Tehran’s offer to help with intra-Afghan talks is welcome. Iran has good relations with many Afghan factions, especially the Hazaras. And for enduring and lasting peace in the war-torn country, success of the ongoing dialogue that excludes no stakeholder is the key. Thus, Iran’s engagement is critical in the intra-Afghan peace negotiations.
The US must not let its differences with Tehran undermine or overlook the Iranian offer. Iran’s desire to play a constructive role in securing stability in Afghanistan is a good sign. Indeed, from the beginning, Iran has remained a firm believer in the idea of an inclusive Afghanistan. Bringing Iran on board and seeking its help to facilitate the dialogue process will mean that all regional stakeholders are on the same page regarding peace and stability in Afghanistan.
This also provides an avenue for some backchannel diplomacy between the US and Iran. Interestingly, the US and Iran are aligned on foreign policy goals in Afghanistan. Both sides want an Afghanistan that is not embroiled in a civil war. Similarly, neither Washington nor Tehran wants to see groups like Islamic State (IS) flourish in Afghanistan. The leadership of the two countries understand too well the consequences of IS’ presence in Afghanistan. Moreover, the two rivals agree that Kabul needs a power-sharing mechanism that does not entirely topple the existing government.
The Trump Administration has been known to make sudden changes of heart, but the hope for the two to find common ground as a result of discussions on Afghanistan are slim. Nevertheless, even if Iran and the US cannot resolve their own issues, coming together for the sake of Afghanistan’s future would still be received warmly.
After Tehran’s proposal, the ball is in the US’ court. If the American foreign policymakers are looking at the long-term scenario, they will include Iran as a stakeholder in the Afghan peace process.