by: Dr. G. Rauf RoashanIs Iran a friend of Afghanistan? Iranian government says it is. Afghan government leaders tend to agree just for the sake of diplomacy while deep down they might think differently. It is true that there are some Afghans who materially benefit for their support of that country, but let us here look at Iran and analyze its policies and intentions, however it should be realized that when we say Iran we mean its government and not its people. It is also important to bear in mind that obviously every regime in any country would like to consider its own benefits first and foremost. What comes next here is a realistic discussion of the situation as it prevails today.
Afghanistan’s western neighbor, Iran, has consistently kept an eye on Afghan affairs with a view to finding a chance not only to interfere, but also to influence the trend of affairs in Afghanistan.
Iran has also planted, throughout recent history, its spies within or close to the governments of Afghanistan. In order to do so, Iran has relied on its abundant petroleum cash by bribing influential sources in Afghanistan. The operation of Iranian spies in the courts of Afghan Kings is part of history, but more recently with the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the toppling of monarchy in Iran by extremist Islamic elements Iran found a new chance to send its spies not only into big Afghan cities like Kabul, Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif, but also even deeper into the countryside where it started a campaign for not only introducing the new Iranian regime, but to recruit followers and sympathizers to its founder.
For example even during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, in the guise of clandestine press correspondents, Iran sent spies to Afghan villages in Herat, Kandahar and Farah provinces. These so-called correspondents then undertook the task of trying to recruit supporters for Iranian system of government and its possible export into Afghanistan. After all this was one of the objectives of the new Iranian regime led by the great Imam during whose lifetime and even afterwards the Iranian extremists had proclaimed their objective of exporting the Iranian revolution to countries in the region and beyond.
During that dark period in Afghan history when a hot civil war was going on between rival groups of Mujahidin in Afghanistan, Iranian high ranking officials would travel to Afghan provinces in the north and west and would try not to bring peace among them but support one group against another.
All of this too, is history now. But new developments dictated new Iranian policies regarding Afghanistan. The extremist regime alienated itself from the rest of the world when it continued a breach of human rights, a dictatorship of the clergy and followed a nuclear program it says is for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Independence of some of the Central Asian Republics after the downfall of the Soviet Union and Iran’s ambitions for expanding its area of influence makes it imperative that she would establish links mostly through Afghanistan with these countries. Tajikistan in the north-east of Afghanistan especially can be reached by land through Afghanistan. Turkmenistan, with its huge natural resources could be a rival to Iranian mineral riches. The extension of a gas-pipeline from Turkmenistan to the sub-continent of India is not to the benefit of Iran because she herself would like to extend such a pipeline and export its own resources. Therefore, too, Iran would like to have a felt presence in Afghanistan to influence its policies in such a way that would be to the benefit of Iran.
It has furthermore openly placed itself against the policies of the United States and its allies regarding the region and democracy. It has adamantly followed a path of animosity towards what is known by the world at large as democratic values based on basic human rights. Therefore it is obvious that Iran is interested in Afghanistan where almost 120,000 troops from America and its allies are engaged in a protracted war against terror. This keeps Iran on edge regarding the military presence of what it calls an enemy of its regime. That is also why it has tried to take part in Afghanistan’s reconstruction and befriending and even buying allegiances from Afghan officials at all levels. Inside the country, there have been and are elements that benefit from this situation and dance to the tune of their Iranian supervisors. Furthermore, it has tried to play the classical cards of discord in the name of religion and language to divide Afghans and attract supporters for its own regime.
However, it has not been able to win even those Afghans who because of sharing the religion with Iran thought she would be a great friend. Tragic stories have emerged from the time that Afghans had taken refuge in Iran and where they had been treated as dirt, their rights usurped, their human dignity injured and excesses committed against them by Iranian officials who had more than once ordered mass eviction of these refugees.
Now because of all of the above, it would be difficult to accept the claim that Iran is a friend of Afghanistan. On the contrary, notwithstanding its input as aid into reconstruction of Afghanistan one should realize that the cash money it has and is extending to individuals in Afghanistan are all for nefarious reasons. It would be wise on the part of the Afghan politicians and nationalist forces to realize the implications of the above and chalk out a clear and positive policy with a clear mind and open eyes regarding Afghanistan’s relations with Iran. 6/05/11