Positive signs on Afghanistan

October 26, 2021 - 21:13

TEHRAN – After weeks of uncertainty and mayhem, positive signals are now coming out of Afghanistan. The Taliban has made efforts to address the concerns among some countries over the recent developments in Afghanistan.

Two deadly attacks against Shia mosques in Kunduz and Kandahar over the last few weeks sounded alarm bells in Tehran. The first attack targeted Shia worshippers in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz in the first week of October. A week later, another attack targeted Shia worshippers performing Friday prayers, this time in the southern city of Kandahar. 

The twin attacks took place while ethnoreligious conflicts in Afghanistan had noticeably subsided after the Taliban takeover of Kabul in August. Hence, the attacks raised questions in Iran about the motives behind them.

Iran quickly moved to prevent a sectarian crisis in its eastern neighbor. The Kandahar attack made it quite clear for Iran that there were plans to create instability in Afghanistan by fomenting conflicts along the sectarian lines. 

In its statement on the Kandahar attack, the Iranian foreign ministry openly warned of “plots” to sow discord between Shia and Sunni Muslims in Afghanistan. “The foreign ministry also warns of plots by the Islamic ummah’s enemies to cause divisions and stresses the need for unity and solidarity among Shias and Sunnis and for rejection of violence and extremism in the name of Islam,” the statement said. “The Islamic Republic of Iran is confident that our Muslim brothers and sisters in Afghanistan will foil the divisive schemes of their enemies through solidarity, co-thinking and joint efforts.”

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian launched an extensive diplomatic effort to prevent Afghanistan from getting dragged into a sectarian conflict. He called his Turkish and Indonesian counterparts as well as Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Yousef Al-Othaimeen.

Abdollahian told Al-Othaimeen that the aim of these terrorist acts was to cause sectarian division in Afghanistan and called for “a more active role by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, especially its secretary general, in Afghanistan.”

In the meantime, several high-ranking Iranian officials including the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, put the spotlight on the enemies to destabilize Afghanistan by creating sectarian conflict. 

 In his recent speech delivered on the occasion of the birthday anniversary of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and Imam Sadiq (PBUH), Ayatollah Khamenei said the United States played a role in the attacks on Afghan Shias.

“The closest example is the tragic events that have taken place in Afghanistan the last two Fridays where they blew up a mosque with the Muslims in it while they were praying. Who blew these up? DAESH [ISIS]. Who are the DAESH? The DAESH is the same group that the Americans—the Democrats in the United States—have clearly stated, ‘We created them.’ Of course, they do not acknowledge this at the present time. They deny it now,” he said. 

The speech was delivered during a celebration known as Unity Week which cherishes commonalities between Shia and Sunni sects of Islam. During the speech, the Leader underlined the need for beefing up unity among Muslims a strategic principle. 

Ayatollah Khamenei's remarks were welcomed by the Taliban, indicating that Tehran-Kabul relations are in the direction of improvement. 

“The Islamic Emirate welcomes the statements of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, who called for greater unity between Sunnis and Shiites in Afghanistan. The Afghan people of all stripes have gained independence. And they will keep it together. We will not allow any conspiracy to harm or threaten the unity of our people and our country,” Mohammad Naeem, the spokesman of the Political Office of the Taliban, said on Twitter. 

Abdul Qahar Balkhi, the spokesman for the foreign ministry of the Taliban, also echoed the same statement. “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan welcomes remarks by Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran urging further unity between Ahl Sunnah & Ahl Tashayyu in Afghanistan. Afghans have gained independence with unity & will also neuter plots of discord with unity, inshaAllah,” he tweeted.

These statements came after a meeting between Iranian Ambassador to Afghanistan Bahadur Aminian and Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi. “During the meeting, Mr. Amininan said that economic challenge is our common enemy that creates turmoil, & Iran is ready to invest in energy,” Balkhi noted.

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