Kabul: Iran has allowed the Taliban to open an office in eastern Iran, and has discussed providing them with surface-to-air missiles, raising the potential for cooperation with the insurgents, senior Afghan and Western officials have said.
According to the officials, Iran’s shift came after the US and Afghanistan sealed a long-term partnership agreement in May, and in an effort to expand its options for retaliation should its nuclear facilities be attacked, reports the Wall Street Journal.
"Iran is willing to put aside ideology and put aside deeply held religious values...for their ultimate goal: accelerating the departure of US forces from Afghanistan," the official said, referring to the fact that Iran has permitted an official Taliban presence in the country as both sides "see America as the bigger enemy".
According to senior officials, the office set up in the eastern Iranian city of Zahedan in late May, is intended to allow Iran to coordinate with the Taliban against the US.
Zahedan is situated near the Pak-Afghan border and on an easy transit route from the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the Taliban leadership is based.
The possible introduction of surface-to-air missiles should be seen as Iran’s contingency planning if its nuclear facilities are attacked by Israel or America, coalition officials said.
The Obama administration has described such a strike as an option if Iran proceeds with nuclear weapons production. Iran, however, says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
A senior coalition military official in Kabul said the Iranians continue to provide "low-level lethal support" and training in Iran to the insurgency, but hold back from supplying "signature weapons" such as the explosively-formed penetrator, or EFP, mines that were widely used by pro-Iranian insurgents against US troops in Iraq.