Iranian Weapons in Farah blah blah blah

by Joshua Foust on 1/27/2008 · 9 comments

Another declaration by some 2-bit police chief that Iran is sending weapons to the Taliban in Afghanistan. I remain deeply skeptical that Iran is as a matter of policy supplying the Taliban with weapons, given the ferocity of their proxy-war against the Taliban just a few years ago. More so than that is the eagerness with which they collaborated with the U.S. to oust the Taliban in 2002–without some sort of compelling argument for why their strategic calculus would have suddenly elevated American sanctions over the destabilization and economic ruin the Taliban represented (to say nothing of the potential genocide against Hazaras and Tajiks), I don’t believe it.

Now, some elements within Iran may very well be smuggling weapons across the border… those smuggling routes probably never went away once the Taliban fled nearly six years ago (the smuggling groups are too powerful to be scared away that easily). But until someone can point to why Tehran would want to undercut Ismail Khan, the de-facto owner of Herat and Farah, who has been Iran’s go-to boy for decades, it’s just hyperventilating to assume they’re sending land mines to the Taliban.

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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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farhad January 27, 2008 at 6:43 pm

this article was a joke and nonsense. Do you think all of these problem is about ismail khan?! you mst be joking mate.

Joshua Foust January 27, 2008 at 7:50 pm

No, I don’t think it’s all about Islamil Khan. But given his history with Iran, I think the barrier should be pretty high if we’re going to accuse Iran of supplying and funding his enemies… and theirs.

Michael Hancock January 27, 2008 at 10:52 pm

Salom aleykum —

What’s your take on this, then? I mean, I agree with Josh, but I’d like to hear from your side. Do you think there is something else happening between Iran and the Herati regions of Afghanistan?

Mike Wackenhut January 28, 2008 at 7:22 am

I just finished 7 months working with the Afghan Border police in Islam Qala. I have seen the mines and weapons that have been conficated and the mines all have Persian marking on them and they came from Iran. It’s hard for me to believe the the Irainian Army doesn’t know a thing about this as they claim.

farhad January 28, 2008 at 6:14 pm

I think the Remove of Ismail khan had bad impact in west of Afghanistan. ismail khan was much better than the new governer. he had some contact with iranians, but it doesnt mean he was in faver of iran, in his situation, when the taliban was in Power, what choice he had to fight againts them? go to the USA and thel them to help him againts the taliban or other western countries? ofcourse iran and taliban oposition had common enemy and same intrest to get rid of them. I think Ismail khan had good relation with iran, and this relation was good for keeping peace in west of Afghanistan. now ismail khan is not there, lots of refugee which most of them are Shia comming to herat in few years they will grow in west of Afghanistan and they would be a big threat for security in herat and else were in west of Afghanistan. new governer is a shia, he is not againts iran either, i dont know whats wrong with your people, you are seeing afghanistan from ayes of some interpreter or some Pashton nationalist, you are not aware of the situation in ground and people opinion.

esmael January 28, 2008 at 11:53 pm

Dear friends,

I would like to add that these political games and strategies are much more complicated.
Taking into account that the Iranian government is a highly ideologic government claiming to expand its ideology – with an indirect indication to influence other countries in the region – it can be expected to pursue a policy of double standards to reach its goals in the region.
On the other hand, I do agree with the idea that Iran has been directly invovled in placing Shia-Hazara people in western Herat, particularly around the city, to confuse the native population and use the retrunees as a tool against the government and people in a bid to realize its vicious ends.
So, the returnees may or may not be aware of this policy, but the Afghan government must contain the move and prevent from any unpleasant consequences in the future. But the question: is the government willing or able to do this?

Danial February 8, 2008 at 4:16 pm

I have seen the mines and weapons that have been conficated and the mines all have Persian marking on them and they came from Iran. It’s hard for me to believe the the Irainian Army doesn’t know a thing about this as they claim.

Oh really? Do you know the difference between Urdu and Farsi now?

“All have Persian marking in them” lol that is so laughable.

Perhaps they have been coming from Pakistan, since there is a sympathetic Pashtun population in Waziristan that is smuggling weapons to their brethen over there. Ever put that into account?

Of course not, it’s easier to demonize Iran than to use common sense.

Michael Hancock February 8, 2008 at 5:20 pm

Vicious ends? That’s just silly. Iran may be looking out for its own concerns, but loaded words like vicious have no place in objective discussion. Might as well start calling everyone a “Wily Oriental” and figure it’s “nothing but crass tribalism and survival of the of the fittest.” As Josh responded to the title of Murray’s book, “Dirty Politics: “Like there’s any other kind.”

I agree with Danial and Farhod that people in the west have a knee-jerk reaction to demonize Iran. Our goals are rarely identical, but lest we forget that Iran is a Neighbor to Afghanistan. The last thing they want is a smoldering pit of terrorism and instability on their doorstep. Herat has a long history of Persian influence, and whether it’s Ismail khan or someone else, the Iranian connection are going to be an issue.

As for the mines and weapons having “Persian markings” — well, first, it’s a language, not hieroglyphics. Iran is a country of diverse political beliefs, and while one group may not want to send mines to Afghanistan, another could be doing it — and whoever sends them, they’ll be coming from the same place. Doesn’t mean it’s part of Iran’s foreign policy.

Bjorn February 19, 2008 at 7:15 pm

Iran view itself a shia state surrounded by pro US sunni states. It also views itself as a regional hegemon. Therefore it makes perfect sense to keep her sunni pro-american neighbors a little on the edge by keeping the pot boiling.

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