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    Cover story

    Afghan survey: Comments
    Part Two

    September 14, 1998
    The Iranian

    The following are the first batch of comments from respondents to The Iranian Times survey on the Iran-Afghan crisis, conducted on Sept 11-13. For the first batch of comments click here.

    All comments will be gradually posted during the week. For survey results click here. Also see Hooshang Amirahmadi's analysis.

    NOTE: Each comment is from a different person. The names and email addresses have been withheld.

     - Protect Iranian soil, period.
     - Diplomtic yet firm

    - Taleban only understand force
    - Check Taleban barbarians
    - Ultimate irony
    - Irresponsible adventurism
    - Allow wisdom to take charge

    - Negotiate instead of going to war
    - Our own fault
    - Hard questions

    - Good war to forget our problems
    - Diverting attention?
    - War will dampen people's hope

    - Stop "little Saudia Arabia"
    - Win political mileage
    - A civilized response
    - No war, please
    - Only benefits the West
    - Government that cares
    - Expose Taleban
    - Meanwhile...
    - Their business is their business
    - U.S. problem left to us
    - Show alternative way forward

    - Justice for criminals
    - History will repeat itself
    - Can't afford another war
    - Afghans desperately need help

    - War will worsen domestic problems
    - Support Afghan goverment

    - Right to stand against attacks
    - Iran turns peacemaker
    - Punish primitive Taleban
    - Focus on ourselves
    - Helping ourselves by helping them
    - No winners
    - International punishment
    - Engage in diplomacy
    - Don't waste resources
    - Responsibility to protect Afghans
    - No right to intervene alone
    - War will help U.S. stock market

    For the first batch of comments click here.

    Show alternative way forward

    The people of Iran, and the government that represents them, have an opportunity to share a tremendous gift with the outside world - they are being given the opportunity to show an alternative way forward in the current crisis with Afghanistan. In the past twenty years Iran has been through revolution and war while in the West we have, for the most part, experienced peace and prosperity. We have become soft to the notion of war, ignorant of its real costs, and cynical enough to suggest it as an economic solution. But true pacifism is a hatred of war. I would relish the irony of a country thought to only solve its problems through violence, finding a solution to the current crisis through firm diplomatic dialogue and a sense of compassion. We need wisdom in the Middle East now - not blind aggression and hateful retaliation. Iran has much to gain, and so does the rest of the world, if it carries an olive branch to counter the horror of the Taleban.

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    Afghans desperately need help

    The innecont, defenceless people of Afghanistan desperately need help and our silence in this regard will make us comparable to that of the Western nations led by the U.S. We, Iranian and Afghan nations, share a long, and sometimes painfull historical background, and there must be some differences (in practice) between our reaction to what is going on in Afghanistan, than that of the Weste and the rest of the world for that matter. I am aware of the economic and military situation of our beloved country, but just put yourself in the place of those families who lost their loved ones. The decision wouldn't be that difficult.

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    Diplomtic yet firm

    Iranian action should be diplomtic yet firm. The deployment of forces at the border was a good idea. It should be followed by serious diplomatic activity to ensure that the Taleban are held accountable for their atrocities. The diplomatic activity will also allow Iran to come out of political (and economic) isolation, allowing President Khatami's ideas a chance to come to fruition.

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    Justice for criminals

    During past year or so, Iran has been trying to establish an image of a stable government and nation. A military confrontation with the Taleban, no matter how small scale, will paint a less attractive picture in the minds of many potential tourists and foreign investors. Nevertheless, the criminals should be brought to justice, and a diplomatic solution should be reached. Furthermore, Iran should do her share in aiding any group of people in need of assistance and in danger of being massacred, whether they are Shi'ite, Jew, Christian, or Hindu. Iran, alone, cannot solve the turmoil that is apparent in Afghanistan.

