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Old 05-04-2006   #1
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Default Iran & USA allies in Afghanistan:stranger than reality

Moderator's Note

I have merged two related threads into this and changed the title from 'Iran, US Share Afghan Goals' to 'Iran & USA allies in Afghanistan:stranger than reality'

4 May Christian Science Monitor - Iran, US Share Afghan Goals.

Quote:
The smooth blacktop roads and 24-hour electricity of Herat set this Afghan commercial capital apart as a model of stability in a country still struggling to get on its feet. Much of the wealth in this western city, with its tree-lined streets and handsome shops, is credited to the largesse of Iran.

The Shiite republic, one of Afghanistan's greatest trading partners, has a visible hand here, building roads and schools, and keeping shops afloat with electricity and goods. What's more, these projects represent only a fraction of the $204 million Iran has spent in aid, ranking it among the top donors to post-conflict Afghanistan.

Even though the US and Iran are locked in an international struggle over Iran's alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons, the long-time foes have worked together well in Afghanistan, a place where they have common ground. Pushing Iran against the wall through sanctions or war could deal a setback to the recovery here, the first battlefield in the war on terror, some observers say.

"The disagreements we have with the international community do not have a place in Afghanistan," says Mohammad Reza Bahrami, Iran's Ambassador to Afghanistan. "Our understanding for Afghanistan is that it can be a good model for cooperation among the international community."

Iranian influence is certainly nothing new in Afghanistan. The two countries share centuries of history, thousands of miles of porous borders, and a common language. Nearly 2,000 people commute across the border every day.

But as tensions rise between Tehran and Washington, some speculate that Iran could use its leverage in Afghanistan to cause problems for the US.

"They do have the capacity to cause trouble here. If they were to perceive that the government is siding with the West ... or they felt that the US military based in Afghanistan could be damaging to the internal situation in Iran ... we could expect problems here," cautioned one Western diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the issue...

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Old 05-04-2006   #2
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Default Keeping our hands clean?

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But as tensions rise between Tehran and Washington, some speculate that Iran could use its leverage in Afghanistan to cause problems for the US.
Or the other way around? Maybe this is why the Taliban is not considered a terror organization? We don't "officially" support terrorists? A bureaucratic shortcut from seeking approval? They were after all put in place through Packistani ISI with funding from CIA and Saudi businessmen; the Taliban were to be security puppets for the Unocal Afghan pipeline consortium then later scapegoated for the 9/11 attacks. Keep in mind that 9/11 mobilized us to put troops in the region, and that Iran has been successful in thwarting our other pipeline plans in Central Asia. Why do we have permanent bases planted on China's front and back doorstep? Could this be our GWOT? To hammer China? Brilliant!
Quote:
Iran's support of the Karzai government stems in part from its antipathy toward the Taliban regime, which killed nine Iranian diplomats in 1998.
Considering the Shia Iranians and the Sunni Taliban hate each other, I would expect to see the two clashing again in the future, stirring up trouble between the Sunni and Shia in Iran and rousing groups like Mujahadeen E Khalq (ie "terrorists" ) to action

Last edited by GorTex6; 05-06-2006 at 09:36 PM.
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Old 05-06-2006   #3
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Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK)
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The Pentagon is bypassing official US intelligence channels and turning to a dangerous and unruly cast of characters in order to create strife in Iran in preparation for any possible attack, former and current intelligence officials say.

One of the operational assets being used by the Defense Department is a right-wing terrorist organization known as Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), which is being “run” in two southern regional areas of Iran. They are Baluchistan, a Sunni stronghold, and Khuzestan, a Shia region where a series of recent attacks has left many dead and hundreds injured in the last three months.
PKK/PEJAK
Quote:
Today we see that the Americans have increased the stakes in the war with Tehran by creating trouble for Iran in its own Kurdistan territory. Turkish intelligence sources claim the Americans have prodded a wing of terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) holed up in the Kandil Mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan to turn against Tehran and create disturbances inside Iran through a Kurdish militant organization called PEJAK. There were bloody incidents in Iran near the border areas neighboring Iraq a few months ago. Iran clamped down on PEJAK militants, killing many. Then there was a lull. The Americans allegedly prodded PEJAK again and Turkish sources speculated that the U.S. told the PKK that if it wants to remain in the Kurdish mountains it has to stir up trouble inside Iran. PEJAK organized new disturbances inside Iran, near the border regions, killing 15 Iranian soldiers. Iran hit back with rocket attacks and military incursions into northern Iraq in the areas where PEJAK militants are reportedly holed up.
We don't directly support terrorist
Quote:
Earlier today at the White House Press Briefing, Scott McClellan, the outgoing press secretary, denied reports that the U.S. is employing terrorist groups for special operations in Iran, RAW STORY has found.

When asked if U.S. policy has been changed with respect to three different terrorist organizations that have reportedly been active recently against Iran "based on the notion that an enemy of our enemy is our friend," McClellan insisted that it hadn't.

"Our policies haven't changed on those organizations," said McClellan. "They remain the same."

"And you're bringing up organizations that we view as terrorist organizations," McClellan added.

Last edited by GorTex6; 05-06-2006 at 09:16 PM.
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Old 03-17-2007   #4
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Default Broken Afghan Consensus

Washington Post - Arnaud de Borchgrave - Broken Afghan Consensus

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"The Shia suburbs of Kabul are now under the control of Iranian or pro-Iranian agents. The capital city has mushroomed from 400,000 at the time of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America to 2 million today. Some 500,000 acres of public land was seized and sold for the benefit of the entrenched bureaucracy. To control this vast country of 30 million would require several hundred thousand troops. The U.S.- and allied-trained Afghan army numbers 20,000 instead of the 35,000 projected by now.

The consensus forged in the heady days of liberation in December 2001 is broken. Fear of the B-52 bombers is gone. And today's Afghanistan is totally insecure, so much so it has already been promoted to the ranks of failed states -- except for an all-pervasive opium culture that keeps Afghanistan from sinking into total chaos.

The illicit opium poppy industry is, according to a former minister in President Hamid Karzai's government, "a pyramid structure. If ever there were a management prize for the perfect supply chain," it would go to what generates from one-half to two-thirds of Afghan gross domestic product. He said there are "25 mafia dons at the top of the pyramid who control the key power levers. The Interior Ministry is owned by the drug industry." In Helmand Province (40 percent of the country's opium production), Taliban fighters protect poppy farmers from eradication efforts -- and extract millions of dollars for their services."
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Old 03-18-2007   #5
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...The Shia suburbs of Kabul are now under the control of Iranian or pro-Iranian agents....
A very provocative sentence, especially given today's geo-political environment, with absolutely no further discussion or clarification given in the article.

However, I was reminded of a decent short piece in The Economist 17 Feb 07 issue:

Afghanistan's Hazaras are Doing Well
Quote:
...Yet Hazara successes are breeding their own problems. The community's migration to the cities over the past five years has caused local resentment, particularly in Herat. They are accused of acting as agents for their co-religionists in Iran, receiving money and business support in return. Many of the Hazaras who have settled in Herat were refugees in Iran during the war years, fuelling such suspicions. Iranian cultural influence has grown steadily, particularly in Herat, since 2001. This is largely through trade ties and redevelopment work, though charges of more sinister machinations persist. As one Western analyst puts it, Iran is “keeping its foot in the door”. Iranian officials themselves have hinted at their ability to destabilise Afghanistan as well as Iraq. But there is no reason to believe that the Hazaras would be Iran's natural ally in this. For the time being, they clearly equate the removal of NATO troops with an end to their own renaissance—and a return to the divisions that brought their past suffering.
Among all the rest that is going on in the world, potential Afghan Hazara operational linkages with Iran is not something I've looked at. But it looks to be an interesting study...
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Old 03-18-2007   #6
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It is not just the Hazaras that coalition forces need to worry about.

