November 3, 2013


Talk to Iran, It Works (RYAN C. CROCKER, 11/03/13, NY Times)

Immediately after 9/11, while serving in the State Department, I sat down with Iranian diplomats to discuss the next steps in Afghanistan. Back then, we had a common enemy, the Taliban and its Al Qaeda associates, and both governments thought it was worth exploring whether we could cooperate.

The Iranians were constructive, pragmatic and focused -- at one point they even produced an extremely valuable map showing the Taliban's troop strength and positions just before American military action began.

They were also strong proponents of taking action in Afghanistan. Iranian-American agreement at the 2001 Bonn conference on Afghanistan was central to establishing the Afghan Interim Authority. After I was sent to reopen the United States Embassy in Kabul, we forged agreements with Iran on various security issues and coordinated approaches to reconstruction. And then, suddenly, it all came to an end when President George W. Bush gave his famous "axis of evil" speech in early 2002. Iran's leaders concluded that despite their cooperation with the war effort, the United States remained implacably hostile.

Real cooperation effectively ceased after the speech, and the costs were immediate. At the time, we were in the process of negotiating the transfer of the notorious Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, from Iranian house arrest to Afghan custody and ultimately to American control. Instead, the Iranians facilitated his covert entry into Afghanistan, where he remains at large, launching attacks on coalition and Afghan targets.

Posted by at November 3, 2013 8:04 PM

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