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    Taleban only understand force

    I don't think diplomacy will work with the Taleban. Show of force is the only language they understand. With the other groups, when they are on the loosing end, they are willing to negotiate and when they are winning they don't show any willingness for talks. Remaining silent will only give them more confidence and will make them even more aggressive. So Iran should persue both a military strike to show them that it is not going to be easy for them and not in their best interest to engage in a direct conflict with Iran and at the same time begin diplomatic initiatives through the U.N. and other international organizations. Killing Iranian diplomats is a clear declaration of war and must be answered properly. However, the Iranian government should avoid a long-term military conflict with Taleban.

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    International punishment

    Iran should attract international probes to explore the human genocide in Afghanistan. It is possible to punish those responsible for the killings of the Shi'ite minority only through the international court of justice. Iran should ask for the help of the European community, Russia and the U.S.

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    Allow wisdom to take charge

    The murder of Iran's diplomats by the Taleban is as good as a decleration of war. However, Iran must keep cool and allow wisdom to take charge instead of anger. Iran cannot afford to wage a full scale war against Afghanistan at this point, even if there seem to be ligitimate reasons for doing so. With the recent U.S. missile strikes against Afghanistan, and the fact that the current regime in Afghanistan is only recognized by three countries (Pakistan, UAE and Saudi Arabia), and the two security council resolutions in support of Iran's position so far, there probably won't be too much international objection to Iran's incursion. This would be premature and may get Pakistan's strong military involved also. Furthermore, the casualties would be high on both sides and with the current economical crises in Iran, there will be even more economic pressure on the ordinary citizens of Iran if this war drags on, as it inevitablly will. If anything, war will create more problems for Iran than it would solve. However, Iran should launch a limited strike (maybe bomb the Taleban airbase by the border using the air force and hit the Taleban headquarters in Kandahar with scud missiles). At the same time, Iran should seriously consider giving more support to the opposition forces and let Afghanis deal with their problem, while strengthening its security on its border regions with respect to drug trafficers. This has been a wake up call for Iran, especially to the sleepy eyes in charge of our foreign office in Tehran.

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    History will repeat itself

    Even though such potential intervention may seem humanitarian on the surface, deep down it's another way of diverting attention from all internal economic and socio-political challenges for which the government is incapable of any equitable resolution. Export of ideaology in any form is condemend. The result?Well we saw what happended with Iraq. History will repeat itself.

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    Protect Iranian soil, period.

    Iran should not intervene in the internal affairs of any country. Any attempt by Iran to protect the Afghan Shi'ite minority from massacres must be part of an international effort within the U.N. framework. In my opinion, the only justifiable action by the Iranian armed forces is to protect the Iranian soil from foreign invasion.

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    War will help U.S. stock market

    With the world economy in a slump, it appears (as in the past) that some sort of a war will help the U.S. stock market. In this respect, the events around the Iran-Afghan border is a "solution" to this problem. In other words, some kind of a war will improve the world and in particular the U.S. economy. I hope Iranian leaders, although I have little respect for them, are wise enough to realise this and will not fall into this trap.

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    Stop "little Saudia Arabia"

    I consider it a great lie that the barbaric Taleban group is claiming that their group killed our diplomats i without orders from the higher rank. Under any circumstances this barbaric group and its master (Pakistani government) must be held accountable for the unforgivable crime they commited.

    1) Although I am in favor of the second option in the your first question -- "carry out a limited military strike" -- I pity the Afgan people a lot. The Taleban are the fruit of Pakistani goverment and the Iranian government must object to the Pakistani regime who is behind all those dirty games. Like we Iranians, Afgan people are very much tired of the game called war either during the Soviet era or after that their own factional fighting.

    2) Giving more support to other Afghan factions who oppose the Taleban is a must. Because it will be very dangerous to have a little Saudi Arabia or UAE on our eastern border. Having a country like Pakistan as a neighbor is a enough.

