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Afghanistan May Be A Bellwether For Saudi-Iranian Rivalry

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Afghanistan May Be A Bellwether For Saudi-Iranian Rivalry

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Written by Dr. James M. Dorsey

Boasting an almost 1,000-kilometer border with Iran and a history of troubled relations between the Iranians and Sunni Muslim militants, including the Taliban, Afghanistan could become a bellwether for the future of the rivalry between the Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia.

Had the United States withdrawn from Afghanistan several years earlier, chances would have been that Saudi Arabia would have sought to exploit military advances by the Taliban in far less subtle ways than it may do now.

Saudi Arabia was still channelling funds in 2017 to anti-Iranian, anti-Shiite militants in the Iranian-Afghan-Pakistani border triangle and further south on the Pakistani side of the frontier despite Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts to distance the kingdom from identification with austere interpretations of Islam that shaped the country’s history and that it shared with the Taliban.

“The Taliban is a religious extremist group which is no stranger to extremism and murder, especially murdering Shias, and its hands are stained with the blood of our diplomats,” noted an Iranian cleric, referring to the 1998 killing of eight Iranian diplomats and a journalist in Afghanistan.

Outgoing Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif outlined the potential tripwire Afghanistan constitutes for Iran.

“If Iran doesn’t play well and makes an enemy out of the Taliban soon, I think some Arab countries in the Persian Gulf and the US would attempt to finance and direct the Taliban to weaken Tehran and divert its attention away from Iraq and other Arab countries. The biggest threat for us would be the formation of an anti-Iran political system in Afghanistan,” Mr. Zarif said.

Comparing the potential problems for Iran with an Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban or a neighboring country at war with itself to Saudi Arabia’s Houthi troubles in Yemen is tempting. Saudi Arabia was, before the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban’s control of the country. At the time, it saw virtue in stirring the pot on Iran’s borders.

Much has changed not only in the last two decades but also in the last few years since both Saudi Arabia and some Trump administration officials like national security advisor John Bolton were toying with the idea of attempting to spark ethnic insurgencies inside Iran. And Afghanistan is neither Yemen nor are the Taliban the Houthis.

The Taliban have sought in recent weeks to assure Afghanistan’s neighbors that they seek cooperation and would not be supporting militancy beyond their country’s borders. Iran last month hosted talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government that ended with a joint statement calling for a peaceful political settlement and declaring that “war is not the solution.”
It has been war ever since.

From the Saudi perspective, it would not be the first time that the Taliban have said one thing and done another, including keeping an alleged promise prior to 9/11 that Osama Bin Laden would not be allowed to plan and organize attacks from Afghan soil and subsequent refusal to hand over the Saudi national.
All of this is not to say that Afghanistan could not emerge as a venue for Middle Eastern rivalries involving not only Saudi Arabia and Iran, but potentially also Turkey and Qatar. It probably will be albeit one in which battles are likely to be fought less through proxies and more economically and culturally and in which alliances will look significantly different than in the past.

A crucial factor in how the rivalries play out will be the Taliban’s attitude towards non-Pashtun ethnic and religious groups.

“If Afghanistan returns to the situation before September 11, 2001, when the Taliban were at war with the Shia Hazara and the Turkic Uzbeks, then Iran and Turkey will almost inevitably be drawn in on the other side—especially if Saudi Arabia resumes support for the Taliban as a way of attacking Iran… Ideally, a regional consensus could successfully pressure the Taliban to respect the autonomy of minority areas,” said Eurasia scholar Anatol Lieven.

Supporting the Taliban, a group that is identified with violation of women’s rights, could prove tricky for Prince Mohammed as he seeks to convince the international community that the kingdom has broken with an ultra-conservative strand of Islam that inspired groups like the Afghan militants.
It would also complicate the crown prince’s efforts to project his country as a beacon of a moderate and tolerant form of the faith and complicate relations with the United States.

Moreover, Prince Mohammed’s religious soft power strategy may be working. In a sign of changing times, Western non-governmental organizations like Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation look to Saudi Arabia as a model for the Taliban.

“The way Saudi Arabia has developed in the past 10, 20 years is remarkable. I have seen with my own eyes how much (they) have reconciled modern life, women’s rights, women education, work-life, and still guarding (their) Islamic values. This could be a certain role model for the Taliban,” said Ellinor Zeino, the Foundation’s Afghanistan country director, in a webinar hosted by the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies (KFCRI).

Saudi steps so far to moderate the Taliban and facilitate a peaceful resolution of the Afghanistan conflict are however unlikely to have ingratiated the kingdom with the Taliban. A Saudi-hosted Islamic Conference on the Declaration of Peace in Afghanistan in the holy city of Mecca in June attended by Afghan and Pakistani Islamic scholars and government officials condemned the recent violence as having “no justification” and asserting that “it could not be called jihad.”

Fuelling the fire, Yusuf Bin Ahmed Al Uthaymeen, the secretary-general of the 57-nation, Saudi-dominated Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), told the conference that the Taliban-led violence amounted to “genocide against Muslims.”

