Iran and the Taliban Are Working Together against the U.S.

Jan. 23 2019

A few weeks ago, both Iranian and Taliban officials acknowledged publicly, for the first time, that the two were engaged in talks, and the Iranian foreign minister spoke of the importance of giving the jihadist group a role in governing Afghanistan. These statements, writes Aaron Kliegman, confirm what has long been known:

Iran and the Taliban had a relationship before 9/11 that included arms sales, even as both sides were bitter rivals. Since 9/11, however, Tehran has helped the Taliban in numerous ways, especially in recent years. . . . Iran is using its own military academies to provide hundreds of Taliban fighters with advanced training. . . . Moreover, some high-ranking Taliban leaders even live in Iran.

Iran continues this support while maintaining ties with Kabul, hedging its bets to position itself well for various outcomes inside Afghanistan.

There are many reasons the Islamic Republic supports the Taliban, such as, among others, fighting Islamic State, issues concerning water, and the fact that Afghanistan borders Iran and can pose a threat if unstable. But the most important reason for Washington is that both Iran and the Taliban share an interest in forcing the Americans to leave Afghanistan. Iran is very concerned about American bases in Afghanistan and uses Afghanistan as a way to exert pressure on Washington as needed. If the U.S. wants the war in Afghanistan to end in a peaceful way, it must counter Iran’s support to the Taliban—support that perpetuates the conflict.

Analysts and commentators have made several valid arguments about why an American withdrawal from Afghanistan, even a partial one, would carry serious costs. [One] reason less often discussed is that an American retreat—which is the right word to use—would be a victory for Iran.

Read more at Washington Free Beacon

More about: Afghanistan, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Taliban, U.S. Foreign policy


Leaked Emails Point to an Iranian Influence Operation That Reaches into the U.S. Government

Sept. 27 2023

As the negotiations leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal began in earnest, Tehran launched a major effort to cultivate support abroad for its positions, according to a report by Jay Solomon:

In the spring of 2014, senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials initiated a quiet effort to bolster Tehran’s image and positions on global security issues—particularly its nuclear program—by building ties with a network of influential overseas academics and researchers. They called it the Iran Experts Initiative. The scope and scale of the IEI project has emerged in a large cache of Iranian government correspondence and emails.

The officials, working under the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, congratulated themselves on the impact of the initiative: at least three of the people on the Foreign Ministry’s list were, or became, top aides to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, who was placed on leave this June following the suspension of his security clearance.

In March of that year, writes Solomon, one of these officials reported that “he had gained support for the IEI from two young academics—Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary—following a meeting with them in Prague.” And here the story becomes particularly worrisome:

Tabatabai currently serves in the Pentagon as the chief of staff for the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, a position that requires a U.S. government security clearance. She previously served as a diplomat on Malley’s Iran nuclear negotiating team after the Biden administration took office in 2021. Esfandiary is a senior advisor on the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, a think tank that Malley headed from 2018 to 2021.

Tabatabai . . . on at least two occasions checked in with Iran’s Foreign Ministry before attending policy events, according to the emails. She wrote to Mostafa Zahrani, [an Iranian scholar in close contact with the Foreign Ministry and involved in the IEI], in Farsi on June 27, 2014, to say she’d met Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal—a former ambassador to the U.S.—who expressed interest in working together and invited her to Saudi Arabia. She also said she’d been invited to attend a workshop on Iran’s nuclear program at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. . . .

Elissa Jobson, Crisis Group’s chief of advocacy, said the IEI was an “informal platform” that gave researchers from different organizations an opportunity to meet with IPIS and Iranian officials, and that it was supported financially by European institutions and one European government. She declined to name them.

Read more at Semafor

More about: Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy