Iran and its Relationship to Afghanistan After the Nuclear Deal: A New Era for Constructive Interaction?

PRIO Paper

Tadjbakhsh, Shahrbanou & Mohammad Fazeli (2016) Iran and its Relationship to Afghanistan After the Nuclear Deal: A New Era for Constructive Interaction?, PRIO Paper. Oslo: PRIO.

How would the conclusion of the nuclear deal and the lifting of the sanctions on Iran be expected to alter relations with Afghanistan? The opening of Iran can be turned into the victory for soft power and a model for diplomacy, reform and moderation. But to gain a rightful place as a benevolent and strong neighbor whose dividends of peace could spread over the region, Iran needs to avoid specific pitfalls, this policy brief warns, looking specifically at six elements: governance, economic opportunities, water tensions, security guarantees, cultural heritage, and cooperation with the West.

What does success depend on? First of all, much of the cooperation is preconditioned on the future of the nuclear deal and how momentum will be sustained. Other significant hurdles must also be overcome: refraining from using Afghanistan as a terrain for the Iran–Saudi Arabia conflict, curbing pressure on Afghan migrants in Iran that feeds negative public sentiments in Afghanistan, avoiding the entry of Afghans in any sectarian wars in Afghanistan and in the Middle East.  ​

Should the hurdles discussed in this brief be successfully managed, tangible progress can be made on the most basic challenges that the region has to grapple with: 1) Economic revival of the region, boosted by renewed relations between Iran, India and Pakistan which could then provide new opportunities for jobs and prosperity in Afghanistan through trade and transit; 2) Preventing and curbing violent extremism and terrorism through reviving the common civilizational values, religion, culture, philosophy, literature and history of the region.