As the withdrawal of the last American troops from Afghanistan accelerates, after twenty years of presence, the fall of Kabul and the return of the rebel movement of the Taliban to power, of which the free world keeps the unfortunate memory of the period 1996-2001, seems more imminent.
At first glance, the arrival of the radical Islamist movement to the government is a success and a source of satisfaction for all jihadist groups and fundamentalist regimes in the world, including that of Iran. But in Tehran the return of the Taliban produces conflicting feelings. For fundamentalist Iran, which mistreats women with the sophistication of an ancient culture in the face of Afghan rudeness, the Taliban victory in Kabul produces more concern than joy at the defeat of the United States.
Iran maintained very tense relations with the Afghan fundamentalists during its period in power for the repression of all religious minorities, including the Shiites of the Hazara ethnic group. In 1998, the two countries came close to going to war after the death of nine Iranians in the Taliban attack on consulate of Tehran in Mazar-e-Sharif, north of Afghanistan. The underlying dispute is related to religious differences between Sunnis and Shiites, which magnify the radical and fanatical character of Khomeinists and Taliban.
Then come geostrategic reasons. A Taliban victory would give impetus to radical Sunni movements in the Middle East, to the detriment of the Shiites who today – for example – control the Iraqi government. And, in addition, it would produce a situation of chaos and civil war in some regions of Afghanistan that may favor a wave of refugees heading to Iran. In the midst of the economic depression – accentuated by the US sanctions – and the social emergency of the pandemic, the last thing Tehran wants is to face a humanitarian crisis from the neighboring country.