November 13, 2008

Obama administration to engage Iran on Afghanistan

The Washington Post reported yesterday that the Obama administration will look to Iran for assistance in Afghanistan. Obama strategists have said that the idea is to have Iran as an interlocutor rather than another element which impedes progress. Iran’s record in Afghanistan can be seen as a both a positive force for change– aiding US troops against insurgents and helping to overthrow the Taliban–and an obstacle to progress by funding the insurgents.
The incoming administration cites many reasons as to why Iran and the US can be on the same page about Afghanistan, not the least of which is that neither the US nor Iran “want Sunni extremists in charge of Afghanistan.” Additionally, the growing violence threatens not only the US’ continued objective of supporting a relative democracy but also the stability of surrounding states.
Heading up this policy change regarding Iran is the notion that there are reconcilable elements within the Taliban and other likeminded groups, a notion that the State Department has heretofore dismissed. However, Obama’s National Security Advisers along with General Petraeus agree that the end of the war in Afghanistan will be marked not by democracy scoring a win in the region, but rather by taking advantage of the fact that the a large number of Taliban forces on the ground are “more opportunistic than they are ideologically motivated.”
The concept that this policy rests on, the idea of reconciliation with our sworn enemies, is both creative and far-fetched. Until the US can show Afghan militants the benefits of laying down arms and not chopping off heads, we are merely moving towards a tentative cease-fire. Inviting Iran to the drawing board can only help the US to achieve a more multilateral approach in this unconventional war. The inclusion of Iran seems to be the only part of the plan that is not farfetched and may engender success.

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