    3) - Should Iran intervene to protect Afghan civilians belonging to the Shi'ite minority in Afghanistan if the Taleban forces carry out further massacres? Iranian government should have protected them long ago. If our government had carried out the right policy towards Afghanistan, we should not have had more than two million Afganis living in Iran. But as we say, "Mahi ra Har Mughe as Aab Begiri Tazeh Aast" I hope our government will not hesitat any more than it already has. We are all human and we must not let a stone age group such as the Taleban to do such a dirty things in our backyard.

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    No war, please

    There will be no profit for us in getting enganed in a war with Afghanistan. We lost nine of our dear diplomats because it was our fault to keep them in a country where we already knew wasn't safe enough for them. I think it would be much better than we lose nine people instead of starting another nine-year war or cauding the deaths of another nine-thousand young soldiers. As an Iranian, I love my country. Please do Not start a war.

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    Helping ourselves by helping them

    Afghanistan should be under Iranian support. During the Shah's regime, Afghanistan was supported by Iran. Once the revolution occured in Iran, the Soviet Union decided to attack Afghanistan (and we know the rest of that story). Now with our government neglecting Afghanistan for the past 20 years, once more the Pakistani-backed government has taken over Afghanistan. I believe it's our duty to help Afghani people specially Afghani women, to determine their own future. If we don't, the future will be dark -- similar to what we went through in the early 80's and 90s. If we help our neighbors we also help ourself; we will have less refugees coming to Iran, and a friend in the region.

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    No winners

    Iran and the rest of the world should stay out of the conflict and let the people of that country decide their own destiny without the interference of others. As bad as the Taleban may be, it should be left to the people of Afghanistan to accept or reject them. As the situation stands, nobody will come out of it a winner. All the countries involved in the conflict are pursuing their own interests, the welfare of the people of Afghanistan is surely at the bottom of their list, if it's on the list at all. It is ironic that the Iranian regime accuses the Taleban of backwardedness while it has presented to the world nothing but that. The people of Iran are a witness to this fact.

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    Engage in diplomacy

    Any fighting with the Taleban will have far more dangerous consequences than a limited fight between Iran and Afghanistan. The Pakistanis and the Saudis have openly supported the Taleban financially and by supplying arms. They will not stand aside and risk the results of their backing destroyed. And all this is amidst improvements in Iran's relations with Arab countries in general and the Saudis in particular. Other regional powers have also interests in the Afghan war. India, because of the Kashmir situation, and Russia, because of its borders with Central Asian countries, strongly oppose the Taleban. Iran should only engage in diplomatic initiatives, cooperating with Russia, India, Turkey and Central Asian countries to ensure a complete isolation of the Taleban so both the Pakistanis and the Americans lose their financial interests in Afghanistan. After all it is all about oil, isn't it.

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    Don't waste resources

    Iran should keep out and not waste its resources on fighting these barbaric Afghans.

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    Historic responsibility to protect Afghans

    I think that Iran should support the legal government of Afghanistan financially, militarily, politically and with all other possible means. Afghans are part of our nation, in fact. We have the historical responsibility of protecting them.

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    Check Taleban barbarians

    Although I am totally against violence, especially when it is of an organized military type , in this case, I have to make an exception . Taleban's treatment of their fellow citizens has been absolutely horrid. They are a bunch of cruel, uneducated, sadistic simpletons, and it is everyone's duty to protect the Afghan civilians. So far neither the U.N., nor any country has done anything concrete to check these barbarians. If Iran is the only country that is willing to do this, then I salute the Iranian politicians and the army for trying to put an end to the misery of the Afghan people. How long should Afghan people suffer? Let Iran do this not only for its own sake but for the sake of the Afghan people, who after so many years of suffering deserve a better life, not a continuing Taleban-induced nightmare.

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    War will worsen domestic problems

    Falling into another war is the worst thing that can happen to Iran. Specially now, that Iran is facing lots of political and economical problems. I hope Iranian governement is aware that another war will produce a lot of political, economic, social and cultural problems both for the people and the governement. Every other reaction is better than starting the war.

