Iran and Taliban Put Interests Ahead of Historical and Cultural Ties
The news that Iran had offered Afghanistan‘s embassy in Tehran to the Taliban regime caused dissatisfaction and disillusionment among many people both inside Afghanistan and abroad. This move is consistent with Iran‘s previous investments in the Taliban. In the past, Iran had provided shelter and safe houses for senior Taliban commanders operating in western Afghanistan. Furthermore, Iran had established training camps for Taliban soldiers, from which attacks and offensives were planned and then carried out within Afghanistan‘s borders. In the event of defeat, the Taliban would retreat back to their camps deep within Iranian soil.
The relationship between Iran and the Taliban has been of great significance to many people in both countries, particularly those involved in culture and politics. They question why two enemies of sect, language, culture and civilization would form a friendship. The most straightforward answer to this seemingly paradoxical behavior is the famous saying that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” This implies that the Taliban‘s hostility towards the United States and its allies is a major factor in the formation of this friendship between two enemies of culture, language and sect. However, this is no longer the case, as Iranian intelligence is well aware of the Taliban‘s good relationship with the U.S. Others believe that Iran is paying tribute to the Taliban in order to persuade them to refrain from aiding opposition groups on its eastern borders, especially as the surge of popular protests in Iran increases the vulnerability of the ruling system in Iran. In the meantime, some people believe that the root of their friendship lies in their shared ideological beliefs, one being Sunni political Islam and the other being Shiite political Islam, and the basis of both tyranny and rejecting the will of the people. The argument is that Iran has been able to form an alliance with Al Qaeda (provide safe houses for Al Qaeda leadership) despite their large sectarian differences and often incompatible views related to Islam. This means that all extremists can unite despite their differences and bloody past; this is well explained in the famous proverb by Ruth Bell Graham “A Happy marriage is the union of two forgivers”.
The relationship between Iran and Afghanistan has always been complex and, at times, contradictory; for example, Iran had official relations with the Soviet–backed government of the time, yet maintained its ties and contact with the Mujahedeen (their opposition) and even supported them. In the following years, any group that was defeated in Afghanistan was welcomed by Iran. Today, some of the Taliban opposition groups live in Iran, as if Iran does not want a single group to control Afghanistan; should such a powerful group ascend to power, Iran makes sure their opponents have a chance to survive. However, the recent actions of the Iranian government have increased the wall of mistrust between the two neighbors, which was not welcomed within Iran either, and has enraged some cultural and political establishments, as they believe this action has sacrificed national values, civilizational commonalities and cultural ties for the interests of the current Iranian rulers. Time will prove that terrorists cannot be trusted and making friendships with such elements, even if they provide short–term benefits, will add to the volume and breadth of the crises in the long run, and the people of both countries will suffer greatly from extremism and terrorism. The hard days of our people will not last forever.