Afghanistan Table of Contents

Afghan resentment toward Iran has also grown. The canker is older and deeper than with Pakistanis and Arabs. Sharing the same plateau, language and a long overlapping history in which Persians/Iranians have had the greater portion of cultural grandeur, the modern relationship has been awkward. Part of this derives directly from Iranian perception of the Shias of Afghanistan, especially the Hazaras, as oppressed sectarian brethren. This has been a sensitive matter for the Pushtun leadership which inherited Abdur Rahman's conquest of the Hazaras. Pushtuns also resent having to accept the Persian language and traditions in order to achieve elite cultural status. For their part Iranians are frustrated by their loss of Herat in the mid-nineteenth century.

In diplomacy and especially in its involvements in the Hazarajat, Iran has made clear its conviction that it has a significant stake in the outcome of Afghanistan's tragedy. During the Soviet war Iran made a concerted effort to train and support Hazara groups for the purpose of introducing extensions of its own revolution into Afghanistan. Several parties were organized and infiltrated into the Hazarajat. The most effective were Pasdaran and Nasr. They confronted the Shura led by Sayyid Beheshti, a coalition of traditional Hazara notables which had taken control of the region in 1979. During the middle 1980s, the Iran-supported groups seriously weakened the Shura, but their imposition of revolutionary doctrine backfired, forcing them to make concessions and to accept joint rule with the Shura.

At the time of the Soviet withdrawal, Iran made a strenuous effort to convince the mujahidin leadership to concede as much as 25 percent of the representation in the proposed Afghan Interim Government to the Shias. This proposal was vehemently rejected.

Relations became further complicated by Iran's overtures to the Najibullah government and Moscow after the Soviet withdrawal. Teheran intimated endorsement of Soviet and Najibullah's proposals for a possible political settlement of the war. In return, the Kabul government gave assurances it would not interfere with the defacto autonomy of the Hazarajat, a region over which it had lost virtually all control.

Such outside involvement complicated and distorted the mujahidin effort to defeat the Kabul forces. Especially disabling was their dependence on neighbors for much of the financial and material support for continuing the war. As had happened in the past, all the Afghan protagonists in the struggle to control their country were beholden to outside forces whose agendas had major implications for the political outcome. With the withdrawal of Soviet and United States support at the end of 1991, the impact of regional meddling increased.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress