U.S. and Taliban Peace deal signing in Doha on February 8 has brought with it some uncertainty. Since the agreement many countries in the region have been working to maximize the benefits of possible US withdrawal, as well as power sharing deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
In this context, Iran a key neighbor of Afghanistan is likely to play a key role in determining stability and security in Afghanistan and the region in the near future. Iran will be able to reap the full benefits of a stable and secure Afghanistan, both commercially and culturally. However, Iran is also at a critical juncture where the outcome or progress of the peace process could change Iran’s strategy to its best interests.
It is likely that Iran will continue its current strategy of openly supporting the Afghan government, as well as maintaining its ties with the Taliban so that all doors are open in case of a US withdrawal. It is likely that Iran will continue its current strategy of openly supporting the Afghan government as well as maintaining own ties with the Taliban so that all the door is open for a US withdrawal. Tehran’s goal is to prioritize maintaining Afghanistan as a republic, as well as limiting the influence of other countries, including Iran’s regional rivals Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. It could also create a more conducive environment for the protection of Iran’s interests in the country.
Tehran’s balanced role in Afghanistan
Relations with the Afghan government have so far been Iran’s top priority, and it has maintained ties with both Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political rival, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. Recently, in a short span of less than a month, high-level delegations have been exchanged between Iran and Afghanistan, Under the Deputy and Acting Foreign Ministers of the two countries visited each other’s country respectively.
. Following the visit of Afghan Acting Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar to Tehran and a joint statement was issued by the two countries on June 3, in which the two countries announced the resumption of the role of Chabahar Port for trade and transit cooperation in the region. The two countries discussed improving border security and deploying staff to vacant Afghan checkpoints on the border. During Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi visit to Afghanistan on July 6, he said the two countries had worked on a comprehensive document for comprehensive strategic cooperation between Iran and Afghanistan, including the main contents of non-interference, and non-aggression.
Iran has also played a role in persuading Afghan political factions to set up a joint committee for inter-Afghan dialogue, which is in line with a broader strategy of engagement with all actors on the Afghan political arena. Iran’s Special envoy to Afghanistan Mohammad Ibrahim Teheran, has met with many Afghan political leaders, including Salahuddin Rabbani, leader of the Jamiat-e-Islami, and Dawat-e-Islami Afghanistan leader Abdul Rab Rasul Sayaf. This will not only give Iran more opportunities, but will also send a message to the Afghan government that Tehran is not relying solely on Kabul’s goodwill. Following Afghanistan’s recent disputed presidential election, Tehran questioned the outcome of the election and called for a comprehensive government.
The Ghani government was clearly unhappy with Iran’s stance and accused Iran of providing military support to the Taliban and other terrorist groups.However, Ghani and Abdullah have been cautious about developing ties with Tehran. In January, a US drone strike in Iraq killed Qasim Solimani, head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC-QF), and both leaders expressed sorrow and condemnation, as well as key Praise the role of the United States as a partner.
In addition, Afghanistan does not want to be a battleground for proxy war between the United States and Iran, as Iran is already accused of providing weapons to certain Taliban factions to fight the United States in Afghanistan If a new civil war and instability breaks out in Afghanistan, there is a risk of a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran, meanwhile, could lead and / or deploy large numbers of Afghan Shia fighters returning from Syria to Afghanistan, with the help of which it created the powerful Fatimion militia of 3,000 to 5,000 troops. Iran’s growing influence in the Afghan government, such a move is unlikely at this time, but if it becomes a battleground for future proxy wars in Afghanistan, Iran’s involvement in the Shia Hazara community and Influence the majority Sunni Pashtuns, This can lead to sectarian violence.
Iran has ties to senior and junior leadership of the Taliban, and has reportedly provided limited military support to key Taliban factions and smaller rival factions that oppose the peace process. Given Iran’s tense history and ideological differences with the Taliban, its current relationship with the Taliban is a fitting and rare opportunity, as well as a means of maintaining pressure. In addition to the common interest in withdrawing US troops from the region, Iran and the Taliban have also cooperated in the fight against the Islamic State in Khurasan province (ISKP), which has prevented them from setting foot on the border with Iran in western Afghanistan.
The ISKP is a Wahhabi extremist terrorist group and Iran Shia Islamic power because of that it’s their logical enemy. ISKP also opposes the Taliban for ideological and political reasons, and finally, Iran like in the 1980s, was insecure in Afghanistan with regard to the purely Saudi and Pakistani-backed Taliban. The main reason for Iran’s concern is the threats posed by the Taliban to Sunni extremists who are more pro-Saudi. Given these concerns, Iran would not want a complete Taliban victory in Afghanistan, but it acknowledges its capabilities as a key player in Afghanistan.
Iran: Game spoiler or helper?
One of Iran’s main interests in Afghanistan is to maintain access to Afghan markets (especially now that it is subject to US sanctions), as well as concerns about drug trafficking in Iran due to the easy access to Iranian-Afghan border. Due to the improved security situation in the area. Iran is a key trading partner of Afghanistan, and Kabul could benefit from greater ties with Iran and increased trade. In this context, US sanctions on Iran could also play a negative role in Afghanistan. Access to Iran’s ports, trains and roads could benefit the Afghan economy and reduce its dependence on Central Asia and Pakistan (with which Kabul has strained relations) due to its landlocked nature Iran also offers many opportunities to meet Afghanistan’s energy needs. For these reasons, Iran would prefer a stable government in Kabul, and the Afghan government would like to strengthen its ties with Iran. According to recent reports, China and Iran are close to signing a trade and military agreement.
The agreement would increase Chinese investment in ties and other projects in Iran, which could lead to a Chinese military presence in the region following the withdrawal of US troops. This situation could enhance Iran’s role in Afghanistan through connectivity projects, trade and improved border management, as well as access to Afghanistan through the use of Pakistani and Iranian ports, as a source of such Pak-Iran-China alliance. The center of which is Afghanistan. Given the current state of US-China relations and US-Iran relations, such a situation is not entirely out of the question in the event of a US withdrawal. The United States and Saudi Arabia (and possibly India) will be concerned about the growing existence of the Sino-Iranian alliance and will certainly face growing opposition from these countries. In the coming days, Iran is likely to wait for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan without further straining relations with the United States. At the moment, Iran is deeply affected by the crisis caused by COVID-19, and is unlikely to take any steps that would call for retaliation by the United States In the event of further deterioration in Iran-US relations, Iran has the potential to attack US forces through pro-Iranian Taliban factions in Afghanistan or through its proxy militias. Soleimani predecessor, Esmail Qaani has extensive experience and expertise in operations in Afghanistan through the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. This is possible due to the geographical proximity and easy borders with Afghanistan, and in this regard Iran could possibly get the help of Russia.
Tehran will try to influence Afghanistan’s outcome in order to position itself as stronger than its rivals in the United States and the Gulf. As long as Afghanistan continues to exist as an Islamic republic, Iran’s thinking in this regard will be balanced and beneficial. However, if (from Tehran’s point of view) an aggressive situation arises in Kabul, then could launch a balance campaign so that its rivals remain engaged on the eastern borders. With regard to the various roles on the Afghan landscape, Iran’s role ultimately depends on the nature of its needs and threats. Therefore, Iran’s post-US withdrawal is not the only strategy for Afghanistan, but a multi-faceted strategy in which to maintain the status quo and relations with the parties concerned, as well as the failure of peace talks and the Taliban, It also includes the preparation to seize power by force. Whatever the outcome of the Afghan peace process, Iran appears poised to protect its interests in Afghanistan.