Following the U.S. Withdrawal, Iran Sees New Opportunities in Afghanistan

With American troops having abandoned Afghanistan, and the Taliban making advances almost every day, Tehran seeks to use the situation to its advantage. Two weeks ago, the mullahs hosted representatives of both the central government in Kabul and the Taliban—while also concentrating troops at the border. It is unclear which of the two the Islamic Republic favors: as a Sunni group ruling a country whose population is between 15- and 30-percent Shiite, the Taliban is a rival to Shiite Iran; but it is also a fellow anti-American Islamist group. Farzin Nadimi analyzes the situation:

Many in [the regime in Tehran] view Taliban control as Afghanistan’s only feasible political option—or, at least, the only option for a friendly Islamic state. This attitude may explain why Iranian weapons have a long habit of showing up across the border. Many such weapons have been confiscated from the Taliban over the years, and although Tehran may or may not have supplied them directly, at least some of them bear strong lineage to those found among Shiite groups in Iraq during their 2005-2011 insurgency.

Tehran respects the Taliban’s resilience, and notwithstanding their ideological differences, they have a lot in common, including their radical views and hostility toward the United States. This affinity could pave the way toward future strategic cooperation, provided the Taliban is willing to give credible guarantees for safeguarding the interests of Afghan Shiites.

Iran’s recent military movements on the Afghan border may just be a precautionary defensive measure; alternatively, they could constitute preparations for a cross-border incursion. Serious consideration should also be given to the possibility that Tehran envisions the “Syrianification” or “Iraqification” of Afghanistan, perhaps by using proxy militias to set up a Shiite safe-haven in the Herat province and elsewhere. Over time, such a strategy could produce a powerful, Iranian-supported military force in parallel to the Afghan security forces, much like what has happened with Iraq’s al-Hashd al-Shabi.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Afghanistan, Iran, Shiites, Taliban, U.S. Foreign policy

 

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict