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Iran's Policy Towards Afghanistan

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Since 1979, Iran's objectives in Afghanistan have changed as Afghanistan's domestic landscape changed. Still, Iran has consistently sought to see a stable and independent Afghanistan, with Herat as a buffer zone and with a Tehran-friendly government in Kabul, a government that reflects the rich ethnic diversity of the country. Toward those and other goals, Iran has created “spheres of influence” inside Afghanistan. During the Soviet occupation (1979-88), Iran created an “ideological sphere of influence” by empowering the Shi'ites. Iran then created a “political sphere of influence” by unifying the Dari/Persian-speaking minorities, who ascended to power. Iranian policies added fuel to the ferocious civil war in the 1990s. Astonishingly slow to recognize the threat posed by the Taliban, Iran helped create a “sphere of resistance” to counter the “Kabul-Islamabad-Riyadh” axis by supporting the Northern Alliance. Since the liberation of Afghanistan, Iran has also established an “economic sphere of influence” by engaging in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Today, Iran's goals are to pressure the Afghan government to distance itself from Washington, and for Iran to become the hub for the transit of goods and services between the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan, Central Asia, India, and China. While Iran has been guilty of extremism and adventurism in some critical aspects of its foreign policy, its overall Afghan policy has contributed more to moderation and stability than to extremism and instability.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 April 2006

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