The rhetoric notwithstanding, conservative Iran’s inclination to accommodate the Taliban as President-elect Ebrahim Raisi takes office, in a twist of irony, could see the Islamic republic and the kingdom both backing a group with a history of fire-breathing anti-Shiism if it comes to power in Kabul.

Said Mehdi Jafari, an Afghan Shiite refugee in Belgium: The Iranians “have much more to gain from the Taliban. Hazaras are a weak player to choose in this war. Iran is a country before it is a religious institution. They will first choose things that benefit their country before they look at what benefits the Shia.”

A podcast version of this story is available on Soundcloud,Itunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spreaker, Pocket Casts, Tumblr, Podbean,Audecibel, Patreon and Castbox.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore and the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute


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The saudi “leadership” are imbeciles, plain and simple. They can now lose multiple wars and continue to piss away billions.

Bravo clowns. Without direct western support you would not even have electricity throughout your ridiculous wasteland.

Mad Max anyone?

Peter Wallace

Without oil they would still be living in mud huts without Western support . With oil the US propped up the US $ as the number 1 world reserve currency and massively expanded their industrial military factories that rain hell on people all around the world.

Peter Wallace

In the meantime thousands more civilians are once again caught in the middle of a never ending war. It is getting to the stage that they will accept the devil as leader if it means peace.

US & EU are Zion slaves

That is true and also most Afghans who are not extremist Sunnis are running away again. They are videos of hundreds of Afghans trying to crossing into Turkey and Iran to enter to EU.
Poor Afghans can never take a break, they getting invade by Pakistani extremist Sunnis once again.
One of my Afghan friends showed me a video where the Pakistani Taliban asked some villages to give their daughter to the Taliban they disagree and the Taliban forcefully took the young girl, her mother tried to stop them.

But hey those Pakistani Sunni cunts here think Taliban are changed, fuk you and your kind. Seeing these kinds of shi* and some morons dare to call me anti-Muslim/Islamophobia and a Shi’a.
That’s what makes me sick when some morons here suck on the Taliban so hard, I hope that happens to them. I wish they were women and get raped by ugly mfs.
I hope a civil war breakout and Russia-China-Iran help Afghans and let those Pakistani terrorists killed and rape each other.


The Qataris have more influence on the Taliban than Saudi… Even Iran have more influence than Saudi when it comes to the Taliban.
The Taliban of yesterday is not the Taliban of today… Today we have more educated and international kind of Taliban.

US & EU are Zion slaves

Okay, there are two types of “Taliban”, Afghan and Pakistani – both are mainly Pashtuns.
They are more Pakistani Pashtuns and Pakistan (ISS and Saudis) funded Pakistani Taliban and Saudis made a lot of Islamic schools for those Pakistani Taliban – the Pakistani Pashtuns are backward hardcore Sunnis (extremist Sunnis). It was the Pakistani Taliban that took Afghanistan before not the Afghan Taliban – ofc Pakistan wants a lot of things from Afghanistan, but let me be clear they are not there to help at all (they are not even Afghans in the first place). I hope you understand why Afghans hate Pakistan and let India in to piss on Pakistan. Ofc, there would be some here who say other shi* and take Pashtuns’ side and ignore the other 50% of Afghans. Or say childish things like they are under Taliban rules therefore they “love” Taliban…NO?
Did you people also forget ISIL in Syria and Iraq? Did the Syrian or Iraqis welcomed them and like living under ISIL rules?
Which country funded ISIL? The Wahhabi States and yanquis, Zion helped ISIL.

Iran-Taliban, no they don’t, Iran is the main player to protect Shi’a in Afghanistan, Taliban (Pakistani and Afghans) are extremist Sunnis, they kill Shi’a because Taliban are animals. Even now they attacking Hazara because they’re Shi’a, they are hundreds of videos that show Taliban extremist Sunnis killed Hazara because they are Shi’a. Backward Sunnis hate Shi’a to the core – remember it was Saudi that created those schools in Pakistan for the Pakistani Taliban. Remember ISIS also followed Wahhabism books (Saudis) before they made their own shi*.

“The Taliban of yesterday is not the Taliban of today”
What made you say that? why would they change? they think they won and wouldn’t change.
“Today we have more educated and international kind of Taliban.” really?
Russia just days ago said more ISIS and other extremist Sunnis are going to Afghanistan.
Taliban never prove anything that they have changed, do you live under Taliban rules?
For the past 20 years, they killed civilians with yanquis, the past 20 years they hide in Pakistan. How are they change, talk the talk, walk the walk. Them saying BS doesn’t mean anything.

US & EU are Zion slaves

“Today we have more educated and international kind of Taliban.”
Yes sir,
“Disturbing Footage Emerges Of ‘Taliban’ Stoning In Afghanistan”

Don’t worry but you could say that was 2015 and they are changed.


How about Iran just kills all these dirty bastard sunni wahabbi motherfuckers? They need to be put to death right away…….Nobody wants em around…….

Icarus Tanović

No sunni, or whatever, just Wahhabi biological waste.

