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Today’s Red Pill: 1947, Palestinians granted, but rejected independence

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[AUTHOR’S NOTE: Before reading this article, you should first select a large glass and then fill it – to the rim – with your beverage of choice. Get ready to swallow today’s Red Pill.]

You’ve likely heard of the long sought-after “Two-State Solution” for the area modernity refers to as Palestine, a solution designed to bring peace to the Middle East and end the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Get ready to gulp.

Glug.

Glug.

Glug.

Here’s today’s Red Pill: The Two-State Solution was already passed on November 29, 1947 and was officially begun on May 14, 1948. That’s right, the Arab Palestinians were granted their own independent state.

So… What went wrong?

The “great irony” of the situation, as Alan H. Luxenberg of George Washington University explains, is that [1]:

…the leadership of the Arabs of Palestine consistently rejected the two-state solution in the belief that they could have everything; the result was that they ended up with nothing.  In contrast, the Zionist leadership—perhaps more desperate for a piece of land no matter how small and certainly more pragmatic—was willing to accept very little, and they ended up with nearly everything.


BRIEF RECAP:

In my last Red Pill article, There Never Was a “Palestine,” I presented an historical timeline  of the area – from Ottoman rule through 1947 – disproving the commonly-believed myth that “Palestine” was at some point an autonomous country.

As elucidated in the article’s timeline, while the Jewish Palestinians accepted a plethora of compromises from the ruling British, agreeing to numerous concessions along the way, the Arab Palestinians refused each offer of statehood and each offer of peace.

This pattern has continued to this very day. As Luxenberg explained [2]:

[None of the plans] were entirely unacceptable to the Arab leadership, and they fought a war to exterminate the Jewish state just three years after the German effort to exterminate the Jewish people had come to an end.  After that war, the Israelis ended up with an even higher percentage of the land.

The real stumbling block to the creation of a Palestinian state are Palestinians—Hamas, in particular—who cannot bring themselves to accept a state that doesn’t comprise all of “historic Palestine.”  Tragically, the recent reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas means there will be no two-state solution—and no peace agreement.


1947 UNITED NATION TWO-STATE SOLUTION:

Picking up where the last article’s timeline left off – the year 1947 – the below timeline historically and chronologically illustrates the establishment of two states – one Palestinian Jewish, one Palestinian Arab – between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and the events that led to the Arab’s self-inflicted forfeiture of independent statehood (maps and historical photographs included).

2 April 1947

After continued talks failed to produce any viable solutions, compromises, or agreements, the British referred the “Palestine Problem” to the United Nation [3].

15 May 1947

A special committee was formed to create: the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). Representatives from 11 nations concluded that the only solution to the recurring conflict in Western Palestine would be a two-state solution [4].

16 June – 3 July 1947

UNSCOP members embarked on a tour of the British Mandated area of (Western) Palestine. Committee held 12 public hearings. Committee members were presented with evidence and testimony from Jewish groups and British authorities. The Arab Higher Committee (AHC) boycotted the UNSCOP proceedings and threatened Arab opposition leaders with death should any choose to speak with the committee [5]. Despite the Arab boycott, several Arab officials met secretly with UNSCOP members [6].


11 July 1947

4,515 “Displaced Persons” (survivors of Hitler’s Final Solution), including 655 children, sailed from Europe to the British Mandate aboard the Exodus 1947 ship [7]. Several babies were born during the voyage.

August 1947

Two maps were drawn up and put forth for a vote. See each map and accompanying plan below.
1) The Majority Plan:
“Seven nations – Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, The Netherlands, Peru, Sweden and Uruguay – recommended the establishment of two separate states, Jewish and Arab, to be joined by economic union, with Jerusalem an internationalized enclave.” [8]

August 1947

2) The Minority Plan:
“The minority proposed the establishment of a binational federal state.” [9]

8 Sept 1947

“Ultimately, the British take the refugees from the Exodus 1947 to Hamburg, Germany, and forcibly return them to DP camps [Displaced Persons camps]. The fate of the Exodus 1947 dramatized the plight of Holocaust survivors in the DP camps and increased international pressure on Great Britain to allow free Jewish immigration to Palestine,” [10].

