Monday, September 08, 2014

The Foreign Policy Essay: Why Iran Won’t Leave Afghanistan --- As the United States begins to disengage from Afghanistan, there is renewed interest in Washington to understand the extent of Iran’s involvement in the region. -- It’s not exactly breaking news that the Iranians are unhappy with an American military presence in Afghanistan—whether small or large, short or long term. At the same time, Iran does not want to see instability and chaos in Afghanistan. Although Pakistan has traditionally been the United States’ ally in the region, Iran has perhaps more in common with the United States in Afghanistan than Pakistan does. Like the United States, Iran wants a stable Afghanistan that will deny the Taliban sanctuary and will not threaten the region. -- Since the 2001 U.S. intervention to overthrow the Taliban, there has been “reluctant recognition” in Tehran that Afghanistan can’t hold its own against insurgents without external assistance. But Tehran has no inclination to fill this security void itself. As General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. (USMC), the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, shared earlier this year, “the answer the Iranians gave to the Afghans is, ‘we recognize your sovereign right to do what you think you must do in order to provide security for your country.’” In other words, do what you need to do, but don’t ask us for help. --- When it comes to Afghanistan, Iran’s influence is here to stay. Nevertheless, there are no indications that Iran looks to involve itself militarily in the country after 2016. -- Iran has lasting political, economic, religious, ethnic, and cultural assets in Afghanistan, given that the latter area was historically part of the Persian Empire. The two countries share a 582-mile border along a plain in western Afghanistan. About one-fifth of Afghanistan’s population is Shi’ite, and this remains the focal point of Iran’s interaction. Twenty percent of Afghans speak Dari, a dialect of Persian. The two countries have never fought a war with each other. Yet, despite these deep ties, the bilateral relationship remains fettered by issue-based rivalries over conflicting economic interests, shared river waters, and treatment of ethnic and sectarian minorities in Afghanistan. -- Given these circumstances, Iran has four long-standing strategic objectives in Afghanistan. - Read More, Sumitha Narayanan Kutty,


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