Iran Errata: Parchin and the Common Ground of Afghanistan

At Foreign Policy, Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies writes about the dispute between Tehran and the International Atomic Energy Agency. If you’ll recall, the IAEA is trying to determine if Iran once conducted high-explosives tests as part of nuclear weapons R&D at its Parchin military complex. Back in November 2011, Gareth Porter, as well as anybody, showed how futile it was to follow that lead in a piece that began:

A former inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has repudiated its major new claim that Iran built an explosives chamber to test components of a nuclear weapon and carry out a simulated nuclear explosion.

Fitzpatrick writes (emphasis added):

But an IAEA visit now may not uncover much — and not just because Iran has had plenty of time to hide any incriminating evidence in the eight-plus years since the alleged activity took place. The testing experiments that were reportedly conducted there used surrogate material to simulate nuclear components. Unless nuclear material was present for some other reason, IAEA environmental sampling would not detect any telltale signs, giving Iran an excuse to trumpet its vindication.

Which, presumably is why Fitzpatrick entitled his article “The Parchin Trap.”

Meanwhile GQ is not only running Matthieu Aikins’s account of the September 11, 2011 Taliban attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul, it also published another piece by him. In State of the Taliban 2012: The Secret Report, he excerpts and analyzes the classified NATO report leaked to certain media outlets in February. What’s that got to do with Iran? Funny you should ask.

Iran has long been alleged to be playing both sides of the conflict in Afghanistan, which the report makes clear:

“The Iranians have provided moderate support to what coalition forces refer to as the Herat Insurgent Faction, or “Mujahedin of Martyr Akbari”, which is a smaller insurgent group operating primarily in Herat and Badghis Provinces. However, Iran has offered far more support to Farsi-speaking groups, many of which currently support [the government of Afghanistan], rather than pro-Taliban elements.”

In a 2010 article about the “bags of cash” Iran regularly bestows on Iran, Christian Science Monitor, Ben Arnoldy wrote that

… Iran and the US ultimately share an ally in Karzai, since both nations are opposed to a Taliban resurgence.

When in power, the Taliban killed Iranian diplomats and oppressed the Shia minority in Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s new Constitution, written after the NATO invasion, officially recognized the rights of the Shiites for the first time in Afghanistan’s history. Karzai’s government also includes members of the Northern Alliance whom Iran supported in previous decades.

Also, if you’ll recall, after 9/11, as the Asia Society reported:

… a remarkable period of U.S.-Iran cooperation began as Iran joined the U.S. to overthrow the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Iran then participated in the U.S.-sponsored Bonn Conference and helped to establish a new Afghan government that took office in December 2001. In Bonn, Iranian officials even approached their U.S. counterparts about engaging in dialogue on broader issues.

Afghanistan is pivotal to that shared regional security that states (such as North Korean, as well) that are viewed as hostile often seek with the United States — an opportunity of which, in recent years, the United States inevitably fails to take advantage.