Squeeze on Taliban Only Benefits Russia

The December 19, 2000 UN Security Council resolution slapping tough sanctions on Afghanistan was also a coming together of two adversaries who had fought over this land, and ironically only a month before a line-up of Cold War veterans took over the administration in Washington, DC.

The Russian-American consensus over punishing Afghanistan was quickly followed by the launch of a new long-term program of political and military cooperation between Russia and Iran. In this case, Iran is considered as much of a rogue as the Taliban ruled Afghanistan.

Russian defense minister Igor Sergeyev called it "a new chapter in our relations, marked by the reopening of military cooperation between Moscow and Tehran," while Iranian defense minister Ali Shamkhani said it was a "historic day."

They said they had found common ground on a number of regional issues, including NATO expansion and the civil war in Afghanistan.

The Russian visit, the first of its kind since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, comes less than two months after the Russians notified Washington that they were scrapping a secret understanding reached in 1995 not to supply Iran with military hardware such as tanks and submarines.

Russia followed its Iran act with the signing of a defense contract with India worth more than $3 billion -- one of its largest ever arms deals.

Like the United States, both India and Iran are avowed enemies of the Taliban regime. In addition, Russia may become the first country in decades to sign a bilateral political accord with China.

At the same time, Russia continues to play the Islam card to herd its former serfdoms in Central Asia and the Caucasus, under its flag in opposing Afghanistan. The standard Russian line is that Afghanistan, with its "drug dealers" and its "Islamic extremists" has become a base for international 'terrorism' and threatens security in the entire region.

Led by information from the Russians about alleged terrorist camps in northern Afghanistan, the Americans have agreed to extend whatever support they can to Moscow and the Central Asian republics - Uzbekistan and Tajikistan being in the forefront - to block the "alarming advance of the evil."

The Russians allege that the IMU (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) was making forays into Uzbekistan from bases in Afghanistan. Ironically, Russian analysts have indicated that the IMU is actually based in Tajikistan.

Interestingly at the same time, the Security Council was punishing Afghanistan, the New York-based Human Rights Watch released a report that detailed dozens of accounts by victims and their families of brutal and systematic torture at the hands of police and security forces in Uzbekistan. The report alleged that police use beatings, suffocation, electric shock, rape, and other sexual abuse to coerce victims to confess to such crimes as ''religious extremism,'' and to force them to incriminate others.

The anti-Afghan moves of the Clinton Administration only indicate that Islamophobia has driven the United States to support the efforts of President Putin to shore up his teetering regime. The Russian president's Chechnya policy has been a total failure, and the anti-Afghan effort is another try at opening a front to help restore his credentials. Putin hopes that the anti-Afghan move will be favorably seen by the Russians, especially the military elite as a revenge for the humiliation suffered by them in Afghanistan.

The cooperation that Russia is extending to the U.S. in Afghanistan has its benefits. It is interesting that following the June 3, 2000 presidential summit between Presidents Putin and Clinton, Washington not only became less vocal on Chechnya, in early August the two countries also set up a bilateral working group on Afghanistan.

The rekindling of the Cold War with the Cold Warriors in power in Washington and a National Security advisor whose strong forte is Soviet Union studies; one can only look forward to interesting developments. Perhaps, the admirers of Ronald Reagan, may once again, be pressed to seek the aid of Afghans and transform terrorist into mujahideen to punish Russia for peeping into the work of America's peeping at them.

The Chinese allege that the Taliban are supporting the Uighur freedom movement in Xinjiang (East Turkestan). However, the Liberation Front of East Turkestan, is directed from Almaty, in neighboring Kazakhstan.

The only territorial link between Xinjiang and Afghanistan is the narrow Wahkhan corridor, which opens up in Massoud controlled territory. In accusing the Taliban, for Beijing seems to be merely mirroring Moscow and Washington's policy of engineering the Taliban's political demise at all costs.

Despite, this, the beleaguered Pakistani military regime has also agreed to help China root out any support that may be trickling into East Turkestan.

The coming together of the United States, Russia, China, India, and the rabidly secular former Soviet republics in an Islamphobic alliance is understandable, but the inclusion of Iran only shatters its Islamic credentials.

The squeeze put on Afghanistan may have only one winner, Russia. In further deteriorating the conditions in Afghanistan, Russia will bask in the satisfaction of destroying a people who once humbled its mighty machine. At the same time, it hopes to emaciate a people who are fiercely committed to their principal of honoring those who seek shelter against oppression.

No doubt, sheltering and protecting guests is an admirable act. However, the Taliban need to step forward in embracing their estranged brethren and make Afghanistan a real bulwark against the Islamophobic forces. Perhaps such a move may oblige Iran to reexamine its outlook toward a fellow Islamic republic.


Omer Bin Abdullah is editor-in-chief of Horizon's Magazine, a publication of the Islamic Society of North America. He is also a weekly columnist for iviews.com and lives in Virginia.

  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: Afghanistan, Foreign Policy, Iran, Russia, Taliban, Washington - D.c.
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