Iran’s Failed Policies in Afghanistan

In the past fifty years, two neighboring countries, Pakistan and Iran, have been unavoidably involved in the affairs of Afghanistan; however, Iran has consistently failed to make an impact, particularly when compared to the role and influence of Pakistan in the developments in Afghanistan. All the successes that Iran has had in this period have been to reduce the losses caused by the situation in Afghanistan that could be inflicted on Iran. In contrast, Pakistan has altered the regimes in Afghanistan for its own benefit and reduced it to the fifth state of Pakistan, and whenever Afghanistan attempts to move away from this situation and take a step towards independence, it is returned to being the “fifth province”, as we can see today with the rule of the Taliban.

It was anticipated that the reality would be the contrary; however, the history of the region spanning thousands of years reveals that Afghanistan and Iran were components of the same empire for thousands of years, with its capital at times in Ghazni, Balkh, Herat, Neishabur, Merv, Ray or Isfahan. This shared history, which was accompanied by further cultural, linguistic and religious similarities, could have brought these two countries closer together than any other, yet it never occurred. Consequently, the question can be raised as to where the failure of Iran’s policies in Afghanistan is rooted.

The first rift in this region dates back to the Safavid era, when the government formalized a religion and imposed it on the rest of the citizens, resulting in great inter-religious tension that continues to this day. The second factor was the emergence of Iranian nationalism in the 20th century, which reduced the civilizational identity of the region to the current borders of the country and sacrificed historical commonalities for its newly created national identity. The larger factor, however, can be attributed to the Iranian Revolution, which implemented an ideological military in the country. With its fundamentalist approach from the outset, this regime made many enemies, from the Arab world to the Western world, by taking a confrontational path. This ideological view of politics, which led to the consumption of the country’s natural wealth in unnecessary wars and tensions, had a heavy cost for the Iranian people and spread the seeds of distrust, tension, and enmity in the region. One of the natural results of this ideological policy was that the world would entrust Pakistan with the proxy in Afghanistan and stand behind Pakistan from the Gulf countries to Europe and America, willingly or unwillingly submitting to that country’s policy in Afghanistan.

The Iranian regime has not taken a leading or decisive role in the Afghanistan issue, resulting in a failed policy. This failure was highlighted when the country’s diplomats were killed by the Taliban in Mazar and Iran was unable to respond. Furthermore, a few years later, Iran formed a relationship with the same group that had murdered its diplomats in order to fight against the legal government of Afghanistan. This has led to the current tense situation at the border over water rights, which benefits the Taliban and harms the people of both countries.