How Iran Won the Afghanistan Deal with the US in 2001

The text of this article has been selected from: “Iran and the United States; the Failed Past and the Road to Peace”, authored by Seyed Hossein Mousavian with Shahir Shahidsaless, exclusively sent to Iran Review.Org by Seyed Hossein Mousavian.

The tragic events of September 11, 2001 could have opened a new chapter in Iran–US relations. Iran was among the first countries to denounce the 9/11 Twin Tower terror attacks in New York. Immediately following the condemnation, the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) of Iran actively began to work within the new paradigm that was created by the September 11 terrorist attack and the subsequent US declaration of a “war on terror.” We were also concerned with the extremist Salafis and the Taliban, whose ideologies we viewed as hostile towards Shia Iran and also dangerous to the broader region.

During a fall 2012 conference in Berlin, James Dobbins told me that Hamid Karzai was the United States’ favored candidate to lead the new Afghan government. “Iranians also supported us,” Dobbins said.

Dobbins highlighted the role of Javad Zarif in the success of the Bonn Conference and the establishment of the new Afghan government. According to a report by Michael Hirsh, in an interview Dobbins,“pointed out that Karzai was a Pashtun from the south, like the majority of the Afghan population.” Tajiks from the Northern Alliance, historically rivals to the Pashtuns, led by Yunus Qanooni, tenaciously demanded the majority share in the new government “since they were the people that had captured Kabul according to Dobbins.” Dobbins  says “that by 4.00 a.m., they had reached a very critical moment. Nobody was able to change Qanooni’s mind. Zarif finally and authoritatively whispered in Qanooni’s ear that, ‘This is the best deal you can get.’ And Qanooni said, ‘OK.’”

Even after the creation of a new Afghan government at the Bonn Conference, talks continued. But suddenly, there came a veritable bombshell. President Bush, only a few weeks after the Bonn Conference, stunned us by including Iran in the “axis of evil” during his January 2002 State of the Union address. Talks continued but the Iranians’appetite for cooperation was diminished. Every person involved, from Khatami down, had the same feeling—betrayed! The word namaknashnas (a person one feeds, and later expresses betrayal rather than appreciation) was the word frequently used to characterize George Bush’s behavior.

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“How Iran Won the Afghanistan Deal with the US in 2001,” Hossein Mousavian, Iran Review, June 24, 2014.