Iranian Weapons

by Dafydd on 4/29/2010 · 27 comments

There was some talk of Iranian support for the Taliban a while ago. I was sceptical of any sort of centrally organised support. A new bit of evidence for the mix can be found here.

Specific claims are as follows:-

  • Heshmatollah Attarzadeh, the commercial attache at the Iranian consulate in Peshawar, kidnapped off a Peshawar Street in Nov 2008 was back in Iran on 30th March this year
  • Sirajuddin Haqqani was a key broker
  • Iranians supplied anti aircraft guns as part of the negotiation (it was these that caused the temporary halt to drone attacks in January
  • There was a prisoner exchange involving one of bin Laden’s daughters (Iman bin Laden)

Which is all kind of interesting. There have been many reports of much of the bin Laden family making it to Iran after the NATO invasion of Afghanistan. Here the situation is described as something akin to mass house arrest:-

“Iran had not put them in jail. Instead, the al-Qaeda members and their families were placed in different houses. Later, they were brought together in a compound with comfortable private housing. Sirajuddin Haqqani’s men visited them and reported back to al-Qaeda that they were in good condition.”

The general conclusion is that there is now a new degree of trust between al Qaeda and Iran. And this is to the benefit of Iran, al Qaeda & the Haqqanis, but the Saudis, Egyptians and Pakistanis are a bit worried about it.

So far, so logical. I would imagine the Iranians would be only too happy to see how their guns manage against large numbers of drones. They have allies in Lebanon that might really like to know this pretty soon.

I am left wondering where it leaves the Quetta shura. Haqqani claimed that

Sirajuddin assured the Iranians that the Taliban bore no grudge against Iran or Shi’ites

Well, someone did. There are a lot of Hazara corpses that can testify to that more than any amount of words or reassurances. And they did it when the Taliban were in charge. While the apparent ‘dispersal’ tactics of the Quetta lead insurgents makes a whole lot of sense for a whole lot of reasons, I hear next to nothing From Mullah Omar these days. I have to wonder, if the greater ‘visibility’ of Haqqani leadership will impact recruitment and retention over there.

To me there does seem a possibility of some sort of nexus forming between Haqqani/Iran. At the same time Karzai has definitely been getting a bit chummy with the Iranians of late. Check one of a whole load of spookily similar articles out there.

There are a lot of groups who could benefit from that, but given the situation with the US & the Iranian nuclear program, I would say the US is not one of them. On the bright side, neither is the Quetta shura.

Subscribe to receive updates from Registan

This post was written by...

– author of 23 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

I am a UK citizen & resident with a long standing interest in Central Asia. This probably has something to do with student days, a late night TV show called 'The Silk Road' and a TV with no remote control. I currently work in software and live with my wife & three children.

For information on reproducing this article, see our Terms of Use


DePetris April 29, 2010 at 9:25 pm

It’s amazing how a common enemy in the United States can unite two distinctly different entities in the Iranian Government and the Taliban insurgency. Remember the days when the Taliban were in control of Afghanistan, and systematically murdered eight Iranian diplomats for their “Shia-like ways?” Gone are the days when Tehran threatens military action against the Taliban, and when third-parties had to come in and cajole the Iranians from launching a counterattack.

Unfortunately, gone are the days when Iran and the Taliban were at each others throats constantly. Now, in 2010, Iran and the Taliban are allies of convenience, thanks to American involvement in Afghanistan and both parties’ hopes that Washington will leave the country bloodied and battered.

Yet this new relationship aside, something tells me that Iran will find it increasingly difficult to continue this friendship if the Taliban once again take over the Afghan state. After all, this was the same Taliban that threatened to spread the movement into Shia-dominated Iran.

C April 29, 2010 at 9:53 pm

One caveat: the need to dis-aggregate the Iranian power structures. One part of the government/military/society may be sending weapons/expertise while another part is absolutely against it. A lot of people make their own foreign policy decisions. It happens in Pakistan, Russia (not so much these days) and in the US (i.e., Col. North), and it may be happening in Iran.

I know you know this, but the language used here may given the wrong impression.

Dafydd April 30, 2010 at 3:58 am

Hi C,

you are, of course, right. There is plenty of evidence for power struggle within the Iranian state. But if whichever faction is manageing to do weapons exchange AND release al Qaeda ‘guests’ in return for an Iranian diplomat, then I would suggest that is not some sort of peripheral group.

One thing that is not so clear to me is- How come all this effort?

I mean, commercial rep at the Peshawar consulate does not sound like a very senior role. It sounds pretty minor to me. Perhaps I am misreading things, but to turn state policy around on a guy like this looks a little strange.

Grant April 30, 2010 at 4:17 am

Obviously this part can’t be verified until well after the fact, but if they have real ties to Al Qaeda (and not just knowing the same people) I can’t see it as anything but a high level policy. It probably doesn’t include the entire government, but if the rumors are true then it would be sensible to assume it goes at least all the way to the president and maybe up to his boss.

On Mr. Attarzadeh, that depends. He could be somebody’s nephew, or he might be actually using the title as a cover for intelligence, or it could have been an opportunity opening up at the time. Too many possibilities.

On Taliban leadership, one of the wonderful things that we’ve seen over the past half a century and even earlier* is that allies, deprived of their enemy, quickly make do with killing each other. The situation doesn’t seem too good for us, but historically speaking I doubt that the various local actors will be able to avoid targeting each other.

Of course, all of this is assuming that there is an actual friendship. That’s fully possible and I have no evidence to deny it, but the public hasn’t heard of a ‘smoking gun’ yet. Oh to be in the intelligence community and reading closed source information.

*Amusingly, Nazi Germany’s conviction that they would be fighting Japan sometime soon led them to search for pseudo-Germanic groups in Russia where none existed.

Cyrus May 2, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Well, Iran also produces a lot of weapons now, and sells them on the open market. An Iranian made AK-47 or RPG in Afghanistan points no more to Iranian support than would a Chinese, Russian or American made weapon in the region. How it got there could involve passing through many hands over a long period of time. That is the world of the arms trade for you. I hear there is a lot of Iranian made ammunition being used all over Africa right now, to. Does it mean deliberate Iranian Government involvement? Not likely…

Grant May 2, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Anti-aircraft weaponry is a bit different from the small arms trade.

Cyrus May 2, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Depends on the AA weapons. ZSU-23’s or Dushkas, big deal. They are all over the place in Iran. How they might end up in Afghanistan is anyone’s guess. If the Iranians were deliberately supplying the Taliban, they wouldn’t supply ones traceable to their own military, let alone examples manufactured in Iran. Now, if more sophisticated systems were in the hands of the Talibs, like MANPAD’s or ATGM’s, that would actually mean something. Problem is once again, I doubt Iran would supply examples made in Iran. Rather, the would send ones purchased from abroad, and in many cases not traceable.

It is just common sense. The situation in Afghanistan is certainly not Iraq. Iran very much wants stability, and all the better if western countries have to do it.

Ian April 30, 2010 at 8:21 am

Ralph Peters and Asia Times’ Triple-S for your two big sources?

Dude, I think we just watched Registan make a particularly swan-like leap over the proverbial shark.

Joshua Foust April 30, 2010 at 8:49 am


“To me there does seem a possibility of some sort of nexus forming between Haqqani/Iran.”

Define “nexus.” Iran has – rather grudgingly, if you examine how they’ve been treated – allowed AQ/TB members to seek shelter there from American troops. Despite SSS and RALPH PETERS fervently insisting so, there’s really not much evidence for an official collaborative relationship.

Siraj is a crony/client/proxy for Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. India deeply dislikes him, and I can’t imagine the Iranian establishment being terribly comfortable with him. You mentioned there are “a lot of Hazara corpses” that can attest to the Taliban’s hostility to Shia… well, there are also nine dead Iranian diplomats the Taliban summarily executed in Mazar-i-Sharif who can attest to the same.

We need more evidence than rumors and a crazy drunk uncle living in the attic asserting this is happening before it’s reasonable to think it actually is.

Cyrus May 2, 2010 at 6:13 pm


TJM May 2, 2010 at 7:14 pm

There may not be much evidence in the unclassified domain, but the threshold for plausibility can be achieved. Given real or perceived grievances between the US and Iran, Iran has an interest in seeing our influence on its borders wane. This interest might be furthered by providing assistance to “Sunni” militants in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lack of evidence doesn’t make that implausible. It just makes it unverified.

Cyrus May 2, 2010 at 9:38 pm

What TJM, and you have access to the “classified domain?” 😀

Look, the Iranians equip the Taliban, then in short order they find themselves fighting those same weapons along their own border. It has nothing to do with religion or ideology, but practical sense. Do you have any idea how many Iranian border guard and soldiers have died fighting Afghan drug traffickers along that long border in the last decade? Thousands. Blow back is very obvious reality in this case.

TJM May 2, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Just a few points – no, I don’t suggest that I have access to “classified” info; I agree it’s not about religion and did not suggest it was; agree that there is a counterargument, but I was asserting that lack of evidence does not equate to implausibility.

anan May 2, 2010 at 10:18 pm

I am with Josh on this. One piece of evidence is Gen McChrystal’s own words during his April 28, 2010, briefing of the Afghan press:

“didn’t accuse the Iranian government of doing anything. What I said was we see some munitions and some training – some training occurring in Afghanistan and some munitions coming from outside. I’m not sure if it’s the Iranian government, or who. But it’s the kind of movement across borders that is a challenge to all the nations. So I think that all the nations have a strong reason to want to stop it. As we know, many drugs leave Afghanistan and go into Iran, and they have a terrible domestic drug problem. So I think that’s a common cause between two neighboring countries that could be a strong basis for continuing to move forward.”

McChrystal’s largest target is Siraj Haqqani. He wouldn’t say this if he thought the IRGC Kuds were backing Siraj.
Unless some of you think McChrystal is in the tank for Khamenei?

Siraj Haqqani is an ISI/Saudi proxy if ever there was one; with close ties to LeT and LeJ/Sipah e Sahaba/Jundullah (in other words the anti Shiite trio who are committed to taking down Tehran.)

