Afghan Taliban Keen to Boost Economy and Trade with Iran
Shunned by the world, Afghanistan’s Taliban regime has turned to Iran to enhance and boost its economy and infrastructure. Earlier this month, a 30-member Taliban delegation was in Tehran to talk about trade, transportation, agriculture, and infrastructure, as well as Afghan migrants in Iran.
The more pressing issues shared by both countries are migrants and water rights, especially over Hirman/Helmand river that is the main source of irrigation water in western Afghanistan and eastern Iran. Ahmad Vahidi, Iran’s Interior Minister, said the issue of water has cast a shadow on both countries’ medium- and long-term plans.
The visit saw Afghanistan and Iran signing five economic cooperation agreements, mainly with civil aviation, free trade zones, transportation and mining.
Iran and Afghanistan’s Water Issue
Water security is a core issue between the two countries. In May clashes erupted between Iran and Afghanistan. Iran President Ebrahim Raisi accused Afghan’s Taliban government of restricting access to water from the Helmand River.
With Iran facing two years of consecutive droughts, the water issue flares up. Raisi warned the rulers of Afghanistan to immediately give the people of Sistan-Baluchistan their water rights. However, the Taliban officials said there isn’t enough water anymore because of plummeting rainfall and river levels.
Torbojorn Soltvedt, principal MENA analyst, said the water dispute with Afghanistan shouldn’t be taken lightly. “Water resources in Iran are under severe pressure and water stress has been a trigger of large-scale civil unrest in recent years.” Moreover, Iran has been weakened by ongoing western sanctions and anti-government protests. “With the authorities still struggling to keep a lid on nationwide protests, a water security crisis in eastern Iran would come at a particularly bad time.”
Iran and Afghanistan Intelligence
Despite Iran not recognizing Taliban rule in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Tehran is working with the Taliban regime to combat terrorism. Esmail Khatib, Iran’s intelligence minister, said the West has driven IS out of Syria and Turkey and into northern Afghanistan. “They have established themselves in mountainous areas where the Taliban government has little access and are carrying out attacks against members of the Taliban. We are working closely with the Taliban to take action against them.”
Furthermore, Iran intelligence and the Taliban in a joint operation nabbed Israel’s Mossad agents.