By Haider Abbas
Before Afghan-Taliban (AT) were to take over the Ashraf Ghani government, their delegations were hosted by Iran, and there was a sense of déjà vu in Tehran, but ever since AT had taken over the last bastion of resistance in Panjshir valley, on September 8, the mood in Tehran had turned from somber to glum.
The state affiliated newspaper of Iran, Tehran Times on September 8, accused Pakistan of helping AT in their offensive against Panjshir, thus joining the chorus with Indian and US media. But, what came as a surprise was Tehran Times citing a US source! How come Iran could do that when it had always considered US as next to untouchable for what US-Iran relations had been in the last 40 years, if not it suited the Iranian narrative to substantiate its leaning towards Ahmed Shah Massoud Jr who waged a lone and lost battle against AT. Why would Iran cite CENTCOM and FOXNews, which have always been Iran’s standard for Zionism?Pakistan, primarily had to bear the double-brunt, as firstly it was accused and secondly it wasn’t that late when Pakistan celebrated Hamas and Israel truce, after 14 days of war , and the role of the Iranian help in it. The Pakistan camaraderie was however short-lived, as Iran toed the Indian media line, which had shown clips of a ‘video-game’ and clips from Yemen towards Pakistan involvement, for which our national media like Republic Tv etc had to apologize. Pakistan had to be flabbergasted, like Iran would be, if for example, Pakistan quotes an Israeli or US media on Iran! However, the most dangerous fallout, of the Iranian move, is the hanging sword of FATF, which may push-Pakistan into the black category! The worst is that it also came from sources of Iran’s state affiliated media which qualifies it to be the official Iranian line on AT as well as on Pakistan.It was then when Iran had supported Soviet Union occupation of Afghanistan (1979-89) as it was in the Soviet bloc, but today Russia is in support of AT alongside China. China has pledged to invest 400 billion USD in trade and military in Iran-all for the sake that both Russia and China want US to be out of the region. Iran got the ultimate favour from China for its posturing against US for over six-decades. When Iran could go-so-well with Hamas, the Palestine resistance group, while ascribing to different schools of thoughts of Islam, why could not it be become compatible with AT?
The Iranian reference on Pakistan, however has continued, as senior Iranian Parliamentarian and former ambassador of Iran to Afghanistan, Fida Husain Maleki, pointed towards Pakistan to be involved in the making of the AT government. This assumes a greater importance as the new foreign minister of Iran Husain Amir Abdullahian is also all set to visit India in the coming few days, according to Economic Times on September 13 2 . Iranian Ex. President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has already accused Pakistan as a conspirator in the satanic-and anti-human plot along with Russia and China, as reported by Iranintl . The new positioning of Iran is surely to be greatly advantageous to India which too had been supportive of Panjshir alliance. EAM Jai Shanker has every reason to smile.The big question is why is Iran angry? The answer lies that Iran had great reservations for the Haqqanis to be a part of the AT cabinet, as Haqqanis had been in the forefront against the Panjshir alliance, during all these last years, and that Tajiks/Hazaras or Abdullah Abdullah and Hamid Qarzai , who are supposedly Iran friendly, become a part of government. That would have meant Iran holding sway inside Afghanistan, but which did not happen. AT want to accommodate faces which have been into anti-US resistance. But, Iran moving far from AT and Pakistan would mean putting China into jeopardy, particularly its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which China wants to carve from inside Pakistan-Afghanistan and also include Iran into it. Iran’s singing of the new tune would automatically help India and US as both are against BRI. Is Iran gravitating towards US at the cost of China? It is too early to speculate. If China is able cool down Iran is yet to be seen.
However, the situation between Pakistan and Iran does not seem to be thawing at the moment, as during the SCO summit at Dushanbe, Pakistan PM Imran Khan and Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi did meet but with a distance. The two-leaders stood exchanging pleasantries, sat across in a dialogue, but the bonhomie which Ibrahim Raisi showed while meeting Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko was missing with Imran Khan! Iran is perhaps, not measuring the mood, as today China stands solidly behind Afghanistan as well as Pakistan, and perhaps, that is why Ibrahim Raisi, in the group photograph is seen almost sidelined.What may need a mention , that it was Imran Khan, who has visited Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in October 2019 and later Iran and had helped de-escalate the situation between the two, as ARAMCO, the biggest oil company in KSA, had been bombed and Imran Khan shuttle diplomacy did help avert the situation spilling into a war which US and Israel had always wanted.
The issue of drones used inside Panjshir valley, by AT, will baffle everyone across the world, as drones is what AT had been using against their foes, as has been disclosed in an path breaking article by Fazil Minalllah Qazizai in New Lines Mag that AT killed their rival Piram Qul on July 1, and rued they could not kill Ashraf Ghani, by a drone, operated from their laptops and smart phones!What happens in Afghanistan is only time would tell, but Iran makes as its next move, with reference to AT, Pakistan and India, where it may try to renegotiate its Chabahar port. But, then what about China’s biggest ever deal with Iran? Will China prevail over Iran? A lot depends on the coming visit of the new Iranian foreign minister to India. A lot, perhaps, is yet to unfold.
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner, a lawyer and a political analyst.