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Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

How the US and Iran stopped cooperating in Afghanistan.

For awhile in 2001 and 2002, during the aftermath of 9/11, the US and Iran were beginning to cooperate in an effort to clean the Taliban and al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan. According to historian and national security analyst Gareth Porter, however, that US-Iran cooperation was quickly scuttled by defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other Washington hardliners — both for ideological reasons and because Dubya's administration was shifting its attention to the upcoming Iraq invasion.

In October 2001, as the United States was just beginning its military operations in Afghanistan, State Department and NSC officials began meeting secretly with Iranian diplomats in Paris and Geneva, under the sponsorship of Lakhdar Brahimi, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. Leverett says these discussions focused on "how to effectively unseat the Taliban and once the Taliban was gone, how to stand up an Afghan government".

It was thanks to the Northern Alliance Afghan troops, which were supported primarily by the Iranians, that the Taliban was driven out of Kabul in mid-November. Two weeks later, the Afghan opposition groups were convened in Bonn under United Nations auspices to agree on a successor regime.

At that meeting, the Northern Alliance was demanding 60 percent of the portfolios in an interim government, which was blocking agreement by other opposition groups. According to U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan James Dobbins, Iran played a "decisive role" in persuading the Northern Alliance delegate to compromise. Dobbins also recalls how the Iranians insisted on including language in the Bonn agreement on the war on terrorism.

The bureaucracy recognised that there was an opportunity to work with Iran not only on stabilising Afghanistan but on al Qaeda as well. As reported by the Washington Post on Oct. 22, 2004, the State Department's policy planning staff had written a paper in late November 2001 suggesting that the United States should propose more formal arrangements for cooperation with Iran on fighting al Qaeda.

That would have involved exchanging intelligence information with Tehran as well as coordinating border sweeps to capture al Qaeda fighters and leaders who were already beginning to move across the border into Pakistan and Iran. The CIA agreed with the proposal, according to the Post's sources, as did the head of the White House Office for Combating Terrorism, Ret. Gen. Wayne A. Downing.

But the cooperation against al Qaeda was not the priority for the anti-Iranian interests in the White House and the Pentagon....

Porter goes on to describe how hardliners in Dubya's administration torpedoed this tentative cooperation between the US and Iraq — including a 2002 Iranian offer to help supply 'training, uniforms, equipment, and barracks' for a significant part of the new Afghan government's military.

This story of lost opportunities for cooperation between the US and Iran is particularly sad given the current bad relations between the two countries. Perhaps if US hardliners hadn't been so focused on the upcoming [pointless] Iraq invasion, the early cooperation in Afghanistan could have led to significantly better Iran-US relations in other areas. Maybe the Khatami presidency wouldn't have failed. Perhaps the Iranian hardliners wouldn't have won the last national election.

But we'll never know. And, this magpie suspects, no one in the White House or Pentagon are losing any sleep over that fact.

Via Inter Press Service.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:01 AM | Get permalink




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