Images of Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s recent public meeting with the Taliban sparked backlash from Iranians on social media condemning Zarif’s endorsement of the terrorist group. One Iranian tweeted an image of Zarif with Taliban leaders captioned “Shame on you #Zarif. These images are a source of shame for Iranians.” BBC reporter Sattar Saeedi posted a video of Iranian border guards welcoming and joking with members of the Taliban at the two countries’ border. Saeedi describes the members of the Taliban as being so comfortable with the Iranian guards that one member is even heard “wanting to take a souvenir photo with an ‘Islamic Republic’ soldier.” Another Iranian joined the conversation, saying that “Taliban has reached Taliban ”, suggesting that both the Iranian government and the Taliban are religious extremist groups with distinctly aligned goals of terror. Most notably, a senior advisor to the Office of the President of Afghanistan used a still frame from the same video, lamenting the Islamic Republic’s support of the Taliban. Without directly mentioning Iran, he accused the regime of helping the Taliban to further their goal of overthrowing the Afghan government, adding that, “Disruption of revenue collection and the market is one of their main goals.” Javad Zarif often faces harsh criticism from Iranians for his role in legitimizing and promoting the Islamic Republic abroad, but this blatant admission of Iran’s strong ties to the Taliban received particularly negative attention.
As the Taliban now claim control over approximately 85 percent of Afghanistan; their highest percentage since 2001, observers contend Iranian military and monetary support has significantly aided the Taliban’s ongoing quest to overthrow the country’s elected government. Since 2010, U.S. military assessments have unequivocally traced the Taliban’s training mechanisms and armaments to the Islamic Republic’s Quds Force, an elite paramilitary unit tasked with exporting the Islamic Revolution abroad. In fact, these assessments revealed the Quds Force had paid Taliban leaders $1,000 USD per every one American soldier murdered and $6,000 USD per every one American vehicle destroyed. A 2018 statement from Ali Samkhani, a senior Iranian politician, further substantiated evidence of Iran’s militant aid operations with the Taliban as the bureaucrat openly admitted to supplying the terrorists with “small arms.” More recently, in 2020, several top Taliban leaders traveled to Tehran for clandestine consultations with Iranian heads of state amidst the country’s ongoing peace negotiations with the United States. In January, Samkhani again acknowledged Iran’s affinity for the Taliban on Twitter by praising the group’s dedication to destroying the United States.
On Thursday, Javid Zarif — the Islamic Republic’s chief propagandist and acting foreign minister — again praised the Taliban in a meeting by stating he was “honored” to stand beside his jihadist brothers in their holy fight against “foreign” occupiers. Apologists for the Islamic Republic in the West, long known to have ties to Javad Zarif, have seemingly attempted to portray the regime as playing an important diplomatic role.
The Islamic Republic’s continued support of the Taliban underscores the Islamic regime’s efforts to bolster a religious extremist stronghold in the region, despite the objections of Iranian people who call for peace and security.