Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stratfor's article on Iran's concerns about the Taliban

Stratfor has produced a good statement on the problems created by the US attempts to negotiate with “moderate Taliban.” I note, in the statements I have seen by Karzai, that he does not call the people he wants to deal with “moderate Taliban”; he refers to them as authentic Afghans who have some problems with the present situation and are for their own local reasons allied with the Taliban. They can be won over, he says. I’m not sure what real “moderate Taliban” will actually look like; it seems to be a term Americans have invented.

But, as Stratfor points out, the Iranians are not pleased by any overtures to the Taliban. The Iranians and the Taliban / Al Qaeda are more serious enemies than many Americans understand: Allied with the Taliban are Sunni Islamist organizations that believe it is their religious duty to kill Shias, and they have attacked an killed many in Pakistan in recent years. As Stratfor points out, the Taliban killed several Iranian diplomats and a journalist as well as many Hazara Shia in a romp through Mazar-e- Sharif in 1998.

So the Iranians are displeased by the news that Obama might make contact with “moderate Taliban”. At the same time the Saudis are delighted because for one thing their Wahhabi religious ideology is similar to the Taliban and anyway many Saudis have supported the Taliban for years, and for another thing the Saudis are frightened of the Iranians. Iran is a much bigger country and is just across the Persian Gulf. Moreover, the Saudis have a good sized Shia population that happens to be astride most of the Saudi oil fields. And the Shia in Arabia have been restive recently.

All this is a mere overview of affairs in this part of the world: layers of adversaries supported by other layers of adversaries, etc., each with its particular grudges. Another reason for worry is the ignorance of such subtleties that those in the West have who will make policy decisions. It has not been long since various notable politicians, Senators and Congressmen, were accusing Iran of supporting Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Little did they know . . . .

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