29 Nov. 1947

The UNSCOP voted on and passed the majority’s two-state solution for the partition of Western Palestine [11]. (Resolution 181)
The “checkerboard appearance” of the UN’s official partition map “was largely because Jewish towns and villages were spread throughout Palestine. This did not complicate the plan as much as the fact that the high living standards in Jewish cities and towns had attracted large Arab populations. This demographic factor insured that any partition would result in a Jewish state that included a substantial Arab population. Recognizing the need to allow for additional Jewish settlement, the majority proposal allotted the Jews land in the northern part of the country, Galilee, and the large, arid Negev desert in the south. The remainder was to form the Arab state.” [12]
“These boundaries were based solely on demographics. The borders of the Jewish State were arranged with no consideration of security; hence, the new state’s frontiers were virtually indefensible. Overall, the Jewish State was to be comprised of roughly 5,500 square miles and the population was to be 538,000 Jews and 397,000 Arabs. The Arab State was to be 4,500 square miles with a population of 804,000 Arabs and 10,000 Jews. Though the Jews were allotted more total land, the majority of that land was in the desert.” [13]
60% of the new Jewish state was comprised of desert lands, “while the Arabs occupied most of the agricultural land” [14].
The British accepted the plan, the Palestinian Jews reluctantly accepted the plan, and the Palestinian Arabs immediately rejected it, vowing to spill blood.

Prior to the UN’s partition vote, the spokesman for the Arab Higher Committee told the UNSCOP that the Arabs were committed to drench “the soil… with the last drop of blood,” were the UN to allow a Jewish state to exist in Palestine [15].

This promise came to fruition immediately following the UNSCOP vote to partition British Palestine.

30 Nov. 1947

Arabs attack:
“Fighting began with attacks by irregular bands of Palestinian Arabs attached to local units of the Arab Liberation Army composed of volunteers from Palestine and neighboring Arab countries. These groups launched their attacks against Jewish cities, settlements, and armed forces. The Jewish forces were composed of the Hagenah, the underground militia of the Jewish community in Palestine, and two small irregular groups, the Irgun, and LEHI. The goal of the Arabs was initially to block the Partition Resolution and to prevent the establishment of the Jewish state. The Jews, on the other hand, hoped to gain control over the territory allotted to them under the Partition Plan,” [16].

 

The chairman of the Arab Higher Committee declared that the Arab world would “fight for every inch” of Palestine [17]. Days later, holy men from Al-Azhar University (Cairo) commanded the Muslim world to engage in a jihad (holy war) against the Jews [18].


THE INVASIONS OF 1948:

“Early in January, the first detachments of the Arab Liberation Army began to infiltrate into Palestine from Syria. Some came through Jordan and even through Amman . . . They were in reality to strike the first blow in the ruin of the Arabs of Palestine,” [19].

– John Bagot Glubb, The British commander of Jordan’s Arab Legion

Jan. 1948

The first large-scale attacks began. “Approximately 1,000 Arab Muslims attacked Jewish communities in northern Palestine” [20].

Feb. 1948

“By February, the British said so many Arabs had infiltrated they lacked the forces to run them back. In fact, the British turned over bases and arms to Arab irregulars and the Arab Legion[21].

Sadly, the United Nations was prevented from upholding its duty to ensure a peaceful transition between British Mandated Palestine and the May 14, 1948, official establishment of two independent states, because both the Arabs and the British never permitted the UN to enter Mandated Palestine [22].

