That is the second a part of a two-part collection. The primary half is offered right here.
Within the years main as much as the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban had strained relations with Iran. Tensions between the 2 sides escalated to the purpose that the Iranian authorities and the Quds Power really assisted American forces throughout the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.
A part of this cooperation was rooted within the enmity between Iran and the Taliban at the moment, and half was rooted in Tehran’s concern of a confrontation with the USA within the months following the assaults of 9/11, particularly contemplating that Washington would view Iran’s non-cooperation as a hostile act. Nonetheless, after Iran was branded a part of the “axis of evil” and the following invasion of Iraq by American forces, Tehran’s technique within the area step by step modified. The premise of the brand new technique was that if the People had been tranquil on Iran’s jap and western borders, they may put an invasion of the nation on the agenda. To stop this from occurring, the Quds Power was decided to assist anti-American militia forces trigger issues for and ramp up stress on U.S. troops in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan. This technique discovered extra advocates inside the Iranian regime when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad turned president in 2005.
Trigger for cooperation
Following the rise of Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) in Afghanistan in 2015, Tehran discovered one other justification to cooperate with the Taliban: containing ISKP jihadists whom Iran seen as a risk towards its borders. Following this cooperation, Taliban Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid was quoted in July 2016 as saying that the group was “establishing new relations with Tehran.”
In late 2018, Iran acknowledged for the primary time that it was internet hosting Taliban envoys for bilateral talks. Tehran, nevertheless, harassed that the Afghan authorities was conscious of the assembly and that the aim of the talks was to “resolve safety issues in Afghanistan.” In late January 2021, one other delegation of the Taliban, led by Mullah Baradar Akhund, political deputy and chief of the Taliban’s diplomatic workplace in Qatar, went to Tehran, which was extensively reported in Iranian media.
The newest official go to of a high-ranking Taliban delegation to Tehran occurred on July 7, 2021, once they had been hosted at a gathering organized by the Ministry of Overseas Affairs on the way forward for Afghanistan. In response to the Overseas Ministry, along with the Taliban, three different Afghan delegations, together with a number of Kabul officers, had been additionally current on the talks.
The current official negotiations between Iran and the Taliban, initiated by Hassan Rouhani’s administration, had been adopted by the approval of the U.S. and Afghan governments. In truth, after the Taliban delegation’s go to to Tehran, U.S. State Division Spokesman Ned Value mentioned, “What Iran is making an attempt to do, or is within the technique of making an attempt to do by internet hosting this assembly, might be constructive.” On the similar time, the Afghan Ministry of Overseas Affairs welcomed the end result of the assembly between Afghan politicians and Taliban representatives in Tehran.
However aside from formal diplomatic relations — that are additionally prone to proceed below Ebrahim Raisi’s administration — an important relations between Iran and the Taliban have at all times been unofficial, i.e. by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Power. These relations have been criticized by each American and Afghan authorities.
The IRGC-Taliban ties have repeatedly made headlines lately, particularly because of varied reviews on the unofficial presence of the group’s commanders in Iran. Probably the most controversial report got here when Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the then-leader of the Taliban, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Could 2016, when he had simply returned to Pakistan from Iran. In November 2020, the New York Instances even printed a report stating that Israeli intelligence forces had assassinated Abu Muhammad al-Masri in Tehran, one of many major suspects within the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Al-Masri was seen as a senior al-Qaeda member and the group’s second-in-command.
Given the bilateral relations, it was no shock that on January 5, 2020, the Taliban issued a press release condemning the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the then-commander of the Quds Power, by “savage American forces,” warning concerning the penalties.
On the finish of the identical 12 months in an interview with the Afghan TV community TOLO Information, Mohammad Javad Zarif made a sophisticated remark apparently meant to alleviate the Overseas Ministry of accountability for the IRGC’s relations with the Taliban. In response to the query of whether or not he was conscious of the existence of the “Mashhad Council” and the “Zahedan Council” of the Taliban (Mashhad and Zahedan are the capitals of the 2 main border provinces of Iran), Zarif mentioned, “I have no idea. Individuals who have ties to the Taliban could journey to Iran.”
The enemy of my enemy, within the absence of my enemy
Prior to now few years, Tehran’s improvement of official relations with the Taliban has met with little or no opposition inside Iran. In response to a variety of figures from completely different political factions, when the Taliban are acknowledged by the USA and official talks are held between them, Tehran must also negotiate with the group as a way to shield its nationwide pursuits. These figures emphasize that after the withdrawal of U.S. troops, the Taliban will most likely acquire the higher hand in Afghanistan, and neighboring nations might want to attain agreements with them on varied points.
Nonetheless, lately there was disagreement inside Iranian political circles over the non-transparent relations between the IRGC and the Taliban, which have been geared toward uniting to confront a standard enemy, the USA. This disagreement turned extra evident in current weeks, following the controversial media assist of IRGC associates for the Taliban.
It’s evident that the IRGC-linked media retailers, in keeping with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s place, contemplate the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan a strategic victory for Tehran.
Nonetheless, the Taliban, regardless of years of relations with the Islamic Republic, should not managed by Iran. In truth, in contrast to Tehran’s Shiite proxies in neighboring nations, the Taliban produce other overseas backers too. Specifically, in keeping with the Afghan authorities and President Ashraf Ghani, this group has been primarily supported by Pakistan. In consequence, Iranian officers can not ensure that the Taliban will essentially coordinate their insurance policies with Tehran after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
The Taliban’s army operations in Afghanistan have undoubtedly led to the killing and displacement of an rising variety of Afghan Shiites. Continuation of this case in the long term will create inevitable tensions between the Islamic Republic and sure Shiite communities within the area (which Tehran is relying on to assist its regional initiatives). The escalation of the civil conflict in Afghanistan can even make Iran’s jap borders insecure and should end in a brand new wave of migration of Afghan refugees, additional straining the Islamic Republic’s already troubled economic system.
Given all these complicated elements, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan is prone to mark a brand new chapter in Taliban-IRGC relations by eliminating their mutual want for one another.
It’s too early to inform how it will have an effect on the character of the connection between the 2 teams sooner or later. However regardless of the future relationship, it might be troublesome for the IRGC to proceed its honeymoon with the Taliban in the long run.
Marie Abdi is an Iranian political researcher specializing in the Islamic Republic’s home and regional methods.The views expressed on this piece are her personal.
Photograph by TASNIM NEWS/AFP through Getty Photos