contact with all sides and advise them all to implement the idea of an inclusive government,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdullahian stated in an interview. “Afghanistan is facing many different challenges. The existence of ISIS in Afghanistan that has the experience of guerrilla warfare in Syria is a real threat.”
Iran despatched fighters and commanders to Syria in 2011 and Iraq in 2014 to battle ISIS, however even when Iran provided, the Taliban are unlikely to welcome Iranian forces the way in which Iraq did.
Iran has had a minimum of two diplomatic conferences with the Taliban because the group seized energy, together with a gathering with the Taliban international minister on Saturday.
Iran has laid out three foremost calls for it desires the Taliban to fulfill, in accordance with Iranian diplomats, officers and consultants. They embody securing Iran’s borders from terrorist infiltration, stopping the Islamic State from gaining floor in Afghanistan, and defending the rights and safety of Shiite minorities.
In addition, Iran has requested the Taliban to assist curb drug lords from utilizing Iran as a hall to move Afghan opium to Europe, to maintain open commerce and forex change with Iran, and to chorus from creating social and financial circumstances that might ship extra Afghans throughout Iran’s borders, Kamal Kharazi, the previous international minister and present head of Iran’s highly effective Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, advised Iranian information media final week.
“Our strategy in Afghanistan completely depends on the Taliban’s behavior,” Kharazi stated. “The Islamic Republic of Iran does not want to meddle in Afghanistan’s affairs but naturally we have legitimate interests that must be guaranteed.”
Iran and Afghanistan share deep cultural and historic ties that date again centuries. One of Afghanistan’s two official languages, Dari, is a dialect of Persian, and the 2 nations share many traditions, together with celebrating the Nowruz new 12 months vacation within the spring.
Iran’s border with Afghanistan stretches 572 miles with two crossings very important to commerce and commerce. Iran’s exports to Afghanistan complete an estimated $7 billion yearly, and the nation has relied on Afghanistan’s forex market to amass onerous forex in circumvention of worldwide banking sanctions.
People view the injury within a mosque following a bombing in Kunduz, province northern Afghanistan Oct 8. (AP)
Public opinion in Iran is decidedly in opposition to the Taliban and demanding of the federal government’s outreach to the group.
Many liberal Iranians establish with the struggling of Afghans underneath a theocracy, much like their very own lives underneath the rule of Islamic Republic. The Taliban’s assaults on the rights of girls and women, from requiring headscarves to a ban on singing and sports activities, and its crackdowns on impartial journalists and activists, remind many Iranians of their very own struggles with the authorities in Iran.
But conservatives and members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard have additionally attacked the federal government for not supporting the Afghan resistance.
“Why is Iran jumping into the arms of the Taliban?” Muhammad Hossein Jaffarian, a former Iranian official who fought with the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, requested in a chat on Clubhouse, the social networking app. “You must not put all your eggs in one basket.”
A road vendor sells Taliban and Afghan flags on a road in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sept 30, 2021. (AP)
Iran and Afghanistan’s political relationship has ebbed and flowed over the a long time, relying on who held energy in Afghanistan. In the Eighties, Iran backed the mujahedeen militia combating Russian occupation and the Sunni militant Haqqani faction, now part of the Taliban. In the late Nineties, Iran and the Taliban practically went to struggle over the Taliban’s killing of 10 Iranian diplomats and a journalist in Mazar-i-Sharif.
In 2001, Iran sided with the United States in its invasion of Afghanistan, supplying navy intelligence and safety cooperation, and later was instrumental in establishing the primary post-Taliban authorities, led by Hamid Karzai.
But after President George W. Bush included Iran in his notorious “axis of evil” speech in 2002 and later established American navy bases in Iraq, Iran’s neighbor to the west, the calculus in Tehran shifted. Iran started reaching out to the Taliban with the purpose of chasing the United States in a foreign country.
Vali R. Nasr, a senior adviser to the Obama administration on Afghanistan and Pakistan, stated Iran started to panic when the Trump administration began peace talks with the Taliban. Iranian officers criticised the Trump administration for not demanding sufficient political concessions from the Taliban in talks in Doha, Qatar, leading to “an American and Pashtun deal” somewhat than one benefiting all Afghans, Nasr stated.
“Iranians are masters of leverage,” Nasr stated. “They knew once Doha was signed there was no stopping the Taliban. The policy is right now to avoid the worst in Afghanistan and find what to pursue in the mess that America has left them.”