16 Feb. 1948

The Commission on Palestine, reporting to the United Nations Security Council, cast the blame for the increasing violence in Mandated Palestine directly on the Arabs, declaring that “Powerful Arab interests, both inside and outside Palestine, are defying the resolution of the General Assembly and are engaged in a deliberate effort to alter by force the settlement envisaged therein,” [23].

16 Apr. 1948

The Arab representatives proudly and bluntly took full responsibility for the violence in front of the United Nations Security Council, stating, “The representative of the Jewish Agency told us yesterday that they were not the attackers, that the Arabs had begun the fighting. We did not deny this. We told the whole world that we were going to fight” [24].

26 Apr. 1948

Transjordan’s King Abdullah said, “All our efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Palestine problem have failed. The only way left for us is war. I will have the pleasure and honor to save Palestine” [25].

14 May 1948

The British officially end their Mandate over Western Palestine, in accordance with the UNSCOP resolution, and two independent states were created: one for the Arabs and one for the Jews, with Jerusalem remaining in the position and care of the United Nations.
That same day the independent state of Israel declared its independence [26].
The U.S. President, Harry Truman, officially recognized the state of Israel within the first hour of its birth [27].


A “WAR OF ANNIHILATION”:

“It will be a war of annihilation. It will be a momentous massacre in history that will be talked about like the massacres of the Mongols or the Crusades,” [28].

– Azzam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League

14 May 1948

Rather than celebrating the independence of a Arab Palestinian state, the Arabs rejected peace and chose war. The very night the British Mandate over Palestine ended, and the two new, independent Jewish and Arab states were officially born, the armies of five Arab states – Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon and Iraq – immediately invaded Israel [29]. “Saudi Arabia sent a formation that fought under the Egyptian command. British trained forces from Transjordan eventually intervened in the conflict,” [30]. (See the map of the invasion below.)

15 May 1948

The governments of the Arab League states issued a formal Declaration of Invasion under the auspices of establishing order and democracy, and for the liberation of Palestine [31].

19 May 1948

Jerusalem, which had been designated an independent, international city under the control of the United Nations, is cut off by Arab forces [32].

28 May 1948

The “Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem falls to the Jordanian Arab Legion” [33].

31 May 1948

The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) is formed [34].

15 July 1948

“The initial phase of the fighting ended after the Security Council threatened July 15 to cite the Arab governments for aggression under the Charter. By this time, the Haganah had been renamed the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and succeeded in stopping the Arab offensive” [35].


THE LOSS OF AN INDEPENDENT ARAB STATE:

“After tense early fighting, Israeli forces, now under joint command, were able to gain the offensive,” [36].

– The US State Department’s Summary of the Israeli War for Independence

24 Feb. 1949

The Israel-Egypt Armistice Agreement was signed [37]. (The Armistice talk had begun back on January 12, 1949.)

23 Mar. 1949

The Israel-Lebanon Armistice Agreement was signed [38].

3 Apr. 1949

The Israel-Jordan Armistice Agreement was signed [39]. (The Armistice talk had begun back in March of 1949.)

11 May 1949

Israel was admitted to United Nations as 59th member [40].

20 July 1949

The Israel-Syria Armistice Agreement was signed [41]. (The Armistice talk had begun back in April of 1949.)

(See the below map of Israel’s borders following the conclusion of the war.)

In the end, the Arab-Israeli War did not go as the Arabs had anticipated. What was intended to be a “war of annihilation,” ended in a victory of Israel.

Although the war has never officially been ended between the various Arab countries and Israel, “Arab countries signed armistice agreements with Israel. Iraq was the only country that did not sign an agreement with Israel, choosing instead to withdraw its troops and hand over its sector to Jordan’s Arab Legion,” [42].

Egypt gained control of the Gaza Strip, while Transjordan gained control of Jerusalem and the West Bank.

As illustrated by the map below, the “Arab war to destroy Israel failed. Indeed, because of their aggression, the Arabs wound up with less territory than they would have had if they had accepted partition,” [43].


