Despite Their History of Conflict, Iran and the Taliban Might Work Together

Sept. 9 2021

When the Taliban rose to power in the 1990s, it was greeted with hostility by the neighboring Islamic Republic. The Shiite mullahs who ruled Iran were particularly enraged by the Sunni mujahideen’s vicious persecution of Afghan Shiites. But more recently, explains Dore Gold, there have been signs of a somewhat more cooperative relationship:

The Iranians [have] pursued a strategy of supplying Taliban units with arms and cash as well as training Taliban fighters. . . . Iran was employing Shiite Afghans in Syria as well in order to advance Iranian interests in the Levant. They were used to promote Iran’s war against [rebel groups] on Syrian territory. But they also could provide an important force multiplier in Syria for Iran in a future war against Israel.

Both states were committed to seeing U.S. power in Afghanistan weakened. That joint interest should have pulled both countries into greater cooperation. But what will happen after the U.S. has withdrawn from Afghanistan? Does there remain any basis for Iranian-Afghan cooperation against American power once it is gone? What is more likely is that Iran will resume its policy of expansionism towards Afghanistan that it has demonstrated towards the Middle East as a whole in recent years.

There were also historical factors. When Persia—then known as the Safavid empire—officially made Shiism its state religion in the 16th century, its borders extended well beyond Iran’s present-day frontiers. In the east, the Safavid empire stretched to what is today the Afghan city of Herat. It should come as no surprise that one of the main languages of Afghanistan, Dari, is a dialect of Farsi, the Persian language. . . . Recovering lost Persian territories has been a theme of Iranian policy towards the Arab world and could well serve as a motive for the Iranians in their relations with their eastern neighbors, as well, especially Afghanistan.

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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Afghanistan, Iran, Taliban

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship