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Iran’s Role in the Afghan Peace Process

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Afghan administration announced that Tahiryan has called a tripartite meeting to create regional cooperation between Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan after the meeting After the meeting of Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Hanif Atmar with the Special Representative of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran for Afghanistan Ibrahim Tahiryan on 28 June 2021 in Kabul. [1] Surely, this situation shows that Tehran administration is trying to take responsibility in the Afghan Peace Process.

In the continuation of the aforementioned initiative, on July 7, 2021, the representatives of the Kabul administration and the Taliban representatives met and negotiate in Tehran.[2] This can be interpreted as Iran will not accept to be a passive actor about the Afghanistan-based developments. Thus Iranian Foreign Minister Javad zarif who made a statement about the summit in Tehran, said, “Iran is ready to help the dialogue process between groups in the country in order to resolve the conflicts and crises in Afghanistan.” This statement is pointing that Tehran wants to play the role of mediator effectively.

There are some reasons why the Tehran administration believes it can be successful in the Afghan Peace Process. First of these is that, Iran is an important trading partner of aforementioned country. In this sense, Iran thinks that it has developed good relations with Kabul and that it can persuade Kabul at the negotiation table by using this. The second reason affecting Iran’s approach is that close relations it establish with the Taliban during American occupation. The parties, who came together over anti-Americanism, agree on the end of the US existence in the Afghanistan. Thus, Tehran, thinking that it resisted the American occupation, also supported to Taliban. In a sense, Iran has become a safe haven for the Taliban managers run away from the US operations. This support become concrete when the Taliban opened a representative office in Mashhad.

Another reason for Iran’s closeness to Taliban is the existence of the terrorist organization State of Iraq and Sham (DAESH) in Afghanistan. The Tehran administration thinks that Taliban is an important actor against DAESH threat and should be legitized. It is known that the Taliban elements on the Iranian border engaged in important clashes against the terrorist organization DAESH. In this process, Tehran provided various aids to aforementioned elements and this led to the introduction of the concept of “Iranian Taliban” into the literature.

On the other hand, Iran thinks that it can defend the interest of identity groups that it sees as close to it by taking responsibility in the Afghan Peace Process. There are close relations of Tehran with two of Afghanistan’s three major identity groups (Tajiks and Hazaras). Iran, continued its effects on Tajiks through its Persian identity, meets the Hazaras on the denominator of Shiism. Thus, Fatimiyyun brigade, which prepared for war and the participated in the conflicts in the Syrian Civil War, under the consultancy of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Army (DMO), consist of Shiite Hazaras. In this sense, by mediating in the Afghan Peace Process, Iran will try to provide the Tajiks and Hazaras receive gains that will centralize their position in the system and thus will seek ways to increase its effect in Afghanistan. Moreover, considering that Taliban is a movement heavily take supported by Pashtuns, it seems possible for Iran to be in alliance with the three major identity groups.

Another issue that triggers Tehran’s interest in Afghan Peace Process is the concern of encountering a migration movement. Iran, which has been the country is the most effected by the turmoil in Afghanistan throughout history, will face a serious migration wave in the situation of violence in Afghanistan increase. But the Tehran administration thinks that they cannot afford such a migration economically and socially. For this reason, it favors conclusion by consensus the process in Afghanistan not conflict.

Another hope for Iran related to Afghanistan-based developments is prevention of Taliban from establish a new regime. Currently Taliban has already seized the Iranian border. This means that Iran’s exports will made to Afghanistan and other geographies through this country are under the control of Taliban. At this point, Tehran, foresees that if it comes to power will live problems with Taliban as in the past, is in favor of a system in which all political tendencies are represented in Afghanistan. In other words Tehran wants that Taliban to become one of the legitimate actors in the system. This is the reason of the statements from Iran that the existence of Taliban is normal and legal in system.

In this context the negotiations held in Tehran are remarkable.  Aforementioned negotiations herald that Iran will be an effective actor in the Afghan Peace Process. Moreover, the trilateral conversation that proposed in the Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan line can be realized in the coming period. Iran both wants to bring the Afghan administration to table and not ignore it, and also wants Pakistan, which is main actor that can force the Taliban to make concession, to contribute to the process.

On the other hand, it is known that there are serious problems between Kabul and Islamabad at the last period. Afghan government heavily criticizes Pakistan for its relations with the Taliban. For this reason, it will be a sound event for the parties to sit at the same table. It seems that; Iran also aspires to mediator role in this respect. However, there are serious problems between Iran and Pakistan. Because Islamabad is disturbed by influence on Iran’s Shiite activities on Pakistan’s Shiites. In addition, the parties accuse each other for the Baluchistan problem. However, a new geopolitical axis has recently constructed on the Chine-Pakistan-Iran line and the efforts of Tehran administration reflect this attempt to create a geopolitical line. Because, in this process, the positive messages come from Iran and Pakistan.

One of the factors that triggered this situation is both countries take part in the Belt-Road Project. The stability of the project requires the stability of Afghanistan as well. In this sense, the initiatives of Iran both aims reduce the differences between Kabul and Islamabad, to make Kabul accept Taliban can make policy as an legitimate actor, and to persuade Taliban to make concessions.


[1] Wahida Paikan, “تلاش تهران برای برگزاری نشست سه‌جانبه ایران، افغانستان و پاکستان (Tehran habere nisus est autem foederis inter Iran trilaterum, Etiam quis purus et Afghanistan), Independent, https://bit.ly/35Vpabu, (Erişim Tarihi: 10.07.2021).

[2]  “In Tehran Talks, Iran Offers Help to Resolve Afghan Crisis”, Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/tehran-talks-iran-offers-help-resolve-afghan-crisis-2021-07-07/, (Erişim Tarihi: 11.07.2021).

Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
ANKASAM Uluslararası İlişkiler Uzmanı