Citations (in order of usage):

[1] “The Ironic History of Palestine,” Alan H. Luxenberg, George Washington University, retrieved at: https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/139168

[2] Ibid.

[3] “The Partition Plan: Background and Overview”: retrieved at http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/map-of-the-u-n-partition-plan

[4] Ibid.

[5] UNSCOP Report, 1947, retrieved at: http://www.mideastweb.org/unscop1947.htm

[6] Morris, Benny, “1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War”

[7] Immigration to Israel: Exodus 1947 Illegal Immigration Ship (July 1947), retrieved at: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/quot-exodus-1947-quot-illegal-immigration-ship

[8] See [3].

[9] Ibid.

[10] “Timeline of Jewish History: Modern Israel & the Diaspora (1946 – 1949),” Retrieved at: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/timeline-of-modern-israel-1950-1959

[11] “Palestine, Partition and Partition Plans,” retrieved at: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/palestine-partition-and-partition-plans

[12] See [3].

[13] Ibid.

[14] “Myths and Facts,” p. 30, retrieved at: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/images/mf2017.pdf#page=38

[15] J.C. Hurewitz, The Struggle for Palestine, (NY: Facts on File, Inc., 1948), p. 231.

[16] “Milestones: 1945-1952,” The United States Office of the Historian, retrieved at: https://history.state.gov/milestones/1945-1952/arab-israeli-war

[17] New York Times, (December 1, 1947).

[18] Facts on File, p. 48. See [14].

[19] John Bagot Glubb, A Soldier with the Arabs, (London: Staughton and Hodder, 1957), p. 79.

[20] “Israeli War of Independence: Background & Overview (1947 – 1949),” retrieved at: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/background-and-overview-israel-war-of-independence

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Security Council Official Records, Special Supplement, (1948), p. 20.

[24] Security Council Official Records, S/Agenda/58, (April 16, 1948), p. 19.

[25] Howard Sachar, A History of Israel, (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979), p. 322.

[26] See [20].

[27] See [10].

[28] “Interview with Abd al-Rahman Azzam Pasha,” Akhbar al-Yom (Egypt), (October 11, 1947); translated by R. Green.

[29] See [20].

[30] See [16].

[31] The Arab League: Declaration on the Invasion of Palestine (May 15, 1948),retrieved at: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/arab-league-declarationon-the-invasion-of-palestine-may-1948

[32] See [10].

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] See [20].

[36] See [16]

[37] “Israel War of Independence: Israel-Egypt Armistice Agreement (February 24, 1949),” retrieved at: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/israel-egypt-armistice-agreement-1949

[38] “Israel War of Independence: Israel-Lebanon Armistice Agreement (March 23, 1949),” retrieved at: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/israel-lebanon-armistice-agreement-1949

[39] “Israel War of Independence: Israel-Jordan Armistice Agreement (April 3, 1949),” retrieved at: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/israel-jordan-armistice-agreement-1949

[40] See [10].

[41] “Israel War of Independence: Israel-Syria Armistice Agreement (July 20, 1949),” retrieved at: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/israel-syria-armistice-agreement-1949

[42] See [20].

[43] Ibid.

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Foreign Affairs

NY Times invokes Martin Luther King Jr. to attack Israel

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NY Times invokes Martin Luther King Jr to attack Israel

When a nation the size of New Jersey is surrounded by enemies and is the subject of incessant condemnation from the United Nations, it’s natural to assume thoughtful people will take a complete look at its circumstances before deciding which side of a contentious debate to support. This is why many Americans still choose to support the nation of Israel despite mainstream media’s efforts to frame it as evil.

Unfortunately, the debate is so complex, most Americans form their perspectives based on very limited data. Passions are so strong on both sides that it often comes down to which side’s message is loudest in the ears of those deciding who to support. The Israel-Palestine debate has been ongoing since the tiny nation was first formed and ramped up greatly following the attacks on Israel in 1967 that resulted in necessary expansion.