Jamestown Foundation - Iranian Involvement in Afghanistan

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More than a decade ago, while mujahideen leaders were toppling the Moscow-backed Afghan leader Mohammad Najibullah, it was predicted that a strong Sunni fundamentalist regime in Kabul could come into conflict with Shiite Iran. This fear led Tehran to support groups such as the Shiite Hazara parties and the influential Tajik commander Ismail Khan in Herat province. When the Taliban finally gained control of Afghanistan, Iran referred to the development as a Sunni and U.S. plot to isolate Iran. The relationship between Kabul and Tehran took a more serious hit when Taliban forces killed seven Iranian diplomats who were serving in Mazar-e-Sharif in August 1998. This Taliban action led Tehran to announce its open support for all forces that would resist the Taliban and to increase its activities to bring anti-Taliban factions together. The most notable act by Tehran was to allow the influential Pashtun leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, to be stationed in Iran.
While Hekmatyar and Iran had a falling out in 2002, I do not think it is completely unlikely for them to create another friendly relationship with the US as the common enemy. Additionally, since Iran already has a history of supporting non-Shiites like Hekmatyar, they are just as likely to establish relationships with other Afghani and Pakistani warlords, regardless of ethnic or religious affliation, if they have not already.
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Old 03-18-2007   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonSlack
...While Hekmatyar and Iran had a falling out in 2002, I do not think it is completely unlikely for them to create another friendly relationship with the US as the common enemy...
When we kicked off ops in Afghanistan, the Iranians looked at it as a positive development. We had a quiet agreement with them regarding CSAR on their territory if it became necessary, among other things. All that went in the crapper with the "Axis of Evil" speech in Jan 02.

The Iranian body politic is a fractious one, with a tight coterie of US-hating fundies attempting to maintain control over all the rest. Not to mention the larger government trying to keep the lid on a young population seething with desire for change. For far too long we've treated the place as some sort of monolithic entity, and lost many excellent opportunities for manipulation and exploitation - unfortunately, as time has passed, such opportunities have become rarer, narrower and more limited in potential.
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Old 04-25-2007   #8
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Default Iran in Afghanistan - update

Interesting Boston Globe article on Iranian influence in western Afghanistan.

Amid Tensions, U.S. & Iran give lift to Afghan city.

Quote:
When the US government wanted to show its friendship here after the Taliban fell, it brought fuel to run the generators at the local hospital. When neighboring Iran wanted to show its friendship, it brought electricity to the entire city.

Today, Herat -- just 75 miles from the Iranian border -- is the only place in Afghanistan with power 24 hours a day, impeccably paved highways, and plans for a railroad. Even US officials acknowledge that this stunning progress occurred mostly thanks to Iran.

...

Recent events underscore both the risks and opportunities: Iran recently offered to take over the training of Afghanistan's counternarcotics ministry, and US officials have told the Afghan government that they do not object. Last month, Iran signed an agreement with Afghanistan's education ministry to train hundreds of Afghan teachers and develop the curriculum, a task that has put Iranian officials in face-to-face meetings with USAID contractors.

But increasingly, Afghan officials have also begun to accuse Iran of supporting groups that undermine the Afghan government and oppose the presence of US troops.

Two weeks ago, President Hamid Karzai accused embassies of "some of the neighboring countries" of funding a new opposition bloc in Parliament, mostly composed of former warlords who oppose his rule. Political analysts in Kabul said the uncharacteristically blunt statement was a reference to interference from both Pakistan and Iran.

While Pakistan has been the neighbor most frequently accused of supporting militants, Iran has become an increasing target of Afghan suspicion.

A former general from the Northern Alliance, an armed group that fought against the Taliban, said Iran has been training disgruntled, unemployed former Northern Alliance fighters in the Iranian city of Mashad and sending them back to Afghanistan "to make propaganda against the Americans and the government."

The general, who asked that his name not be used because he fears for his security, said Iran is also rebuilding a group of Afghan fighters known as Sepah-e-Mohammad -- "Soldiers of Mohammad" in Farsi. He said the group was established to fight the Taliban, but that it could one day turn against US troops.

