First of all let me say my thanks to Pat for starting this blog. It is nice to get those analytical gears turning again after taking some time off.
First, I would like to bring attention to the history of Iran and Taliban relations. Iran was the largest supporter of the Northern Alliance pre 9/11. Actually I would argue that the only reason the Northern Alliance existed was because of Iran. Relations between the Taliban and Iran were never any friendly, but Taliban became a clear enemy of Iran when the Taliban took control of Mazari Sharif on 08AUG1998 and killed 8 Iranian diplomats. On top of killing the Iranian diplomats it is reported that the Taliban systematically sought out hundreds of the Shia minority in the city and executed them. This spurred Iran to deploy over 70,000 troops to the Afghanistan border in preparation for an invasion to depose the Taliban. The UN was able to diffuse the situation, but the relations between the Taliban and Iran never improved. Now I pose the question, “Was this a missed opportunity to get rid of the Taliban and prevent 9/11?”
Now I would like to point out the help Iran gave during the overthrow of the Taliban in late 2001. The United States would not have been able to even think of using the Northern Alliance as a military force without Iran’s contacts and help. It was in both countries interest to see the Taliban gone from Afghanistan. The US pressed Iran for intelligence while providing none of its own to Iran. It has also been reported that some Iranian Revolutionary Guards fought alongside the Northern Alliance against the Taliban. Even after the Taliban was deposed the Iranians stepped in and played a decisive role in persuading the Northern Alliance to take a smaller role than they wanted in the interim government.
How does the United States respond to the help Iran gave in late 2001? Iran was placed on the Axis of Evil list during Bush’s State of the Union Address during January 2002. This severely undermined President Muhammad Khatami’s reformist movement in Iran who argued that Iran needed to thaw its relations with the United States. This gave the hardliners in Iran all the fuel they needed to rekindle their power base in the country.
I believe that the key to “solving” Afghanistan is to truly get Iran involved. Now I am not a big fan of the current hardliners in the Iranian regime, but with a new President in Office we have another opportunity to get a powerful ally against Al Qaeda and the re emerging Taliban (even if it is all behind closed doors).
Some Great Articles to Read on the Topic:
Great Article from USA Today on Iran claiming it didn’t get enough credit for its help in Afghanistan
Article on how the Neo Conservatives sabotaged Iran’s help on Al Qaeda
Current article on how Pakistan wants Iran to help stabilize Afghanistan
Good article on Iran’s investments in Afghanistan and the benefits of thawing US – Iran relations. Funny how Iran has already delivered 93% of its pledged aid while the US has only delivered 48%.
Great Video PBS on Iran’s reaction to 9/11 and their help in overthrowing the Taliban , sorry that it a bad partial youtube version of it, though…… if anyone can find the full length PBS video on “Iran’s help on Afghanistan” I would love to get the link to it. Also notice how it is likely a Sunni posted the video to show proof that the Shia helped the US invade Afghanistan.