Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

Wall Street Journal Overplaying The Iran-Taliban Connection

Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan/Central Asia, Iran by Dan on July 28, 2010

The leak of thousands upon thousands of classified Afghan war documents has created a political firestorm in Washington.  Why is anyone’s guess; most of the information that was leaked is only a confirmation of what most Americans already think about the war.

This is why I’m baffled by conservative news outlets like the Wall Street Journal, whose editors are trying to hype up charges that Iran is working with Taliban insurgents and Al’Qaeda operatives against the United States in Afghanistan.  But, like everything else contained in the Wikileaks document dump, this charge has been floating around for years.

Take this statement by former U.S. Commander Stanley McChrystal as an example.  Or this intelligence official who argued the same thing in early April of this year.

U.S. commanders and the Afghan Government have raised this assertion many times in the past two years. So why are commentators acting like the Iran-Taliban-AQ connection is some sort of smoking-gun discovery?  Given Iran’s tendency to support insurgent and terrorist networks against U.S. objectives- regardless of ideological orientation- you would hope that the editors are just writing this story to drag readers in.

Let’s not make the Iran-Taliban alliance more than it really is. The Iranian Government, the Taliban, and Al’Qaeda all have the same enemy in the United States and NATO. Other than anti-Americanism, all three groups have very different agendas in Afghanistan and in South Asia more broadly. So the idea that the U.S. now has to confront some strong, new threat is totally baseless and exaggerated. Opposing the U.S. presence is the only reason why all three are coming together, nothing more.

Remember how hostile the Taliban Government was towards the Iranian theocracy in the mid to late 1990’s? Iranians were (and still are) viewed by the Taliban movement as apostates and unbelievers. This hostility rose to new heights in 1998, when Taliban soldiers captured and assassinated eight Iranian diplomats, which almost propelled Iranian military retaliation.

This crisis may have erupted in the past, but the distrust between Iran and the Taliban is still there, which is why some in Tehran are worried about Hamid Karzai’s negotiations with Taliban leaders.

At best, the Iran-Taliban-AQ connection is shallow and convenient. When U.S. troops finally withdraw from Afghanistan, I doubt that the Iranians will be working with members of Al’Qaeda anytime soon.

-Daniel R. DePetris

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**Comments courtesy of Marc Lynch at FP.com**


7 Responses

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  1. Jaydee001 said, on July 28, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    We’ve heard this tune before, although in a different key. The Iraq war was based on trumped-up intelligence – mostly fabricated after the war plans had been drawn. The argument for removing Saddam from power eventually has been reduced to the claim that “he was a bad man who used chemical weapons against his own people” and so he needed to be banished from power. That was all that was left after all other arguments were discredited. Really not our business.

    Just as the 9-11 attacks were the product of a group of (mainly Saudi) stateless warriors directed by Osama bin Laden, and not anyone remotely close to Saddam Hussein, the resistance to our occupation of Afghanistan and our growing incursions into Pakistan have little to do with the long-standing grudge we bear against Iran. It was Iran who aided us early on in defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan, when we first invaded that god-forsaken place. They had their own reasons for doing so. And it is quite unlikely that Iran was sorry to see Saddam go; they fought an eight year war against him to defend their nation – a war that he initiated (we backed him in a losing effort, it may be recalled).

    Is it likely that Iran may be helping the insurgents in Afghanistan? Very – they have an interest in the future alignmnent of a country they share a very long border with. Is it likely they have given aid to their Shiite brothers in Iraq to continue the conflict there? Certainly – they need a non-hostile nation on their western border. Is any of this an adequate justification for starting yet another war with an Islamic nation thousands of miles from our shores? Not very likely at all; such a war would be far more costly than most of our citizens could conceive. And it would be following our other strategic mistakes with yet another.

  2. TransTrist said, on July 28, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    The case for attack on Iran is strong enough on its internal merits. Elimination of the Irani influence on Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan will be just an icing on the cake.

    • Addamo said, on July 28, 2010 at 6:43 pm

      TRANSTRIST is a Daniel Pipes mini me

      It requires quite a feat of pathological psychosis to argue that Iran’s refusal to be a client state is reason for starting a third world war. Not only are tehre no valid reasons for attacking Iran, but the reasons we’ve been given are based on lies anyway.

      “Elimination of the Irani influence on Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan will be just an icing on the cake.”

      This exemplifies the rabid colonialism and belief in manifest destiny. Iran shares borders with 2 of these countries, and somehow, that is unacceptable to an occupier on the other side of the planet.

      Orwell was an armature compared to these deranged fools.

  3. IPPON1 said, on July 28, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Wall Street Journal, “appear to give new evidence of direct contacts between Iranian officials and the Taliban’s and al Qaeda’s senior leadership.”

    Ever since WSJ changed ownership it has become mouthpiece for neo-cons and their blood lust for another war. WSJ editorials have now little higher ranking than tablet op-eds.

    We need inquiry on Iraq war, as is being done in UK. The criminals are still all there and have not been satisfied by over a million Iraqis, and thousands US troops killed.

  4. Nicholas Wibberley said, on July 28, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    The fuss, as you put it, is not about the “discovery” which is not a discovery at all; it is about the use that warmongers are poised to make of it. Pakistan is claiming the “leak” was a deliberate move by the US, which doesn’t mean the claim is true but it does demonstrate what some at least find feasible. It is all very well lauding a free press so long as you remember that it is double-edged and the public does not wield it.

  5. Sledge_Hammer said, on July 28, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    Iran has had a track record of cooperating with its traditional enemies in order to serve its ultimate objective, which is to oppose the U.S. and ISrael and to kill Americans. It is not surprising that they are training Taliban fighters and cooperating with Al Qaeda in the short run. I’m sure they think it’s a short-term venture until 2011 when Barack Obama withdraws the troops from Afghanistan. Iran will then turn around and start killing all the taliban and AQ fighters it is currently helping.

  6. Nick Ottens said, on July 30, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    Hey Dan,

    Sorry to use the Comments form for this but I couldn’t find an e-mailaddress, or, indeed, any other way to contact you. Would you mind dropping me an e-mail? Thanks.


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