For 20 years, Iranian officers have stated they wished the U.S. army out of Afghanistan. Iran equipped Afghan insurgents with weapons to make use of in opposition to American troopers. It sheltered Al Qaeda’s prime leaders in Tehran. It courted the Taliban with diplomatic visits, covertly after which publicly.
However when the USA lastly left Afghanistan in August, the swift Taliban takeover caught Iran off guard.
All of a sudden, 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 grow to be 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 accomplice.
The episode has became a basic lesson in “watch out what you want for.”
“Iran has come to know that the enemy’s enemy will not be your buddy, and the Taliban are a extra advanced drawback than Individuals,” 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 take care of the Taliban very fastidiously and pragmatically.”
Iran’s greatest concern, officers stated, is the resurgence of the Afghan branch of the Islamic State, which has carried out large-scale attacks against Shiites in Afghanistan and will use Afghanistan as a base to launch terrorist assaults in Iran.
The Taliban, regardless of their guarantees to supply safety and stability, have to this point confirmed unwilling or unable to forestall ISIS assaults on Shiites in Afghanistan.
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 takeover has additionally despatched a brand new wave of refugees into Iran, including to the greater than two million Afghans who fled to Iran throughout earlier occasions of upheaval. Their arrival has stretched Iran’s assets at a time when the nation’s economic system has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic and worldwide monetary sanctions.
However any Iranian response to the brand new scenario in Afghanistan has potential prices.
Recognizing the Taliban may 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, may undo the positive aspects of Iran’s cautious courtship of the group through the years, and rapidly flip a tenuous relationship hostile. Iranian officers concern getting dragged right into a protracted battle it neither desires nor may afford.
For now, Iranian officers say they’re taking a middle-of-the-road method.
Officers have acknowledged the Taliban are a actuality however stopped wanting recognizing them as Afghanistan’s reliable authorities. They’ve additionally expressed concern concerning the security of resistance leaders comparable to 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.
“We’re involved with all sides and advise all of them to implement the thought of an inclusive authorities,” Overseas Minister Hossein Amir Abdullahian stated in an interview. “Afghanistan is going through many various challenges. The existence of ISIS in Afghanistan that has the expertise of guerrilla warfare in Syria is an actual risk.”
Iran despatched fighters and commanders to Syria in 2011 and Iraq in 2014 to battle ISIS, however even when Iran supplied, the Taliban are unlikely to welcome Iranian forces the best way 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 overseas minister on Saturday.
Iran has laid out three foremost calls for of the Taliban, based on Iranian diplomats, officers and specialists. 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.
As well as, 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 foreign money alternate with Iran, and to chorus from creating social and financial situations that might ship extra Afghans throughout Iran’s borders, Kamal Kharazi, the previous overseas minister and present head of Iran’s highly effective Strategic Council on Overseas Relations, instructed Iranian information media final week.
“Our technique in Afghanistan fully depends upon the Taliban’s conduct,” Mr. Kharazi stated. “The Islamic Republic of Iran doesn’t need to meddle in Afghanistan’s affairs however naturally we have now reliable pursuits that should be assured.”
Iran and Afghanistan share deep cultural and historic ties that date again centuries. Considered one of Afghanistan’s two official languages, Dari, is a dialect of Persian, and the 2 international locations share many traditions, together with celebrating the Nowruz new 12 months vacation within the spring.
Perceive the Taliban Takeover in Afghanistan
Who’re the Taliban? The Taliban arose in 1994 amid the turmoil that got here after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989. They used brutal public punishments, together with floggings, amputations and mass executions, to implement their guidelines. Right here’s extra on their origin story and their record as rulers.
Iran’s border with Afghanistan stretches 572 miles with two crossings important to commerce and commerce. Iran’s exports to Afghanistan whole an estimated $7 billion yearly, and the nation has relied on Afghanistan’s foreign money market to accumulate arduous foreign money in circumvention of worldwide banking sanctions.
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 determine with the struggling of Afghans below a theocracy, much like their very own lives below the rule of Islamic Republic. The Taliban’s assaults on the rights of ladies and ladies, from requiring head scarves 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.
However conservatives and members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps have additionally attacked the federal government for not supporting the Afghan resistance.
“Why is Iran leaping 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. “It’s essential to not put all of your eggs in a single basket.”
Iran and Afghanistan’s political relationship has ebbed and flowed over the many years, relying on who held energy in Afghanistan. Within the Eighties, Iran backed the mujahedeen militia preventing Russian occupation and the Sunni militant Haqqani faction, now part of the Taliban. Within the late Nineteen Nineties, Iran and the Taliban nearly went to war over the Taliban’s killing of 10 Iranian diplomats and a journalist in Mazar-i-Sharif.
In 2001, Iran sided with the USA in its invasion of Afghanistan, supplying army intelligence and safety cooperation, and later was instrumental in establishing the primary post-Taliban authorities, led by Hamid Karzai.
However after President George W. Bush included Iran in his notorious “axis of evil” speech in 2002 and later established American army bases in Iraq, Iran’s neighbor to the west, the calculus in Tehran shifted. Iran started reaching out to the Taliban with the aim of chasing the USA in another 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 criticized the Trump administration for not demanding sufficient political concessions from the Taliban in talks in Doha, Qatar, leading to “an American and Pashtun deal” moderately than one benefiting all Afghans, Mr. Nasr stated.
“Iranians are masters of leverage,” Mr. Nasr stated. “They knew as soon as Doha was signed there was no stopping the Taliban. The coverage is correct now to keep away from the worst in Afghanistan and discover what to pursue within the mess that America has left them.”