Manouchehr Mottaki, the Foreign Minister of Iran, has warned the West of the dangers of dialogue with the Taliban. He said, “The West must not think that it can confine extremism to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia,” and referred to the proverb, ‘They that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.’
Leaving the Taliban aside; shouldn’t Mottaki’s words also apply to Iran? There are those who say that it is dangerous and fruitless to engage in dialogue with Iran but the inevitable question is what will the West and Iran discuss?
Would Iran cease exporting its revolutionary doctrine by force to the Arab world? Would it accept the disarming of Hezbollah? Would Tehran enforce a weapons ban on the Taliban especially that just a matter of days ago, a Taliban militant stated that the group was receiving weapons from Iran? Here, we should bear in mind previous statements given by Iran that claim that Tehran is ready to offer assistance concerning the Afghan issue.
Would Iran stop dividing the Palestinians and stop interfering in Iraq, causing disintegration and exclusion by playing off one party against another? Would Iran stop interfering in the internal affairs of the Gulf States? Would Iran stop the Shia proselytism using financial resources that are flooding the Arab world from the Gulf through to Egypt and the countries of North Africa?
Can Iran desist from all of the above? And primarily, would Tehran end its nuclear program, which threatens the regional states far more than it does Israel (those who believe otherwise are deluding themselves)?
These questions are simply logical issues for those who oppose Iran’s illegitimate ambitions and they are right to do so; why then is Iran angered by this logic that rejects the prospect of dialogue between it and the West whilst it follows the same logic regarding Afghanistan and expresses its rejection of dialogue with the Taliban?
Another issue that should be discussed relates to Mottaki’s warning that the extremism that exists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia will one day reach Europe and the West; so how should this extremism to be confined to those regions as long as the war is unsuccessful and engaging in dialogue is dangerous?
What is the solution? Should Iran have a role in Afghanistan? This appears to be the crux of the matter. It is evident from Mottaki’s comments that Iran is concerned about any arrangements in the Gulf in which it does not play a part but Iranian participation causes nothing but concern and this is what we see on a daily basis in our Arab world.
It is so strange to see an Iranian foreign minister worried about intra-Afghan dialogue despite that it is Afghan President Hamid Karzai himself who is calling for this. Therefore, how can Iran interfere in Afghanistan’s domestic issues when it cannot even tolerate a monthly magazine published in Cairo [commenting on it]?
What Iran wants is peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan in accordance with its own interests rather than in the interest of those countries themselves. It searches for a role to play in those countries, similar to the role it is playing today in Iraq and Lebanon and amongst the Palestinians. When it comes to Iranian advice, one must read between the lines.