Will Afghanistan be a binding point between the US and Iran? Recently, US officials met the Afghan Taliban representatives, a meeting broked by Pakistan in the UAE. If the US, after lambasting Islamabad for months, can engage with Pakistan, can the US also engage Iran constructively to resolve the decades-old Afghanistan conflict?
US- Iran relations are far more than complicated, but will Afghanistan Even former US President Barack Obama had acknowledged this and made diplomatic engagement with Iran a foreign policy priority. But this effort went waste when current president Donald Trump sent a wave of sanctions Iran’s way. From complicated, the ties between the two countries are now complex.
The US is viewed by the Iranian government as a hostile, interventionist state attempting to topple the Iranian republic, besides vehement rejection of the Islamic Revolution, disregard for Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq War, the shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane, imposing economic sanctions, freezing of Iranian financial assets, resistance to Iranian nuclear progress for clean energy and threats to invade or attack Iran.”
But when it comes to Afghanistan, there is a mutual and ‘hidden trust’ between the two countries. This can be observed in countering drug-trafficking and developing infrastructure in Afghanistan. It offers immediate opportunities for cooperation between the US and Iran, based on convergent strategic interests. Experts say Afghanistan and Iran share one of the region’s busiest trade borders that speak similar languages.
Afghanistan has long been a point of strategic interest for Iran. “Under both the Shah and Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran demonstrated that it will take almost any measure to keep western Afghanistan out of the hands of its enemies.
In 1966, Iran’s National Security Council voted in an emergency meeting to invade Afghanistan and capture Herat to stop the Taliban from marching on Iran’s border. Ultimately, the Taliban threat subsided and Iran didn’t need to invade but it was an evidence of Iran’s commitment to keep that part of Afghanistan safe and secure.
It cannot be overlooked that after the 9/11 attacks, Iran helped the US invade Afghanistan and participated in international efforts to establish a new Afghan government. The Iranian government provided search and rescue for downed US aircrew members, permitted the offloading of humanitarian supplies at its Chahbahar for transport into Afghanistan and offered access to airfields near Afghan border for use by US transport aircraft.
Additionally, “US – Iran cooperation was unprecedented, but in the years that followed, the George W.Bush administration chose not to continue substantive diplomatic dialogue with Tehran on Afghanistan unless Iran changed its behaviour toward nuclear development.”
Now the United States cannot further isolate Iran. It has to draw in Tehran to resolve neighbouring Afghanistan. Experts are now of the view that Afghanistan’s problems to some extent can be resolved with Iran’s engagement.
They also state that an effective engagement strategy must address the full spectrum of Iran’s concerns in its relationship with the United States. The US went into a 100-days ceasefire with China over trade war, it can do the same with Iran. US cooperation with Iran in Afghanistan is the need of the hour. Both countries should be engaged immediately for the betterment of Afghanistan.