US & EU are Zion slaves

They are 20 million Pakistani Pashtuns in Pakistan and 11 million in Afghanistan just saying.
Iran doesn’t care about Afghanistan as a whole, as long as those backward Sunnis don’t attack Shi’a and fight against their brothers ISIS/Al-Qaeda LOL something that the Taliban agree to do so btw. Ofc no one believes it and the US without any problem bomb the Taliban and call them ISIS that’s 100% they did it just a few days ago, and no they killed the Taliban and they kill the Taliban just because.

The best case for Afghans is they break the country into two-part – (North) Good Sunnis+Shi’a vs (South) Backward Sunnis and ISIS. That way the US bomb ISIS with the Taliban and wouldn’t hurt Afghan civilians.
Pakistani Taliban should fight back and take their land from Pakistan and create a new country 100% Pashtuns (North of Pak + South of Afghanistan) also even now they don’t care about Pakistan.

As for how crazy as that might sound we just might see it, Russia doesn’t want backward Sunnis bordering their central Asia countries.
China wants a safe road to M.E from Afghanistan as well, and in no world, the US would let that happen if the Taliban take over – that’s what yanquis wants – they can just bomb the roads and railways to stop China. What are yanquis going to say? they bomb roads to stop ISIS and hey Taliban are bad, it is not a war crime if they do it to terrorists.

Taliban are scared of Iran even the Pakistani ones, they don’t dare to attack Iran.

Those things happen after the Afghan “government” fails…so it is still waiting and see what gonna happen, after Biden the next clown might go back to Afghanistan who knows. Maybe the Taliban take over and the US bombs them to stop China, we might see ISIS and other backward Sunnis grow more head in Afghanistan. It is fun to watch and see what going to happen tho.


brah, yous right on most counts except that the china chickunn don’t need Afghanistan to reach the ME….theys got the Tajik/ Uzkek/ Torkmen route wide open to reach Iran……..Nobody needs Afghanistan. Not even Iran! Even punjabi dalit knows that he can never control all of Afghanistan…….its a worthless outfit that country……..nobody wants it! Just primitive religious/ backward tribal people…….who da fuq wants them no? Iran just don’t want wahabbi motherfucker sunni/ wahabbi brooding over there where then it has to get involved in extermination activities……..Russia is also similar minded……same same with China. However, keep in mind….CPEC is a fail, so now Iran is having doubts on the Iran/ China deal…..what a shame no?

Last edited 1 month ago by Ahson
US & EU are Zion slaves

Yes, you are right China doesn’t need Afghanistan, that is true.
But I said “China wants a safe road to M.E from Afghanistan as well” “As well”.
China does a lot of deals with Afghanistan and so why not make a road to Afghanistan as well. Also, Afghanistan is rich in rare minerals most of the country is mountains.

Wahhabism-ISIS-Al-Qaeda-extremist Sunnis: Without a question, the Taliban can’t do anything against ISIS and other big terrorist groups, look at Pakistan they still can’t finish ISIS..I wonder why, maybe because they’re extremist Sunnis in Pakistan in the first place.
But you need to remember – a country without a government is the best place to grow terrorists. That was yanquis plan for Afghanistan, Russia said they’re more terrorists moving in Afghaistan – that is great news for yanquis. Now, Iran-Russia-China have to deal with them.
There are terrorist Wahhabi in China and yanquis hope ISIS attack Iran more and Central Asia countries. That is the problem.

Pakistan is failed state and it got nothing to do with how think might go with Iran. Also, Iran is not stupid or in need of China as much as Pakistan is in the first place.


true, Pakistan is a failed state…….not much can be done anymore…..They’re done!

Americunt LOSERS

Saudis are sh1thead losers and illiterate Wahhabi Bedouins besotted by goats and camels and we have seen the result of their “military capability” in Yemen where initially a few Zaidi kids chewing khat and sporting flip flops beat the living crap out of the Saudi cowardly camelfuking military advised by Americunts, Jews and NATO arsewipes and having a military budget bigger than Russia at $76 billion in 2018, not counting the $2 billion a month being wasted on African and western mercenaries. If Iran just sneezed the Saudis will need a change of diapers.


dont be so sure about this one and in fact taliban if they achieve a goverment will be sanctioned by everybody and dollars wont help them much if they dont have serious trade on their borders specially on their border with iran and seriously taliban cant run afghanistan on dollars it will collapse them if they base themselves from the beginning on this usury they will already have lost the entirety of afghanistan if they repeat failures of this huge dimension

Last edited 1 month ago by farbat

taliban seeks chinese support for economic support already which is a huge sign of things going pretty much out of control for the west


i dont expect taliban to be able to sustain itself for much neither the government of course these talebs and other warlord like people will exist for much longer but most of them are quite close to iran because they know that iran can wreck them entirely and they will continue to dislike turkey turkmenistan russia and basically the entire north of them because that didnt change for millenia why would it change now and if afghanistan cant fight anarian in their lands than they will move north to do it so i dont expect tajikistan to be hit because its a tough nut for them and they might try but turkmenistan is obvious to see them trying many times

Last edited 1 month ago by farbat
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