Iran File

The Iran File is a biweekly analysis and assessment of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s strategic efforts domestically and abroad.

Iran File: Iran loses optimism for cooperation with Taliban  

[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk (*) for the reader's awareness.]

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Iranian leadership is becoming increasingly skeptical of its ability to build a constructive relationship with the Afghan Taliban. Tehran still likely prefers to work with the Taliban to advance Iranian strategic objectives but is contingency planning in case its relationship with the Taliban deteriorates or the Taliban government collapses. These contingency plans may include cooperating with the anti-Taliban Afghan resistance.

Senior Iranian officials *have criticized the composition of the Taliban’s government and *expressed doubt that the Taliban has made meaningful changes in response to Iranian concerns in recent weeks. Iranian leadership is concerned the Taliban will repress Shia Afghans and has sought to ensure the rights and political representation of this minority under the new Taliban government. The Taliban did not include any minorities in the government announced on September 7, ignoring Iran’s urging. The Taliban later appointed some Hazara and Iran-aligned individuals to key positions on September 20, but Iranian officials *have indicated that the appointments are insufficient.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) still likely prefers to work with the Taliban than fight it. IRGC-affiliated media outlets *chastised Iranian reformists who were *calling for a military intervention into Afghanistan to protect Iranian interests and Shia Afghans from the Taliban. The IRGC outlets *argued that Iran should not intervene in Afghanistan like it has in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

The Iranian regime may be preparing to work with the Afghan resistance as part of a larger hedging strategy in case Iran-Taliban relations deteriorate or the Taliban government collapses. The regime *has hosted Afghan warlord and anti-Taliban figure Ismail Khan since he fled Afghanistan on August 15. Khan has since used Iran to *coordinate and meet with other Afghan warlords opposing the Taliban, likely with Iran’s approval. Iran has also been in *contact with Afghan resistance figures based in the Panjshir Valley. These relationships could be a foundation for future cooperation with an anti-Taliban resistance.

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