Khamenei Paper Says Taliban Have Changed, ‘Not Beheading People’
The Taliban's onslaught in several Afghan provinces during the past weeks has raised concerns on the part of some Iranian media and analysts about its implication for Iran's security. But reformist and conservative media diagonally differ on what is happening next door to Iran which is still digesting what the result of its latest presidential election might entail.
While former diplomat Ali Khorram wrote in a commentary in the centrist Arman daily that the Taliban's onslaught as well as its bomb attacks in various parts of Afghanistan have mainly targeted the Shia Hazaras, the hardline Kayhan wrote in a commentary by Jafar Bolouri that "the Taliban have not committed any crime against the Shia population of Afghanistan."
Iran has had a measure of mixed relations with the Taliban, and Afghan government officials have often accused Tehran of supporting the militant group. In January a large Taliban delegation visited Tehran and held talks with Iranian officials, with information scarce over what they really discussed.
Meanwhile, another former diplomat, Fereidoun Majlesi said in an article on proreform Fararu website that "the attacks on various Afghan provinces are part of a conspiracy against Iran." According to Majlesi, the plot aims at dividing Afghanistan and creating a new country named Pashtunistan.
According to Khorram, the attacks by Taliban in various Afghan cities have killed many innocent people including children and young adults. Khorram criticized the Islamic Republic of Iran as “the main defender of Shias all over the world” for keeping silent in the face of Taliban's attacks.
He pointed out that some Iranians even encourage Afghans not to resist against the occupation of 15 provinces by the Taliban. Iran's hardliners believe Taliban is an anti-Western "revolutionary movement,” he wrote. The former diplomat asked: "Do we expect our neighbors to call on us to remain silent if, God forbid, a rebel group occupies Iranian provinces one by one?"
"The Taliban have pushed back Afghan women to the stone age and violated their rights as well as the rights of other parts of the Afghan nation," Khorram said and added that it was the Taliban that gave rise to groups such as Al-Qaedah and the Islamic State.
He further quoted Iranian security officials as having said that ISIS is training suicide bombers in Afghanistan to deploy them into Iran across the border. Khorram said turning a blind eye to all that would be "a major miscalculation and negligence in the face of threats against Iran's national security."
Kayhan, funded by the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, tried to lessen the potential dangers of a Taliban takeover. "The Taliban today is different from the Taliban that used to behead people,” the daily said and claimed that Taliban's advances have not led to ISIS-style massacre of civilians and destruction of homes. The daily claimed that in many of the operations Afghan government forces have joined the Talban forces.
The daily further claimed that the US is withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan to give a hard time to Iran. Nonetheless, it said it was too early to assess how dangerous current developments in Afghanistan can be for Iran.
The daily also raised the alarm that as the people of Afghanistan have been taking arms to confront the Taliban onslaught, the coming weeks may witness a bloody civil war that can soon turn into a Shia-Sunni conflict.
Apart from the military aspect, this might also bring an influx of Afghan refugees into Iran causing further economic burdens for the Iranian government. Nonetheless, Kayhan suggested that Tehran should wait and see what happens next door before taking any active measure.
Khorram, however, says a military strategist such as former Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani would have not waited while Iran's enemies are preparing a major regional war against it. He warned Iranian officials: "Thinking that the Taliban will come under Tehran's command is tantamount to growing a snake up your sleeve. As far as Iran's national interests are concerned, the liberal government of Ashraf Ghani is a hundred times better than a radical ISIS-Taliban government. You were deceived by Russia and Israel in Syria. Take care not to fall in a bigger trap laid out in Afghanistan for you by the West, Israel, Turkey and other regional players."