...

Yet Iran has pledged $560 million in assistance to Afghanistan, spending more than half of it on highways, electricity lines, and a fiber-optic cable that have helped Herat blossom. By comparison, the United States has spent more than $10 billion for the country, including funding a highway to link Herat and Kabul. But little of that aid is visible in Herat.

Instead, the city is blanketed with reminders of Iran's deep cultural, political, and economic ties. On a main street lined with small stores, nearly every shopkeeper and customer interviewed had once lived in Iran as a refugee.

Many women here don black veils customary in Iran -- not blue burqas. Sometimes they wear sneakers and jeans underneath. Like women in Iran, they flock to the market and to school, enjoying more freedoms than women in much of Afghanistan who are expected to stay home ...
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Old 05-30-2007   #9
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Iranian Arms to Taliban may be retaliation for U.S. policy - McClatchy, 29 May.

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As NATO troops in Afghanistan have begun intercepting sophisticated Iranian arms bound for the Taliban, U.S., NATO and Afghan officials are growing more concerned about Iranian policy in Afghanistan.



It's long been conventional wisdom that Iran's Shiite Muslim rulers would do nothing to destabilize Afghan President Hamid Karzai's shaky government or aid the Taliban, Sunni Muslim militants against whom Iran nearly went to war with in 1998. The Taliban obtains the lion's share of its weapons and other aid from the proceeds of opium trafficking and from Sunni supporters in Pakistan and Arab nations.


The recent seizures of Iranian arms by British troops in Afghanistan's war-torn southern Helmand province are challenging that assumption, however.


"Iran appears to be playing a very small role, but it appears to be increasing," said Seth Jones, an expert at the RAND Corp., a research center that's close to the Pentagon.

The intercepted weapons include the first so-called explosively formed penetrator bombs, devices that spit molten copper plugs that can penetrate the armor of American tanks, troop carriers and Humvees, said U.S. officials who requested anonymity because the matter is classified ...
Possibly of relevance: Secret War against Iran
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Old 06-08-2007   #10
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Default Document: Iran Caught Red-Handed Shipping Arms to Taliban

Document: Iran Caught Red-Handed Shipping Arms to Taliban - ABC News, 6 June.

Quote:
NATO officials say they have caught Iran red-handed, shipping heavy arms, C4 explosives and advanced roadside bombs to the Taliban for use against NATO forces, in what the officials say is a dramatic escalation of Iran's proxy war against the United States and Great Britain.
"It is inconceivable that it is anyone other than the Iranian government that's doing it," said former White House counterterrorism official Richard Clarke, an ABC News consultant.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stopped short earlier this week of blaming Iran, saying the U.S. did not have evidence "of the involvement of the Iranian government in support of the Taliban."

But an analysis by a senior coalition official, obtained by the Blotter on ABCNews.com, concludes there is clear evidence of Iran's involvement.
"This is part of a considered policy," says the analysis, "rather than the result of low-level corruption and weapons smuggling ..."
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Old 06-12-2007   #11
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Iran is attempting to attack American allies in Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, and Afghanistan. Very troubling.
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Old 06-12-2007   #12
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But not especially surprising. After all, they got to watch the US and the USSR go at it in a similar way for 40+ years. We need to consider what the rest of the world might have learned from watching the Cold War and war by proxy for all that time.
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Old 06-12-2007   #13
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The only reason why we needed to fight terrible proxy wars during the Cold War was that the threat of global armageddon was hanging over us. do we really want to consider Iran as "untouchable" as the USSR during the Cold War? What benefit do we get from allowing such a safe haven and supply lines for insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention its dark hand in Lebanon and Gaza?

