Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, former head of Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Relations Committee

Politician Criticizes Iran's Stance Re Taliban, Calls For Realism

Saturday, 05/27/2023

A prominent Iranian politician has blamed the inexperience of Iranian diplomats for tensions with the Taliban in Afghanistan and clashes at the border.

Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, former head of Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Relations Committee said in an interview with Rouydad24 website on May 27 that "the most intimidated individuals in Iran's Foreign Ministry are in charge of ties with Afghanistan." He was probably referring, among others, to Hassan Kazemi Qomi, Iran's ambassador to Kabul.

The politician’s remarks were published on the same day when a serious border skirmish took place killing at least three people from both sides.

On May 25, Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian was quoted as saying, "We are concerned about sporadic clashes at the border between Iran and Afghanistan during the past months."

Falahatpisheh told Rouydad24 that "Afghanistan has the upper hand in relations with Iran as Kabul uses a major part of Iran's share of water in the river Hirmand (Hilmand in Afghanistan) for poppy cultivation, a plant from which Afghans extract opium." Falahatpisheh said that the Taliban's annual income from selling narcotics is more than what Iran spends on developmental projects during the year.

The Helmand River Dam, where Afghanistan stores the water shared with Iran

Meanwhile, he criticized Iran's "intimated" diplomats who have handed over Afghanistan's embassy in Tehran to the Taliban although Iran officially does not recognize their regime in Afghanistan as the country's government. Amir-Abdollahian said two days before the latest clash at the border that Iran does not recognize the current Taleban ruling council in Afghanistan, adding that Iran calls for forming a broad-based government in Afghanistan, and that "the Taliban are only a part and not all of the political reality of Afghanistan. We are unhappy about Afghan girls being deprived of education and see this as a behavior which is against the teachings of the prophet of Islam."

Falahatpisheh also blamed Iran's problematic regional diplomacy during the past seven years as another indication of the Foreign Ministry's inefficiency. He was referring to the attacks on the Saudi embassy in Iran in January 2016, which adversely affected not only ties between Tehran and Riyadh, but also Iran's relations with many other regional countries. He said that the development weakened Iran's bargaining power in the region.

He expressed regret that those who ruined Iran's regional relations seven years ago have still maintained their influence on the country's foreign policy as “infiltrators” in the Iranian government. He warned that a new crisis may occur at any moment because of those infiltrators. He did not explain what he meant by ‘infiltrators’.

Falahatpisheh said that no review of that period in Iran's foreign relations have been done, so no lessons have been learned. He warned that the excesses by some Iranian officials is manifested in the new episode in Iran's ties with Afghanistan. "The same individuals who called the Taliban "our Mojahed brothers" are now taking radical stances against Afghanistan.

Some Iranian media and clerics, most prominently Masih Mohajeri, the editor in chief of Jomhouri Eslami newspaper warned officials about their premature friendliness toward the Taliban immediately after their takeover of Afghanistan.

Falahatpisheh pointed out that during the past two years, only 4 million cubic meters of water was released from Afghanistan into the Hirmand rather than Iran's 8.5 million cubic meter share based on a 1973 agreement between the two countries. He said even most of that water arrived in Iran because of floods without the Taliban having any control over the flow.

The politician suggested that Iran should take a realistic stance against Afghanistan and cut off the Taliban's profit from the smuggling of narcotics into Iran, adding that Iran's anti-narcotics campaign has never been effective.

Meanwhile, he pointed out that Tehran's weakened position on the international scene has turned even small regional players such as the Taliban into major threats for Iran.

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