Today, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights are all considered “occupied” territories by a majority around the world, at least among those who are paying attention. Despite clear evidence that the very existence of Israel would be threatened if these lands were “returned” to the Palestinians, most of the world calls for the two-state solution as the path to peace.

On top of the disputed lands, the way that Israel maintains peace within its own lands is labeled as oppression against Palestinians living there. The core of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement’s message is that the Palestinian people are being persecuted. To support this premise, an activist at the NY Times is invoking Martin Luther King Jr and his opposition to the Vietnam War as the roadmap by which BDS activists should muster their own courage and build more support to fight the nation of Israel.

Time to Break the Silence on Palestine

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/19/opinion/sunday/martin-luther-king-palestine-israel.htmlReading King’s speech at Riverside more than 50 years later, I am left with little doubt that his teachings and message require us to speak out passionately against the human rights crisis in Israel-Palestine, despite the risks and despite the complexity of the issues. King argued, when speaking of Vietnam, that even “when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict,” we must not be mesmerized by uncertainty. “We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.”

To be clear, King was opposed to a war that resulted in the deaths of 1,350,000 people, which is nearly the same amount of Arabs living in Israel currently. King was opposed to a war in which no Americans were attacked prior to us getting involved. Israel is attacked regularly from multiple groups in and out of the nation who support the Palestinian movement. King was opposed to a war that took focus and resources away from his cause.

As he said, “We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.”

To be fair, the author of the NY Times article, Michelle Alexander, was using his anti-war speech to demonstrate the courage King displayed as inspiration for the courage she feels BDS supporters need today. Had she left it there, then there wouldn’t be much of a need to respond. However, she continued in the article to speculate King may not have been happy with Israel back then. Worse, she implied that he could have been a supporter of the BDS movement today.

This opinion is beyond questionable. King’s motivations for not wanting to outwardly support Israel’s actions following the Six Day War were for the sake of his movement, not based on personal feelings on the matter. It made sense to not take a side in a debate in which many of his supporters of African or Middle Eastern descent may have objected.

It is becoming increasing common in the BDS movement to point solely towards the actions of the Israeli government while ignoring the reasons for these actions. They often talk about homes being bulldozed, but they ignore the fact that punitive demolitions are a result of terrorist attacks. I am not in favor of these demolitions, but I would never hide the facts to support my claims. The BDS movement realizes calling out Israel for bulldozing Palestinian homes is most effective if the reasons are never mentioned.

As pro-BDS articles go, this one was strikingly coherent. This is a bigger problem than the unhinged hate articles we often see from BDS supporters. It’s easy to see how this one-sided portrayal in a publication as strong as the NY Times that invokes an icon like Martin Luther King Jr can garner support for the movement from those who would otherwise never consider it. The article is very careful to cut off cries of antisemitism and is written for rational thinkers rather than emotional feelers.

But therein lies the problem. It invokes King and his famous speech knowing full well few will actually read it. If they take the time to read or hear it, they’ll wonder what any of that has to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The NY Times is betting on the easy odds that nobody’s going to take the time.

None of the seven reasons King gives for opposing the Vietnam War could be applied to Israel. Invoking the speech and insinuating he would have been a BDS supporter is a disingenuous attempt to equate his righteous activism to the BDS movement itself.


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Culture and Religion

Rep. Ilhan Omar’s excuses attacking Israel by saying she attacks Saudi Arabia, too

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Rep Ilhan Omars excuses attacking Israel by saying she attacks Saudi Arabia too

New Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has been outspoken against the Israeli government for years. Some of her public condemnations including calling Israel evil and claiming they’ve “hypnotized the world.” But Israel is an ally to the United States and her role in the House of Representatives will put her position to affect change on our relationship.

Her excuse for attacking Israel is that she also attacks Saudi Arabia.

