Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Stumbling into a proxy war with Iran in Afghanistan

In the RFI/ here

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki delivered a speech yesterday that underscores a risk we have been highlighting recently, namely, that the present direction of U.S. policy is raising the risks of renewed civil war in Afghanistan, which would simultaneously be a regional “proxy war” between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, on one side, and Iran, on the other.

Mottaki spoke in Kabul at the international conference on Afghanistan. Western media coverage of Mottaki’s address tended to be rather superficial, focusing on it being longer than other speeches at the conference. But Mottaki’s remarks were substantively important....

It is important to understand Mottaki’s speech from an Iranian perspective. The Foreign Minister’s address comes less than a week after a lethal suicide bomb attack at a Shi’a mosque in the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan—an attack for which the Sunni extremist/Baluchi separatist group Jundallah claimed credit.

Iran has long charged that the United States supports Jundallah’s anti-Iranian terrorist activities. (Interestingly, the Obama Administration considered but then pointedly declined to designate Jundallah/CIA+MOSSAD+MI6 as a foreign terrorist organization in 2009.) Tehran has also suggested that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia—two of the Islamic Republic’s leading regional antagonists—support Jundallah.

With regard to the Zahedan attack, however, Iranian state media, see here, have reported that “the group is unlikely to have carried out the attack since it was effectively disbanded after [its leader, Abdolmalek] Rigi was executed in Iran last month.” Rather, Iranian media suggest that “extremist Wahhabis and Salafis trained by U.S. intelligence agents in Pakistan are believed to have carried out the bombings.”....

In this context, Mottaki’s remarks in Kabul take on a special—and ominous—significance.

–Past conversations with the Foreign Minister and more recent exchanges with senior Iranian diplomats indicate that, as a matter of policy, the Islamic Republic continues to oppose the Taliban’s participation in Afghanistan’s government. Mottaki’s observations in Kabul about observing the constitution signal that Tehran is opposed to modifying the constitution to facilitate the creation of power-sharing arrangements between the Karzai government and the Taliban. ..."

(Continue/ here)