So much for the conventional wisdom.
From the Daily Times, with thanks to PR:
LAHORE: As NATO troops in Afghanistan have begun intercepting sophisticated Iranian arms bound for the Taliban, US, NATO and Afghan officials are growing more concerned about Iranian policy in Afghanistan, says a Knight Ridder report.
It’s long been conventional wisdom that Iran would do nothing to destabilise Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s shaky government or aid the Taliban, against whom Iran nearly went to war with in 1998. The Taliban obtains the lion’s share of its weapons and other aid from the proceeds of opium trafficking and from supporters in Pakistan and Arab nations, the report says.
The recent seizures of Iranian arms by British troops in Afghanistan’s war-torn southern Helmand province are challenging that assumption, however.
“Iran appears to be playing a very small role, but it appears to be increasing,” said Seth Jones, an expert at the RAND Corp, a research centre that’s close to the Pentagon.
The intercepted weapons include the first so-called explosively formed penetrator bombs, devices that spit molten copper plugs that can penetrate the armour of American tanks, troop carriers and Humvees, said US officials who requested anonymity because the matter is classified.
The Bush administration accuses Iran of supplying the same weapons to Shia militias in Iraq. Iran denies the charge. Still, US officials and independent experts don’t think that Tehran wants the Taliban returned to power. “The Iranians don’t want the Taliban back,” said Barnett Rubin, a leading scholar on Afghanistan who met with Iranian officials during a recent visit to Kabul. “That is a red line for them.”