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Politics Of The Pipeline?

While some of Afghanistan’s neighbours, such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, have agreed to live with the Taliban as long as the Islamist group does not derail energy and infrastructure projects that are important to those countries’ National Interests, there is still a neighbour of Afghanistan that is watching the return of Taliban to Kabul with concern: the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Every Morning Asia online portal has analysed why should Iran be afraid of a Taliban Afghanistan?

Firstly, there is the politicisation and weaponisation of Religion that empowered the sectarian divisions, facing both West Asia (or Middle East) and South Asia. Iran is a Persian-majority Shia State that is found in contradiction with the ethnic Pashtun Sunni Taliban. The Taliban have many sympathisers among the majority in Iran, especially in Sistan-Baluchistan. Tehran fears that the Taliban shall revive the insurgent Sunni groups in impoverished region of Sistan-Baluchistan, and even support their will for secessionism as those groups emulated the same Salafi preaching of the Pashtun Taliban.

Secondly, there is a social and economic dimension. Iran already has between three-five million Afghan refugees on its territory who have fled both the instability of the war-torn Afghanistan and the Taliban ruthlessness towards those unwilling to emulate the group’s Islamic code. A Taliban comeback could prolong the same uncertainty that could trigger new waves of Afghan refugees that could have a strong demographic and social impact on Iran’s Shia majority, and a devastating economic effect on a US-sanctioned Iran.

Thirdly, a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan might be even harder to persuade into a fairer agreement on the shared waters of the Helmand River, a pressuring issue that might create a water crisis in the impoverished Iranian Province of Sistan-Baluchistan. It might also empower insurgency and separatism.

To Engage or Not to Engage?

Finally, landlocked Afghanistan under the Taliban might favour the use of the Pakistani port of Gwadar as a transit route, to the detriment of the Iranian Chabahar port favoured by the former Ghani Administration, bringing economic losses to Tehran.

Ebrahim Raisi, the Iranian President

Experts are of the opinion that the Administration of President Sayyid Ebrahim Raisolsadati in Tehran is closely monitoring the activities of the Taliban-led Government in Kabul, and it would counter the Taliban aggression with the help of Russia and China. It may be noted that Tehran maintains cordial ties with both Moscow and Beijing. In a sense, Iran’s Afghan Policy depends on Moscow and Beijing’s proximity with the top Taliban leadership. At the same time, Iran has started maintaining a distance with Pakistan in the changing regional geopolitical landscape. It has certainly encouraged India to boost diplomatic and trade relations with Iran.

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