Iran, Too, Rewards Taliban Fighters for Killing Americans

July 30 2020

In the past few weeks, there has been public debate about intelligence reports that Russia has been paying bounties to Afghani jihadists who kill U.S. soldiers, and about the White House’s response to the information. What is not debatable, however, is that Tehran has been providing the Taliban with just such financial incentives—despite the oft-heard claim that the Shiite Islamic Republic is ideologically opposed to any cooperation with Sunni terrorist groups. Lawrence Franklin writes:

Iran’s bounty program for killing U.S. troops began as early as 2010. In one instance, a report indicated that a Taliban messenger was dispatched from Kabul to Iran to pick up $18,000 to be distributed to Taliban cells in Wardak province, Afghanistan. The U.S. Treasury Department’s Terrorist Finance Targeting Center confirmed the relationship between the Taliban and its Iranian sponsors by sanctioning both parties.

During the time when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, Shiite Iran opposed Kabul’s radical Sunni regime. But after al-Qaeda’s Afghanistan-based 9/11 attack on the United States, Iranian intelligence agencies began to open links both to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security, for instance, issued Iranian passports to al-Qaeda and presumably the Taliban. After the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban government, Iran quickly moved to assist the Taliban with weapons, explosives, training, and sanctuary on Iranian territory.

Iran’s [expeditionary] Quds Force . . . maintains a close training relationship with various Taliban elements. . . . Iranian weapons have [also] surfaced in Afghanistan’s Kandahar and Farah provinces, both of which abut Iran’s more than 550-mile border with Afghanistan.

Read more at Gatestone

More about: Afghanistan, Iran, 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