By Aygul Hanova
In the light of sanctions against its nuclear program and rapidly changing security environment, Iran is enforcing policies of rapprochement with its regional neighbors. Alliance with Afghanistan is growing in importance for Iran.
While Iran has been attempting to boost trade with Pakistan earlier in August, Afghanistan is another point in Iran’s policies towards the East. Recently, Afghanistan’s deputy at the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development Ahmad Sadeghi revealed that Afghanistan is aiming to connect to Europe through Iran. Construction of the railway linking Iranian city of Khaf and Herat in Afghanistan is already in progress. The railroad that will start functioning at the end of this year is projected to be linked from Herat to the Persian Gulf. The project is aimed at facilitation of a trade and transportation link between the countries involved.
Earlier this year, Iran allowed Taliban to open an office in the country. Before, Shia regime in Iran was opposed to Sunni Taliban, especially due to Taliban’s murder of Iranian diplomats in 1998. However, Iran’s partnership with Taliban is aimed at having a power footing in Afghanistan to counter American influence. Iran is not welcome to American presence in the region and at home. Moreover, due to Taliban regime’s policies before the US intervention, drug trade between Iran and Afghanistan was minimized. But with US overthrowing the Taliban, Iran has suffered a significant increase in the amount of narcotics smuggled into the country.
Iran has used media in Afghanistan as a weapon against the US. It has sponsored anti-American media campaigns in Afghanistan. Iran is also the fourth largest investor in Afghanistan. It spends around $100 million a year to sponsor media in Afghanistan, and it has provided $500 million official assistance for reconstruction projects and building of schools for Afghan Shi’ites in 2010. Furthermore, Iran provides assistance in infrastructure, agriculture and healthcare improvement toward the latter.