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 But what will happen after the U.S. has withdrawn from Afghanistan?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.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Afghanistan, Iran, Taliban

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy