On August 5, Teheran was hosting the fourth trilateral summit of Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The three countries reached an agreement on the expansion of economic and cultural ties. During this summit, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proposed the use of a single currency by the three countries and the launching of a joint TV station.
Besides promoting regional extremist terrorist groups and stepping up its clandestine nuclear-weapons program, Iranian leaders are nurturing a false sense of Greater Persia. “The people of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, whose countries were parts of the Greater Persia in ancient times, consider Iran as their cultural homeland and believe the Iranian nation is the inheritor of their paternal legacy, the Persian Civilisation,” wrote the Tehran Times on August 28.
The manipulation of the Persian language is one of the devices of this policy.
The recent summit was given a false title of ‘three Persian speaking countries’.
By this title, the Iranian regime has humiliated more than half of its own people and also many across the region. In Iran, less than fifty percent of the population speaks Persian and the rest speaks Kurdi, Azeri, Arabic, Baluchi, Torkmani and other languages; about fifty percent speak Pashtu in Afghanistan; and twenty-five percent speaks Uzbeki and five percent Russian in Tajikistan.
Calling for a regional alliance against NATO, Iranian Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei said in his meeting with presidents of Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Iran that foreign military forces, “are today targeting and killing Afghan civilians, and their presence in Afghanistan has brought the Afghan people nothing but trouble, sedition, decay and corruption”.
The regional alliance is a call for the resumption of the old alliance between Iran, India and Russia in order to protect their interests in Afghanistan once the US troops leave the country. Iran is trying to restore the ancient Silk Road with a new project. This project will link Iran to the railroads of Tajikistan via Afghanistan and China with the Tajik railroads via Kazakhstan.
Iran has also announced that for stabilising Afghanistan, it will soon host an international conference adding another step to last month’s Kabul conference.
The real motive, however, behind this conference is a growing anxiety in Tehran, New Delhi and Islamabad about a possible reconciliation with the Taliban and their return to political power in Kabul. Islamabad desires a mediation role between the Taliban and the US, but opposes any reconciliation in which Afghans themselves decide their own future with the help of the Western powers. Iran is trying to forge a regional alliance with Pakistan, Tajikistan, India, Russia and Afghanistan to potentially oppose the US influence and interests in the region. Iran is aware of the increase of the likelihood of reconciliation with the Taliban. General David Petraeus the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan held out on 15 August the prospect of negotiation with the Taliban even with leaders with “blood on their hands”.
The Iranian ruling political class has always shown paranoid delusions about the survival of the repressive regime. Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, Iran has given a high priority to use regional meddling as a policy tool for strengthening pillars of the theocratic regime within the country. A considerable amount of its oil revenue is going to extremist groups in the Middle East and beyond.
In Afghanistan, in the same way as Pakistan, Iran also plays a double game.
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By supporting Shia faction in the Northern Alliance that was propped up to power after the overthrowing of the Taliban regime in Kabul, Iran maintains a great influence over Kabul. In addition, Iran has sponsored a few political parties in Afghanistan to promote its agenda in the country. With the Iranian financial backing, these parties now have their own TV stations, expanding their influence across major Afghan cities.
Although the Shia majority Iran helped the US to oust the Taliban regime in 2001, in recent years it is hedging its bets by harbouring love to the Taliban.
The litany of Wikileak's exposures confirmed what many analysts believed about Iran’s military and financial backing of the Taliban. In a new report, The Washington Post revealed last week that in addition to various arms and ammunitions, Iran has supplied new batteries for some three dozen shoulder-fired SA-7 missiles to counter the possible US attack on Kandahar. Iranian military and financial support to the Taliban is spearheaded by the Iranian most anti-Western Revolutionary Guard—a Pakistani ISI-like military and spy organisation.
In the meantime, Iran enjoys close relations with Karzai, the regime’s another regional trophy. With the request by the Iranian embassy in Kabul, Karzai closed down a private TV channel Emroz (Today) on July 28 after accusing Iran of intervention in Afghanistan and blaming some Shia warlords for being Iranian agents.
Conventional wisdom and lessons learned from the Afghan war suggest that further US military entanglement in Afghanistan is futile. The current strategy has to be altered in a way that could prevent a shift of regional power balance to a point that will benefit only the Iranian regime and extremist militants, which certainly would both pose a real obstacle to peace in the region.
Such alteration can be made only if the US and NATO bring a meaningful reconciliation in Afghanistan in order to prevent al-Qaida of having a safe haven and rescue the war ravaged country from becoming a playground for Iran, Pakistan and other regional players. For despite its poverty and tribal social and political system, Afghanistan as late Richard Nixon wrote in The Real War, “is a cockpit of great-power intrigue for the same reason that it used to be called ‘the turnstile of Asia’s fate’”.
Dr Ehsan Azari Stanizai is an Adjunct Fellow with the Writing & Society Research Group, University of Western Sydney (UWS)
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