Iranian researcher in West Asian Affairs, Ali Rida al-Hajj Husseini, comments on Iran’s current relationship with the Taliban and the Hazara Shia of Afghanistan respectively, and Taliban’s relationship with ISIS.
Source: RT Arabic (You Tube)
Date: August 18, 2021
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The (developing situation in Afghanistan) is an opportunity or a challenge for Iran? Is it an opportunity to expand its influence (in Afghanistan), or is it a challenge by which the Taliban, the (Afghan) refugees, or the security situation along the (Afghani-Iranian) border may pose?
Ali Rida al-Hajj Husseini, Researcher in Regional Affairs:
Iran has its influence in Afghanistan. At present, Iran does not consider the Taliban a threat to it, in contrast, it is seeing the present Taliban as different from what it used to be in 2001 when it was tied (intricately) to al-Qaida and Takfirist thought.
The Taliban which is present today is ‘the Afghani Taliban’ i.e. one that is free from previously exerted foreign pressures on it. This stage offers Iran the opportunity to strengthen (its) ties with Afghanistan in general, and with all states and peoples of the region.
Alright, what are the potential options Iran can take to deal with the ongoing (developing) situation in Afghanistan as well as with the Taliban movement, in your opinion?
It is likely that (Iran’s) position is clear; i.e. (Iran) will seek to recognise this (Taliban) movement and its assumption of power. Or will (Iran) be much more careful? How do you think (Iran) will act; meaning on what basis will (Tehran) build its position (towards the situation in Afghanistan)?
(Iran) has consistently been calling on the people of Afghanistan and the Ghani government to sit-down for internal Afghani dialogue. However, Ashraf Ghani had a rigid personality who used to lend his ear to the West, and he didn’t use to accept (the idea of holding) internal Afghani dialogue.
(Iran) deals with the government which represents the Afghan people. Therefore, if the Taliban movement was the movement that represents the Afghan people, accordingly this movement should be recognized as a representative of the Afghan people.
(Personally) I believe that Iran will never interfere; (Iran) would never get involved in the Afghan quagmire; instead, (it) will leave the matter for the Afghan people, such that they can decide their own fate and decide the type of government they wish to have. (Iran) will act only as the catalyzer or helper to establish a stable (Afghani) government and state.
Until this moment, here in Herat, our (Iranian) Consulate remains open as well as our Embassy in Kabul. Thus, this means that Iran is willing to ensure conciliation, peace and safety for the Afghan people while leaving the Afghan people to decide their own fate.
Let me ask Mr. Ali Rida about this cordiality with the Taliban Movement. I mean, if there is real cordiality which Iran believes is the case, why does Tehran seek to arm the Hazara groups, such that (Iran’s) Foreign Minister Javad Zarif stated that the number of (fighters) that Iran has armed is about 5,000 fighters. So, if it believes that this cordiality will continue, what is the need for these armed factions in Afghanistan that are loyal to Iran.
Firstly, with regards to the 5,000 fighters from the Hazara (group) that you are talking about, I believe you are talking about ‘Liwa Fatemiyoun’ (Fatemiyoun Brigade). This Liwa Fatemiyoun is now outside Afghanistan and not inside it. As for the Hazara, (they have) the commander Alipoor, a local leader…
Mr. Ali, even inside the capital Kabul, the neighborhoods of the Hazara have thousands of armed people, at least according to media reports issued from there.
Dasht-e-Barchi, yes correct, Dasht-e-Barchi, I was in Afghanistan recently. In Dasht-e-Barchi, Husayni mourning gatherings (mourning ceremonies for Imam Husayn) were held, and unfortunately there were those who use to send ISIS (terrorists) to Husayni mourning ceremonies in Dasht-e-Barchi – which is on the west side of Kabul – to blow themselves up. And a few months ago also there were terrorist ISIS members who entered a school in Dasht-e-Barchi, on the west side of Kabul, and one of them committed suicide. So the local forces there are the ones that are armed, and there are (armed) formations from all the ethnic/cultural groups of the Afghan people, they are formed in order (for the various groups) to defend themselves, so this is another matter.
I wish to comment on the topic that the (your) esteemed guest (talked about), he said that the Americans did not carry out acts of hostility against Iran from Afghanistan. No, (that’s not true), they did (in fact), there was the Jaish al-Adl (‘Army of Justice’) led by (Abdolmalek) Rigi, who was trained in the Bagram (Air Base) and was present in the Shindand (air) base, and he carried out terrorist attacks against Iran. (Rigi) underwent training in Afghanistan by the Americans.
(On the point raised earlier in the show), there were borders (shared) with the Taliban, and they controlled their side of the border with Iran, but there were agreements regarding these borders – that (the Taliban must not allow) any (cross-border) terrorist acts against Iran.
Yes, regarding the armed groups, does Iran have any concerns? Why is Iran arming these groups? Does it consider them a line of confrontation, a first line (of defense) against any extremism that could target it, against the spread of ISIS, in line with what you have mentioned regarding the targeting of Husayni mourning gatherings in Kabul?
Firstly, Iran does not use Shia in Afghanistan as a first line (of defense), or as any other sort of lines. Iran’s relations are not limited to Shia only, it has relations with Sunnis and the Taliban as well. According to news reports, or press reports, they say that there were Taliban families in Iran, and even the former Taliban leader used to enter Iran with a fake passport and received medical treatment in Iran, and he was killed by the Americans.
Iran has relations with everyone, not only the Hazara, and it does not exploit the Hazara for its own interests. Iran has always said that this is an Afghan affair, and that Afghans should solve their own problems between themselves. It is not possible – the Hazara are few compared to others (groups), so if Iran wanted to interfere in this matter and incite others against them, this would lead to their extermination.
There is an important matter to mention here: there are differences between the Taliban and ISIS. Taliban has learned (a lesson) from the presence of al-Qaeda in 2001 when it entered Afghanistan and led to their loss (of governance over) all (the regions) of Afghanistan. Therefore, the Taliban now will not repeat the same mistake by bringing any terrorist organizations like ISIS to Afghanistan to govern Afghanistan or to have a share in governing, or even carry out terrorist acts.
We realized that many conflicts were taking place between ISIS and the Taliban, and we believe that the Taliban, along with the other (major) groups (in the country), can ensure the safety of all the (ethnic/cultural) groups and minorities (in Afghanistan).
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