“I say the same things if not worse when it comes to the Saudi government,” she said. “I’ve called for boycotts of hajj, and boycotts of Saudi Arabia, because to me it is important when you see oppression taking place – when you see regression – when you see our values being attacked as humans, you must stand up, and it doesn’t matter who the inhabiters of that particular region might be.”

My Take

It wasn’t just Omar that is concerning. The narrative being formed by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour was equally discouraging. How she framed the relationship between AIPAC and the U.S. government was thinly veiled spite towards the Jewish group.

“There’s generally sort of a rite of passage for politicians in the United States, and that is to sort of profess sort of fealty or at least pay homage to AIPAC, the pro-Israel PAC that is very, very prominent,” she said.

I won’t even try to deconstruct that silly statement.

As our EIC pointed out, Omar’s perspectives are a real concern on the foreign relations front:

There is no room for bigotry of any kind in the House of Representatives. We need to watch closely as she toes the line between calling out the nation of Israel for what she perceives as offenses and actual antisemitism, which often follows.


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Foreign Affairs

Iran and the Taliban: A tactical alliance?

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Iran and the Taliban A tactical alliance

However, the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan, the fear of a resurgent ISIS in Afghanistan, and water issues have prompted Tehran to ramp up its engagement with the Taliban. This tactical alliance will enable Iran to further expand its influence in Afghanistan.

Iran and the Taliban have long had their ups and downs. In 1998, the two sides nearly came to a direct clash when Taliban forces killed Iranian diplomats, though the incident ended without a major conflict. However, the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan, the fear of a resurgent ISIS in Afghanistan, and water issues have prompted Tehran to ramp up its engagement with the Taliban. This tactical alliance will enable Iran to further expand its influence in Afghanistan.

Iran has had covert contacts with the Taliban, the most dangerous terror group in Afghanistan, for many years. But recently, Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), went public with the relationship, claiming that contacts had been made with the aim of “curbing the security problems in Afghanistan.”

The announcement came as a surprise not because the public was unaware of Iran’s secret relations with the Taliban, but because Tehran has always tried to keep its ties to terror groups an “open secret” in an attempt to maintain plausible deniability. Why did Tehran decide to go public about the Taliban connection now?

A review of the relationship’s history may help to explain the mullahs’ thinking. Relations between Iran and the Taliban have long had their ups and downs. During the period of Taliban rule, Iran saw the group as a threat to its interests. The two sides almost came to a direct clash in September 1998, when Taliban forces kidnapped and killed nine Iranian diplomats and one journalist in the Iranian consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) vowed revenge and prepared to launch an all-out attack. But the crisis ended without a major clash, perhaps due to the fear that Islamabad would retaliate in support of the Taliban or that Afghanistan might become a quagmire for Iranian forces similar to that experienced by the Soviet Union in 1979-89.

The 2001 US-led military operation that led to the collapse of Taliban rule prompted the Iranian leadership to reconsider its original calculation and recalibrate its approach. It welcomed high-level Taliban figures who escaped to Iran (e.g., Abdul Qayum Zakir and Mullah Naim Barich) and began extending support to Taliban fighters.

While the two sides are on different ends of the religious spectrum, Tehran views the Taliban as a useful point of leverage against the US. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a NATO force composed of American, British, Canadian, and other troops, was created by the UN in 2002 and tasked with training the fledgling Afghan army and protecting the government of Hamid Karzai and his successor, Ashraf Ghani. The Iranian regime viewed the ISAF with concern, as it feared the US might use Afghanistan as a base from which to launch a kinetic attack on Iran. The Taliban insurgency thus became viewed by Tehran as a tool with which to keep American forces preoccupied.

To assist in the Taliban’s fighting of the ISAF, Iran allowed the Afghan terror group to open an office in Tehran and invited its leaders to attend a two-day International Islamic Unity Conference held by the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought in Tehran.

