Although news of Iran’s talks with the Taliban has been circulating in recent months, the reality is that Iran’s talks with the Taliban had been in place since early 1395 (2016 – 2017), with the trip to Iran of Mullah Akhtar Mansour, a senior Taliban official.
At that time, the main purpose of the talks was to remind the threat ISIS posed against the future of Afghanistan and to prevent the terrorist group from being deployed to Afghanistan and merge with the Taliban. During the trip, Mullah Akhtar Mansour was told that ISIS is a US-backed organization and is pursuing the aims of the White House in Afghanistan on behalf of Washington.
With this introduction, the following points should be noted as Iran’s considerations for negotiating with the Taliban:
- Since 2001, when NATO forces entered Afghanistan under the pretext of combating terrorism, one of the major US goals has been to eliminate the Islamic Republic of Iran from the political and security scenes in Afghanistan. This goal is also pursued in US talks with the Taliban, with Washington seeking to increase the role of Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the talks with the Taliban. In recent months, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been calling for the Taliban to launch a new negotiation process, which they hope will marginalize countries such as Iran, Russia and China. In the new process, the Taliban must accept that it is in the best interests of the United States to avoid harming US forces.
- The United States does not have a clear and transparent approach to dialogue with the Taliban and seeks to use the so-called peace talks as a tool. Taliban officials are right to believe that the presence of US troops and bases is the cause of instability and war in Afghanistan and that it will not see peace as long as US troops are in Afghanistan. The fact is that at present ISIS has made parts of Afghanistan insecure and the Taliban are well aware that ISIS has moved to Afghanistan with US help. At the same time, the Trump administration intends to make foreign policy achievements ahead of the presidential election by announcing its withdrawal from Afghanistan and striking a deal with the Taliban. In fact, negotiating with the Taliban is a tactic for Trump’s success in the presidential election. The Taliban are aware of this US tactic as well. So the wall of mistrust between the Taliban and the US is high, and it is unlikely that we will see peace in the light of US negotiations with the Taliban.
- The United States, while apparently welcoming the need for the Afghan government to participate in the peace talks, has used the term Islamic Emirate in the draft of the agreement. This means legitimizing the Taliban government and violating the rule of law in Afghanistan. Trump’s presence at the Bagram military base and his refusal to visit the Afghan capital confirm this theory. American political disdain for Ashraf Ghani’s government is also being analyzed.
- The Islamic Republic of Iran has a clear policy and approach to the developments in Afghanistan and recognizes the sovereignty of the Afghan government and its legal institutions. Tehran supports Afghan-Afghan talks without intervention of foreign countries and considers its main strategy behind negotiations with the Taliban to encourage the Taliban to join the talks. That is why Iran’s talks with the Taliban have always been held with the knowledge of the Afghan government and Kabul leaders have been informed of the results of the talks. Unlike the US and its Arab allies, Iran seeks a just peace in Afghanistan and believes peace without justice will not last.
- Iran views the transfer of ISIS from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan as a US policy to serve its own interests and does not regard ISIS-Taliban alliance to serve the interests of Afghanistan but views it as a factor of insecurity in the region. Iran will not tolerate the presence of ISIS around it, and prefers to prevent ISIS from taking power in Afghanistan without a military approach and through negotiations with the Taliban and government.
The above mentioned points are among the most important elements of Iran’s calculations for talks with the Taliban. Iran cannot remain indifferent to the future of its neighbor. At the same time, establishing a just and lasting peace in Afghanistan will not be possible without Iranian cooperation. Iran’s strategy should be based on continued negotiations with the Afghan legal government and the Taliban and taking into account the views of other influential groups.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, in the light of this strategy, can play a key role in helping to fulfill the greatest aspiration of the people of Afghanistan, namely peace and stability.