This being said; let me phrase this very carefully. It is possible that there is tactical cooperation indirectly between Khamenei and AQ linked and Taliban linked elements. Suggestions of this come from all over; even Indian/Russian/Afghan sources. While this is possible; Khamenei/IRGC Kuds would not choose Siraj as the instrument. They would choose some other Taliban linked militant.

This whole thing reads to me like some ISI/Saudi story to hide their own close links to Haqqani and to isolate Iran.

Keep in mind that Saudi/Pakistan have been fighting a proxy war against Iran for decades . . . in the shadows. Stories like this are part of their modus operandi.

Cyrus could fill us in on this.

Karzai is closer to the Afghan Hazara Shia than anyone else. His closest international ally is Khamenei. [Less chummy with Russia/India after last year’s election.] Iran would be insane to directly aid militants that are mass murdering ANA, ANP, and civilian employees of the GIRoA. The ANA, ANP, and GIRoA are Iran’s long term strategic assets and allies.

ISAF works for Karzai who sort of works for Khamenei. To quote Gen McChrystal from 4.28.2010:
“President Karzai is the commander. I work for President Karzai. So he can direct our operations, but this is not his pressure, this is his coordination and my complete agreement that we need to work with the people.”

TJM May 3, 2010 at 2:26 am

Of course he didn’t accuse the Iranians of doing anything. That would be excessively provocative, even if the accusation were well-founded with hard evidence.

I think the rest of your comment makes sense, though.

Arnaud de Borchgrave April 30, 2010 at 11:23 am

A consular position in Peshawar is critically important for an intelligence operative — from any country.

Ian April 30, 2010 at 2:53 pm

So? Is this supposed to make SSS’s “anonymously sourced” tale any more believable?

Dilshod April 30, 2010 at 11:34 am

bin Laden’s daughter cannot be ever “Iman bin Laden”, might be “bint” (daughter) Laden.

Dafydd April 30, 2010 at 11:37 am

That did occur to me. But wouldn’t it be bint Osama, or bint bin Laden

Ian April 30, 2010 at 2:48 pm

It would more properly be Iman bint Osama bin Laden, since Laden was an ancestor, not Osama’s father.

can you explain why? May 2, 2010 at 12:14 am

Americans began mine cleaning on Tadjik-Afghan border, despite local citizens concerns of drug trafficking increase.


Cyrus May 2, 2010 at 6:12 pm

HHHhhhmmm…Maybe those mines are bad for business.

Toryalay Shirzay May 4, 2010 at 11:19 pm

One thing the Iranian apologists don’t want you notice is this: the Iranian regime is ultra stealthy and very secretive so that you wont be able to connect the dots regarding arms distribution in Afghanistan or nuclear proliferation although Uncle Sam is not fooled much to his credit.

Capt. Monkey May 5, 2010 at 3:20 pm

I remember reading a report recently that indicated that Iran helped broker the cease-fire and truce between Taliban and HiG in Baghlan/Kunduz provinces. Allegedly, leaders from both sides in those provinces travelled TO Iran for mediated peace talks. Doesn’t necessarily implicate the Iranian government, but certainly adds another piece to a developing casefile.

Cyrus May 5, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Anan, it is not so much that I can allude to that mini “cold war” taking place between Riyadh and Tehran, as I can point in the direction of those that can. 🙂

Turgai Sangar May 9, 2010 at 5:37 am

If so, so what? Iran is more threatened but the West, Israël and the Arab munafiq regimes than Iran is a threat to them. What is more, its enemies leave no opportunity unused to support ethnic separatists, drug trafickers and twittering North Teheran yuppies to destabilize the country.

anan May 9, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Turgai; does anyone threaten Iran? Khamanei and the IRGC Kuds force are more threatened by the Iranian people than anyone else.

Khamenei is an illegitimate ruler; and he is close to being overthrown by the Iranian people. 9 of the top 11 Marjas (Grand Ayatollahs) in Iran, all the Marjas in Iraq, and all the Marjas outside Iran/Iraq except the one in Lebanon oppose Khamenei.

Khamenei is an unelected incompetent dictator; and none of us should shed any tears when he comes down. He has defiled and desecrated Shiite islam by claiming the righteous position and power of Wilayate-Faqih [Or being the infallible representative of the hidden 12th Imam’s]; with almost all the senior Shiite clerics dispute.

Drug traffickers threaten everyone; not just Iran. Why would any other nation state use drug traffickers against Iran?

Your comments on twittering are puzzling. The Iranian resistance movement against the IRGC Kuds force and Khamenei are indigenous.

I have not seen any evidence that any nations other than Pakistan and the Arab states have supported ethnic separatists against Iran.

For that matter, a major reason that parts of the Arab and Pakistani establishment backed Mullah Omar, Haqqani, TTP, TNSM, LeT, JeM, LeJ/Sipah e Sahaba/Jundullah, IMU/IJU, Chechen Takfiris, Al Qaeda, was to use them as proxies against Iran. No doubt this is inexcusable.

However, unless you believe that ISAF/Israel backs AQ/Taliban [As Khamenei argues]; ISAF/Israel are not supporting ethnic and violent resistance against the Iranian regime.

Previous post:

Next post: