The argument over Iran’s role in Afghanistan is escalating, following statements by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former Iranian President, that have revealed Iran’s support for the Taliban. In addition to the rapid pace of Taliban control of many Afghan states, fears that they could take control of the country again 20 years after the fall of their state.
Last week, the Afghan authorities announced that the movement’s fighters had taken control of large parts of the border areas with both Tajikistan and Iran, in conjunction with the withdrawal of US and international coalition forces from their bases in Afghanistan, which is scheduled to end on September 11.
Demonic Policy and Negative Role
Ahmadinejad’s statements, the first of its kind by a senior official, brought to mind the issue of Iran’s association with extremist movements, whether the Taliban or Al-Qaeda. This issue was raised after the killing of Hamza bin Laden, son of former al-Qaeda leader, in an US raid inside Iran. as well as to what a former officer in the office of Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, revealed about the role of the latter and Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of Quds Force, in ISIS’s control of Mosul in 2014. In addition to reports of the existence of Taliban and Al-Qaeda camps in Iran, which were established after the 2001 US war on the movement.
“Despite the declared dispute between Iran, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, all the previous parties are linked to several things, the most important of which is the unity of ideology, way of thinking, and the religious background, in addition to their struggles with the US, which makes an alliance between them possible and not excluded,” Hossam Youssef, political analyst, says.
He also points out that the Taliban’s new control of Afghanistan, with Iranian support, would open a new arena of confrontation between Tehran and Washington.
Youssef also points out that the Iranian leadership is pursuing a policy of proxy war with Washington, considering that its internal circumstances and military strength do not allow it to confront directly.
He notes that the return of the former enemy of the United States to the forefront in Afghanistan will concern Biden’s administration and ease US pressure on Iran.
In the same context, Youssef stresses the need to understand the nature of Iranian thinking, away from what is stereotyped in the media as a Shiite power. The Iranian regime is a force based on adapting religious ties and extremism to serve political objectives, even if those ties are with non-Shiite parties.
Ahmadinejad had described the Iranian policy as part of a demonic policy that promotes tension in Afghanistan by providing support to Taliban, asking it to stop this policy and let the peoples decide their fate.
Opium gains and drug trade
Iran’s gains in supporting Taliban’s control go beyond political benefit to economic and financial benefits, especially in light of the ongoing economic blockade, according to Radwan Kafrjoma, an economic analyst. he also indicates that Iran’s economy in the current circumstances can be described as a “black economy”, i.e. based on illegal operations, smuggling, money laundering and dark economy deals.
“Afghanistan is known to be the center of hashish and opium cultivation in the world, which may help Iran improve its economy by opening drug smuggling routes through its lands towards the Gulf and the Middle East, as in Lebanon, thereby securing new financial entrances, as well as activating oil smuggling operations toward Afghan territory for the Taliban,” he adds.
It is noteworthy that Iraqi government officials had revealed that most of the drug shipments entering Iraq came across the border with Iran, especially since the border crossings were under the control of the Iranian-backed Iraqi militias.
In addition, Kafrjoma shows that the US blockade of the oil sector has caused financial losses to the Iranian regime that exceeded 200 billion dollars, not 150 billion as previously admitted, Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president.
“These losses will push Iran to put economic factors and gains in the balance of its policy inside Afghanistan and in its support for the Taliban,” he explains.
The best scenarios and professionalism of the game
According to Abdullah Al-Omar, a strategic expert, Iran’s support for Taliban also extend to the idea of supporting the non-state regime, which is considered one of the most games that Iran is good at in building its alliances. He also indicates that the Iranian regime, throughout its 40 years of rule, has proven that it is not good at building alliances with states, but with movements and militias, whether in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen or even Syria. This may also be repeated in Afghanistan, especially since the Iranian regime sees the Afghan government as a pro-Washington party.
Al-Omar also links Iran’s role in Afghanistan to a number of regional developments, specifically on the Syrian and Iraqi arenas, explaining that the Russian intervention in Syria and the arrival of a US-backed Iraqi government, caused the Iranian regime to worry about the possibility of losing its influence there in the coming years.
Al-Omar concludes by emphasizing the issue that Iran needs the Taliban’s support more than the Taliban, especially since the movement has begun, over the past years, to engage more in the field of politics and diplomacy with the international community, pointing out that Iran is more besieged internationally than the Taliban.