Iran’s support for the Taliban did not terminate even when President Barack Obama assured the mullahs that the military option was no longer official US policy towards Iran. Intelligence reports indicate that Tehran’s military and financial support for the Taliban has in fact escalated ever since. Afghan military officials have accused the Revolutionary Guards of providing military, financial, and logistical support to the terror group, to the extent that Tehran’s support enabled the Taliban to capture districts in western Afghanistan, including the provinces of Farah and Ghor, and the Taywara district. There are also reports indicating that Quds Force operatives had a “physical presence” in Ghor assisting Taliban fighters in their offensive against the central government.

Fighting ISAF was only one of the goals of the Quds Force in Afghanistan. Drug smuggling from Afghanistan to Iran has been a profitable business for the Quds Force, which is known for its extensive ties to drug cartels in South America. In 2012, the US Department of the Treasury (DOT) designated Brig. Gen. Gholamreza Baghbani, the chief of the Quds Force in the Zahedan office, a narcotics trafficker. The DOT document noted that in return for Iranian business, Afghan traffickers moved weapons to the Taliban.

Financial incentives aside, the emergence of ISIS in Afghanistan – especially in provinces that border Iran, such as Herat, Farah, and Nimruz – rattled the Iranian regime, prompting the leadership to ramp up its engagement with the Taliban. Unlike al Qaeda and the more malleable Taliban, the radical anti-Shiite ISIS poses a real threat to Iran’s interests in Afghanistan. Providing better training for the Taliban was thus not only a way to undermine the American-led ISAF, but a barrier to a new ISIS caliphate across the Afghan border.

Various reports indicate that the IRGC created a training camp in South Khorasan province (Khorasan Jonobi) to train Taliban fighters, providing them with weapons and explosives. The Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation (Komite Emdad Imam Khomeini) in the same province is said to be donating untold amounts of capital to the terror group in addition to calling for volunteers to fight alongside Taliban forces.

Some observers have directly linked improvements in the Taliban’s performance, and ISIS’s consequent inability to establish a strong foothold in Afghanistan, to Iranian support. Since mid-2017, Taliban and ISIS forces have regularly clashed in eastern Nangarhar province, with the Taliban easily defeating ISIS thanks to the military support it has received from the Quds Force. As one commentator put it, the “scale, quality, and length of training is unprecedented and marks not only a shift in the proxy war between the United States and Iran in Afghanistan but also a potential change in Iran’s ability and will to affect the outcome of the Afghan war.”

Other commentators have noted that Iran’s backing of the Taliban’s assaults on government forces were linked to water issues. Iran has been attempting to enable the Taliban to derail energy projects that are currently under construction, namely the Poze Lich Hydropower plant in Ghor, and the Bakhshabad and Salma dams in the neighboring province of Farah and Herat, respectively. The construction of these dams, which would massively boost local energy and water supplies, is not acceptable to Iran. On July 5, 2017, President Hassan Rouhani declared that Iran “cannot remain indifferent to the issue [water dams], which will damage our environment.” According to Rouhani, “construction of several dams in Afghanistan would affect Khorasan and Sistan-Baluchistan provinces,” and Tehran “is not going to stand idly by.”

It is worthy of note that the publicizing by Iran of its ties to the Taliban came days after reports appeared on talks between the US and the Taliban over proposals for a ceasefire in Afghanistan. Iran is sending a message to Washington and Kabul that if its concerns are not addressed, it can sabotage any attempt at a permanent peace in Afghanistan. Certainly, given Iran’s ties to the Taliban and the new regional arrangements (i.e., Trump’s decision to withdraw half of US forces from Afghanistan), Iran will be able to further expand its political, economic, and sectarian influence in that country.

Dr. Farhad Rezaei is a member of the  Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) in Washington, DC and the co-author of Iran, Israel, and the United States: The Politics of Counter-Proliferation Intelligence (Rowman & Littlefield, NY). @Farhadrezaeii


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