Iranian Diplomacy: Under current circumstances, was the fact that Kabul and Washington reached an agreement on a strategic treaty between the two countries predictable, or was it unexpected?
Pirmohammad Mollazehi: This event was not an unexpected one. The fact of the matter is it was clear beforehand that the strategic cooperation treaty between Afghanistan and the US would be signed. However, there were some problems and issues that had given rise to some suspicion about this agreement by certain forces inside Afghanistan, and there was some public opposition to the signing of this document. Despite the fact that the details of this document have not yet been reliably published and there are still some ambiguities with regard to the context of this treaty, there are some essential points in this strategic agreement that can be seen as against Afghanistan’s national interests. It is said, for example, that this document would bring back a sort of capitulation in Afghanistan. In reality, many believe that giving judicial immunity to military personnel is relevant to a time when there was hegemony and colonialism and the bigger and more powerful countries imposed their theories and beliefs on weaker countries. There is the interpretation now that if there is really no change in this part of the agreement, the Afghanistan’s right to national governance will be limited, and this is itself a contradiction.
Another ambiguity is whether the amount of US financial aid to Afghanistan is mentioned in this document or not. A few days ago, Mr. Karzai precisely declared that Afghanistan needs an annual allocation of 2 billion dollars by the US to strengthen this country’s military forces. It is not clear whether the Americans have officially accepted such a commitment in this document or not. Until the time that this document is officially published, judgment in this regard cannot be made. In last week’s NATO meeting in Brussels, US Secretary Clinton asked the European allies in NATO to allocate 2 billion dollars annually to Afghanistan, and said that the US is spending about 3 billion dollars every year for Afghanistan’s security. Have the Americans been able to convince European countries to consider stable financial aid to this country after 2014, when NATO is supposed to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan? This point has not been clarified.
Another point which seems important is that inside Afghanistan a unified view among different forces has not been created with regard to this national unity strategic document, and there are serious discussions as to whether Afghanistan should sign it or not. Therefore, it can be said that Afghanistan has moved towards signing this document under improper conditions and the wrong time.
ID: We witnessed several bombings in Kabul. After that, a considerable amount of explosives were found in this city. Is there any relation between disclosure of the agreement on the strategic cooperation document between the US and Afghanistan and these operations?
PM: As you mentioned, recently there have been bombings in Kabul and some other cities. It was also announced yesterday that 10 tons of explosives, sent from Peshawar, Pakistan, were discovered in the hands of five people, three of whom are Pakistani citizens and the two other Saudi citizens. Apparently, they have confessed that these explosives were delivered to them in Peshawar. The government of Afghanistan believes that two people whose names have been mentioned are intelligence officers in Pakistan’s army.
It seems that these bombings and unsuccessful operations have helped Afghanistan’s government and the US to take measures in signing the strategic cooperation document. The reason is that Hamed Karzai can claim, after these incidents, that the government of Afghanistan cannot provide the security of this country by itself after withdrawal of foreign forces, and the presence of international and American forces are needed to support the present situation. Such incidents are very effective for Karzai to justify this issue. Whether the Taliban has helped this situation intentionally or not makes no difference in its outcome. The result is certainly against the interests of Afghanistan, but to the interests of Karzai who has found a subject for publicity.
This is also in line with the interests of the US, for it can justify a US military presence in the region. They can claim that, considering the present situation, and after ten years of accepting the costly burden of keeping international forces in Afghanistan, the situation in Afghanistan, following the withdrawal of forces, will be similar to the time when Soviet forces left, which led this country to become a center of radical forces and the Al-Qaeda organization. Now, and after these events, the US can convince the world’s public opinion that there is a need to stay in Afghanistan. They can argue that the establishment of US military bases in Afghanistan is necessary, and these bases can provide this country’s security.
In any case, the bombings and importing of explosives to Kabul during recent days have occurred at a time when both the government of Afghanistan and the US administration needed a justification for signing the strategic cooperation document. It seems that, from this angle, perhaps those who planned these attacks have helped move forward the signing of this document.
ID: Will this issue affect negotiations between the US and the government of Afghanistan with the Taliban?
PM: Yes, it will affect the negotiations. It is a fact that the Taliban have a negative position with regard to the signing of the strategic cooperation document, but this disagreement is influenced by the disagreements which exist in the region and especially with respect to Pakistan. For Pakistan disagrees with a permanent presence of the US and its military bases in Afghanistan. Pakistan feels that such a presence in regional equations will be to the benefit of India and the disadvantage of Pakistan. For this reason, the Taliban also disagrees with the continuation of a US military presence in Afghanistan.
But the issue is that, when this document is signed by the presidents of the US and Afghanistan and becomes official and the US establishes 5 to 7 military bases in this country, the US will remain there for a long time. Then, the Taliban and Pakistan will be forced to review their present policies. The issue that they will be able to take power in their hands in Kabul through their military capacity after 2014 (and following the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan) will no more be discussed. With the loss of this hope, the Taliban will be assured that there will be no other way other than negotiating with the US, and they will try to reach an understanding with the US and the government of Afghanistan in order to have a part in the power equation of Afghanistan.
Pakistan will also be pressured to encourage the Taliban to enter serious negotiations. Therefore, from the viewpoint of the Kabul government, signing of this document will prepare the ground for an agreement between the US and the Taliban.
ID: What is Iran’s view on this document and what effects will it have on relations between Iran and Afghanistan?
PM: Iran is against the presence of any foreign forces and violation of governance of Afghanistan, particularly, as it has been proposed, the establishment of at least two US military bases near Iran’s borders. Considering existing problems in relations between the US and Iran, the presence of these bases will concern Iran.
On the other hand, a revival of capitulation will create a condition in Afghanistan that may encourage other powerful countries of the world to do the same in countries under their influence. Considering the strategic objectives of the US in southern Asia and the Middle East, this issue may instigate the US to sign similar agreements with other countries under its influence and to make it a tradition. Such a view is not acceptable; neither by Iran nor by any country of the region.
At any rate Iran disagrees with the signing of this document, but the question is how effective this disagreement will be. In my opinion, Iran’s opposition will have no effect on the course of this issue, and it will have to maintain its friendly relations with Afghanistan despite such matters. Iran can direct the main discussion towards the point that these bases cannot be used against a third country, which should be mentioned in the document. If this point is highlighted and written in the strategic document between the US and Afghanistan, Iran’s attitude will be more realistic than just generally opposing this issue.