Tehran's Dilemma

Having already been hit by US sanctions Iran’s plummeting economy faces new challenges ahead.
File Photo
File Photo

The swift geopolitical changes taking shape around Tehran in the Sub- continent and Caucasus region has unveiled new concerns springing up in Persia; those are brewing up with every passing moment.

Advent of Taliban in Afghanistan and its total take over is perceived in Tehran as full scale progressing influence of Pakistan spreading in all the concerned domains of power in Kabul.

Tehran in the past did not experience nifty goodish relations with Taliban that witnessed even some episodes of armed conflict with Taliban of Hazara community duly backed by Tehran in Afghanistan.

However, this time both Taliban and the people of Hazara seem to have reconciled with the ground realities for the sake of sectarian harmony to prevail. Even some cadres in Taliban have come from Hazara people this time. Mundanely speaking, Tehran did not come up to have changed its support for Panjshir Tajik militia whom she considered her strong ally to push for her stakes in Afghanistan.

Tehran and Dushanbe have been irresistibly backing Northern alliance in the past which of late both of them find difficult to continue with, owing to involvement of regional giants like China and Russia, with an added effect of Islamabad's unabated support to Taliban.

Tehran's stance that Kabul needed to have an inclusive broad based Government that should provide space to Shia minority and to women, has proved to be an alibi and of course a counter narrative to her own system in Iran where Sunni minority members are barred from representing themselves in Iranian parliament and no woman occupies a significant portfolio in the Governance.

The tirade launched by Tehran through ex- president Ahmadinijad and some active parliamentarians, however, did not find buyers in Taliban circles. Eventually Pakistan’s secret interventions lead to the induction of two Hazara members in Kabul establishment.

In point of fact Tehran's concerns have been more economic than political. The ousted president Ashraf Ghani had established full trade links with Tehran through Herat border that earned Iran around billions other than oil that passed into Afghan territory through smuggling worth of millions of dollars. Notwithstanding the Taliban Government closed all the trade routes with Tehran and opened up Chaman border with Pakistan replacing Iran for mutual trade.

Thus the entire trade has shifted to North West province of Pakistan. Secondly, the newly constructed dam near Kabul has reduced the water flow to Iran and increased the flow to Pakistan. This leads to Tehran's perception of having been ditched and betrayed. The issue seems to be real and veritable that Taliban needs to be reckoned with, failing which benevolence may not prevail for long between the two Islamic neighbors. Iran has a growing inclination towards completion of unfinished Chahbahar project, to beginher own marine trade that is intended to stretch unto Central Asia and West Asia through Afghanistan and perhaps Azerbaijan too for which she has entered in to an investment deal with China for 420 billion. But China is pursuing her own belt and road initiative (BRI) through Afghanistan quite zealously under the renewed Islamabad’s influence in Kabul that has made Taliban to have eagerly accepted.

This would for sure unnerved Tehran to receive a jolt to her Chahbahar prospectus. Having already been hit by US sanctions Iran’s plummeting economy faces new challenges ahead. On the western side Tehran and Azerbaijan are locking horns on their border where Iranian troops have been heavily deployed on one side and Azeri troops have made presence on the other side.

The blame game of renewed border tensions has been leveled by Tehran on the presence of Israeli embassy in Baku which believes that Israeli diplomatic presence in Baku was 13 years old and not new. Baku believes that Tehran was scared by the joint military drills conducted recently by the three Iron brothers – Turkey, Pakistan and Azerbaijan, and used Israeli diplomatic mission in Baku only as a stalking-horse. Tehran had supported Armenia on Karabakh issue and had been desperate to maintain military and trade links with Armenia. Despite fall of Karabakh to Azerbaijan, Tehran any how maintained its trade links with Armenia, Georgia and Russia in the Caucasus through Nagorna- Karabakh region where Azeri authorities of late imposed heavy custom duties on Iranian goods that rattled Iran’s trade community.

Baku has also blamed Tehran of selling arms and ammunition to Armenia. Turkey has warned Tehran of a misadventure against Turkish origin Azerbaijan with her military might at the back of Baku in wake of an Iranian assault. This has made the situation murkier. Iran has 12 percent of her population (10 million out of 80 million) as Azeri origin people who share their loyalty with Azerbaijan and have been anti- Tehran on Azerbaijan issue. Understandably Tehran cannot afford a war with Azerbaijan, the majority onboth sides being Shia Muslims, for the fear of a revolt on part of Azeri people in its provinces bordering Azerbaijan.

Unquestionably this time Russia unlike Syria cannot back Tehran because Azerbaijan is a CSTO (Caucasus security treaty organization) member of Russia whose security has to be ensured by the Caucasus Giant. Tehran would have to rethink revisit and redesign its policy with emerging new challenges on that side. She is already in the making of a peace deal with her rival Saudi Arabia on Yemen issue which is seen as commendable step in the region. Perhaps it seems to be a mandate of newly elected president Ibrahim Raisi to get rid of Yemen scourge for Yemen civil war has been draining away Tehran’s national economy.

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