by Eric Martin
On Saturday, the New York Times reported that Iran has been providing cash to certain high ranking Karzai administration officials. This should be a rather unsurprising revelation and, if anything, a welcomed one: Afghanistan and Iran share a common border, and Iran has legitimate interests in Afghanistan (considering Iran's proximity, it would be hard to argue that our interests somehow dwarf theirs, relatively speaking). In fact, the Taliban were/are quite hostile to Iran and the indigenous Shiite minority - so much so that Iran has been, at times, significantly cooperative with US efforts in Afghanistan.
In the present instance, Iran stands accused of funneling money to the Karzai government. Not exactly working at cross purposes considering our ongoing support for Karzai. Nevertheless, the State Department released a statement that shows such a stark lack of self-awareness that it borders on comedy:
The U.S. said Iran shouldn’t interfere with Afghanistan’s internal affairs following a report that an Iranian official gave an aide of President Hamid Karzai a bag filled with packets of euro bills.
“We understand that Iran and Afghanistan are neighbors and will have a relationship,” Philip J. Crowley, a State Department spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement “But Iran should not interfere with the internal affairs of the Afghan government.” [emphasis added]
No, apparently, only the US should "interfere with the internal affairs of the Afghan government." By, say, putting certain Afghan officials on the CIA payroll. But that's not interference, that's liberation.
At least Crowley acknowledged their status as neighbors, and that this might necessitate "a relationship." On the other hand, America is, apparently, neighbors of the world, and its relationships are always, well, special. Exceptional if you will.
For what it's worth, Hamid Karzai seems to grasp the contours of the situation, without the American-centric lenses:
At a news conference with the president of Tajikistan, Karzai told reporters that he had ordered Daudzai to receive the money, but that Iran was just one of several nations that poured money into Afghan coffers.
"This is a relationship between neighbors and it will go on and we will continue to ask for cash help from Iran," Karzai said.
Karzai said the money was used to "help the presidential office" and said they have been "transparent" payments that he had discussed with then-President George W. Bush.
"It is not hidden," Karzai said. "We are grateful for the Iranians' help in this regard. The United States is doing the same thing. They are providing cash to some of our offices." [emphasis added]
The same, but different.