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Bilateral Cooperation Agreement with Iran

Karzai in Iran amid Security Deal Row with US

Afghanistan and Iran will sign a bilateral cooperation agreement. During his visit to Tehran, President Hamid Karzai and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani agreed to start negotiations for signing the bilateral cooperation agreement between Iran and Afghanistan. President Karzai’s trip to Iran has coincided with the increased tensions between Afghanistan and the United States over the bilateral security agreement between Kabul and Washington. It also takes place after increased objections from Iranian officials to the Afghanistan-US security agreement which would allow a residual forces the of the US stay in Afghanistan.

The news of a bilateral agreement between Iran and Afghanistan is coming puzzling for many. In recent weeks, Iranian officials have sharply opposed with the security agreement between Afghanistan and the United States, and in one instance, criticized the Afghan government for entering the bilateral agreement with the United States. Karzai’s trip suggests that Afghanistan is attempting to enter into strategic cooperation with the two arch-foes simultaneously. It is a contradiction, though, that how the Afghan government is going to manage between allying with both Tehran and Washington while Iran and the US will have opposing interests not only in Afghanistan but in the region as a whole.

President Karzai is beginning a process of negotiations with Iran for a strategic cooperation while the fate of US presence in Afghanistan remains in limbo and the impasse between Kabul and Washington over the much-needed security agreement is yet to be resolved. This move by Karzai is not a good sign for the ongoing negotiations between Afghanistan and the United Sates and will affect the long-term relations between Afghanistan and the US. While US long-term support and cooperation is critical for Afghanistan’s stability, this move will further exacerbate the tensions between Kabul and Washington. The United States is already frustrated with the Afghan government over many issues, and the move would only compound to US exhaustion of the US from the Afghan mission.

Risking a long-term cooperation between US and Afghanistan is neither logical nor affordable for Afghanistan at current time. Entering a bilateral cooperation agreement at the cost of robust and sustainable relations with the US which would be crucial for Afghanistan’s economic and security development is not wise. With the intense standoff between Afghanistan and the US over the security agreement, the Afghan president was expected to deliberate more on his trip to Tehran and particularly its timing and negative publicity regarding the Kabul-Washington agreement.

However, the Afghan government needs to maintain rapport and a friendly relation with Iran. Though Iran has been involved in meddling in Afghanistan’s internal affairs and sabotaging its relations with the international community, it has also been one of the main supporters of the Afghan state in the last twelve years. The Afghan government’s attempt to establish friendly ties with Iran is understandable. However, any move for establishing relations with neighboring countries and regional powers should not come at expense of a long-term and robust economic and security cooperation between Afghanistan and the United States.

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