Photo: Faraz online daily

Former Iranian Foreign Minister Says US Wants to Return to Afghanistan

VANCOUVER, CANADA – Former Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says that the Taliban are the same group from the 1990s and have only slightly improved their tactics over time.

Zarif, speaking on Tuesday, March 12, in an interview with Faraz newspaper, said that Iran had also been invited to the talks between the United States, Afghanistan, and the Taliban in Doha, which eventually failed in 2021.

According to Mr. Zarif, his opinion inside the Iranian government was to participate in the Doha process, while others had opposed it.

“Our view at the Foreign Ministry was that the Islamic Republic should participate in these negotiations, but others did not share this view.”       

“I predicted in 2019 that the Taliban would regain power and we should not be absent from the negotiations. Our friends’ [the opposing side] perspective prevailed, which is why we were excluded from the talks.”

The former Iranian Foreign Minister added that the United States is trying to return to Afghanistan.

In the late 1990s when the Taliban gained control of Afghanistan for the first time, Iran emerged as the largest and most strategic supporter of the resistance forces. It was that relationship that helped Iran broker agreements between the United States and the National Resistance Front in the immediate aftermath of the Taliban’s collapse in 2001.

Mr. Zarif, who played a role during those times as a diplomat at his country’s mission to the UN, now says Tehran should apply a more pragmatist approach to Afghanistan.

“We have to come to terms with reality. If the Taliban are the legitimate authority in Afghanistan, Iran would eventually have to cooperate with its neighbor.”

The former Foreign Minister who is considered unfavored by the current administration in Iran suggested that his country should see the debate over the Taliban’s internal and international legitimacy as an opportunity.

According to him, it was a mistake in the 1980s when Iran was not involved in multilateral talks between the US, USSR, and Pakistan which brought the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

Three years after the Soviet withdrawal, the Moscow-backed government collapsed and a deadly civil war broke out. From the midst, the Taliban emerged as the most powerful group with direct support from the Pakistani intelligence.

A sunni extremist group, the Taliban detested Iran’s Shia theocracy. In 1998, the group executed Iranian journalists and diplomats in its consulate in the northern city of Mazar e Sharif.

Since then, however, the two sides have developed cordial relationships. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corp has become a strategic partner of the regime in Kabul.

Although Iran has not recognized the Taliban regime, it has kept its embassy in Kabul open and has become the largest importing partner to Afghanistan.