by Hugh Fitzgerald
Officially, Iran is unperturbed by the rapid Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. After all, America’s 20-year effort came apart more quickly than anyone imagined; that should gladden the Iranians. But there is also uncertainty about what a Taliban takeover will mean, in the end, for the Islamic Republic. A report on Iran’s view just before the takeover is here: “‘Iran’s involvement in Afghanistan is suspicious,'” by Dean Shmuel Elmas, Israel Hayom, August 13, 2021.
The rapidity of the Taliban’s advance startled everyone. Though furnished by the Americans with vast quantities of weapons – including airplanes, helicopters, and tanks that the Taliban does not have – the Afghan troops showed they had no will to fight against a relentless and terrifying foe.
…A senior Afghan government official spoke to Israel Hayom this week from Kabul.
“We expected an American withdrawal at a certain stage and there is no military solution to the war in Afghanistan, but we and the citizens of Afghanistan thought that the US would leave after an agreement was signed with the Taliban,” the official said.
But of what value would an agreement “signed with the Taliban” have? When has the Taliban ever adhered to Its solemn commitments under any agreement? Why would this time be any different? One of Biden’s few correct decisions was his promise to pull American troops out of Afghanistan. Yes, the Taliban was going to take over, but that was going to happen no matter when the Americans left. The massive failure of will on the part of 300,000 Afghan soldiers was not something the Americans could solve.
“The agreement, which could have included contact with the government of Afghanistan and led to international consensus, since international players like Pakistan and Iran are playing a negative role in supporting the Taliban,” the official continued.
Again, why does this Afghan official think that any agreement would be observed by such meretricious actors as Iran and Pakistan, especially since without American troops remaining in Afghanistan there would be no way to hold them to their commitments?
Iran indeed has its fingers in the Afghan pie. Lt. Col. Michael Segal, former head of the Iran bureau at the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate’s research division and now a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, recently published an article in which he presented different examples of how Iran was moving closer to the Taliban. Iran’s Tasnim news agency, associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, has taken a very moderate stance on the Taliban, even interviewing its spokesman. The Kayhan newspaper, which reflects the opinions of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, played down the horrific acts committed by Taliban insurgents, and Iranian MP Ahmad Naderi has referred to the Taliban as “the noble movement” in the region and said that cooperating with it could promote stability in Afghan society and prevent groups such as Islamic State from penetrating the country.
Iran continues to maintain official ties to the Afghan government, such as it now is, staggering from one defeat after another, but it offers signs of a distinct turn toward supporting the Taliban. Iran’s Tasnim News Agency, connected to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, has given friendly coverage to the Taliban, interviewing its spokesman. Iran’s Kayhan newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Supreme Leader, does not mention Taliban atrocities, even when the victims are the Shi’a Hazara. And an Iranian MP, Ahmad Naderi, goes so far as to call the Taliban a “noble movement” that deserves Iranian support.
“Iran is playing a suspicious role in Afghanistan,” the Kabul official says. “Officially, Iran has normal relations with us. On the other hand, they are also in contact with the Taliban. For example, the reports about a Taliban office being opened in Mashhad. The Iranians also supplied them with weapons.”
A “suspicious role”? It seems to me there is nothing “suspicious” about it. Iran has quite clearly decided to support the Taliban, allowing it to open an office in Mashhad, supplying its fighters with weapons, praising it in Iran’s media, refusing to describe its atrocities.
But what will happen now that the Taliban has taken full control over the country? Will the jihad terror group not revert to its behavior before the Americans invaded, when the Taliban were killing the Shi’a Hazara, as the 15,000 who were killed in a single massacre at Mazar-I Sharif in 1998? Only the arrival of the Americans rescued the Hazara from continued persecution and murder by other Afghan groups, but especially by the Taliban. Will Iran now be besieged by Shi’a refugees from Afghanistan? Will Tehran feel duty-bound to send troops into Afghanistan to protect its coreligionists, wherever they are found — in Herat, Mazar-I Sharif, and even in western Kabul — a move which could possibly spark a larger war between the Shi’a fanatics of the Islamic Republic and the Sunni fanatics of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan?
That would be an outcome that could turn the attention of both away from the West.
First published in Jihad Watch.