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But not especially surprising. After all, they got to watch the US and the USSR go at it in a similar way for 40+ years. We need to consider what the rest of the world might have learned from watching the Cold War and war by proxy for all that time.
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Old 06-12-2007   #14
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Originally Posted by AdmiralAdama View Post
The only reason why we needed to fight terrible proxy wars during the Cold War was that the threat of global armageddon was hanging over us. do we really want to consider Iran as "untouchable" as the USSR during the Cold War? What benefit do we get from allowing such a safe haven and supply lines for insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention its dark hand in Lebanon and Gaza?
Do not put words in my mouth. If you look at my original post, I'm saying that we shouldn't be surprised that others would learn some techniques from the Cold War. Nowhere do I say that Iran is "untouchable." I'd suggest toning down on the rhetoric and looking at what's actually being said.

The Cold War (ideology and other matters aside) provided many second-tier powers with a good look at ways to wage conflict against a major power. They had ample opportunity to see what worked, and what didn't. That these powers (state and otherwise) had so much time to study these methods unhindered makes our task much more difficult.
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Old 06-12-2007   #15
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Not trying to put words in your mouth -- just trying to question the metaphor of our situation with Iran with our situation with USSR
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Old 06-12-2007   #16
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It's not a metaphor. It's an observation that many other countries and non-state actors could and obviously did learn some techniques from the Cold War and its associated proxy wars.
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Old 06-14-2007   #17
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Default Iran May Know of Weapons for Taliban, Gates Contends

14 June NY Times - Iran May Know of Weapons for Taliban, Gates Contends by Thom Shanker.

Quote:
The flow of illicit weapons from Iran to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan has reached such large quantities that it suggests that the shipments are taking place with the knowledge of the government in Tehran, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Wednesday.

Mr. Gates said he had seen new intelligence analysis over the past couple of weeks “that makes it pretty clear there’s a fairly substantial flow of weapons” from Iran across its border to assist insurgents in Afghanistan.

Commenting on potential Iranian government involvement in the arms flow, Mr. Gates said, “I haven’t seen any intelligence specifically to this effect, but I would say, given the quantities that we’re seeing, it is difficult to believe that it’s associated with smuggling or the drug business or that it’s taking place without the knowledge of the Iranian government.”...
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Old 06-14-2007   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AdmiralAdama View Post
Not trying to put words in your mouth -- just trying to question the metaphor of our situation with Iran with our situation with USSR

I'm with Steve Blair on this. The United States has a tendency to assume that when we arm insurgents and build nuclear weapons it's legitimate, but it's not when other nations do it. After all, we have a stated policy of supporting groups which want to overthrow the Iranian regime. I'm not opposing this policy--that regime is evil and dangerous. But we need to stop whining when Tehran arms our enemies and just get down to making them pay a strategic price for it.
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Old 06-14-2007   #19
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Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
I'm with Steve Blair on this. The United States has a tendency to assume that when we arm insurgents and build nuclear weapons it's legitimate, but it's not when other nations do it. After all, we have a stated policy of supporting groups which want to overthrow the Iranian regime. I'm not opposing this policy--that regime is evil and dangerous. But we need to stop whining when Tehran arms our enemies and just get down to making them pay a strategic price for it.
Agreed. I would also say that the use of proxies in warfare is not limited to the Cold War. We--the US--were French proxies when it was convenient for France and so it has gone throughout history. Proxy war is really an off shoot or 1st cousin of coalition warfare in that you are fighting together, you are letting someone else take on your enemies.

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Old 06-14-2007   #20
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Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
Agreed. I would also say that the use of proxies in warfare is not limited to the Cold War. We--the US--were French proxies when it was convenient for France and so it has gone throughout history. Proxy war is really an off shoot or 1st cousin of coalition warfare in that you are fighting together, you are letting someone else take on your enemies.

Best

Tom
Agreed, Tom. Proxy warfare has been with us for centuries, and will continue to wait in the wings. I used the Cold War as an example because of both its length and the fact that it's a very recent example. It provides a really good look at a prolonged proxy war where the two powers never really "met on the battlefield" but waged a determined war just the same. It also played out during a time of increasing media coverage and wide dissemination of techniques and tactics, making its lessons more accessible and possibly appearing more relevant than some older examples.
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