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    Iran: Troublemaker turns peacemaker

    I believe that the Iranian government should take some initiative in punishing such violations of diplomatic protocal. Such an action would symbolize the positive change of Iran's international policies and its role in the world community. Being an infamous ex-violator of diplomatic protocal (the American embassy crisis), it would be a good example for the Iranian government to take action against regional troublemakers, similar to the actions of Nigeria in its region of the globe. From this kind of action, in addition to such reputation-enhancing actions as its aid to the Bosnian Muslims, Iran would be well on the way to getting a needed facelift from regional troublemaker to regional peacemaker. Of the two titles, the latter delinates Iran more power. I sincerely hope the foriegn policy makers in Iran feel the same way.

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    Diverting attention?

    On the last question regarding protecting Afghan Shi'ites, I would think that the U.N. should assemble a task force which Iran could then join. On the whole war with Afganistan question I think ONLY diplomatic means should be persued. It seems that Iran is always trying to kick off some kind of external "event" just to divert attention from its internal political and economic problems.

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    Ultimate irony

    It is a disgrace to our civilization to have people in power who get away with such ridiculous ideology and are able to treat women so horribly. It is the ultimate irony that the Taleban make the religious fanatics in Iran seem like saints!

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    Punish primitive Taleban

    Iran should puunish the primitive Taleban very severly and target and kill their leaders. Otherwise all other neighbors may think that Iran is weak. Therefore, they got to attack these butchers and support their legitimate foes. We should help to force these animals out of Afghanistan and hopefully into the groud (6 feet).

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    U.S. problem left to us

    It is criminal for the world community which by its direct intervention in the affaires of Afghanistan created the current disorder to ignore the consequences of its actions. The present system of govenrment in Afghanistan is to a large extent the result of the American intervention in Afghanistan during the Soviet era and the subsequent abandonment of the country after the fall of Communism. The responsibility for the destruction of the country's infrastructure (legal and physical) lies with the United States. If it chooses to ignore this responsibility, then other countries will by definition fill the vacuum, sometimes to the benefit of the United States but, more often than not, to its detriment.

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    No right to intervene alone

    Neither Iran nor any other country has not the right to give arms to minorities or to intervene militarily in any other country. If Iran feels responsible for the security of Afghan people, it has to ask the U.N. to take international action. Acting unilaterally is not justified, like what the U.S. has done recently and was criticized all over the world. Iran's actions in Iraqi Kurdistan to encourage civil war between different Kurdish fractions have been wrong. Similar actions in Lebonan have been wrong. Interfrence in another country brings anarchy and damages Iran's image.

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    War will dampen people's hope

    The whole world is watching and waiting and hoping for Iran to commit herself in yet another bloody war with the Taleban in Afghanistan. I sincerely believe and feel strongly that Iran should stand firm and protect it's borders against not only the Afghan's but also the other bordering countries who would love a slice of Iran to add to their own country. Let's not forget Iran might be regarded as a third world country but for some reason which we all know, the whole world shivers from its power. Iran should concentrate more in building herself up and making herself stronger not only in a military sense but also economically and financially. I think the people of Iran have really had enough of hardships. I think another war would not only dampen their hope for the future but also leave them with somewhat less faith in God, if that has not already happened.

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    Good war to forget our problems

    I am tired of hearing that Afghanistan is a country. Next thing you know Rasht will be demanding autonomy! Afghans don't have enough of a distinct culture. They are essentially Iranians. They speak a Farsi dialect and can't seem to run things for themselves. I say we make them part of Iran so they can get on with their lives. Plus we can use a good war to take people's mind off of silly things like economic reforms and personal freedom.

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    Only benefits the West

    Beginning of war between Iran and Afghanistan will only provide big profits for the Western countries and the arms factories and Iran and Afghanestan will loose a lot of their young people and money.

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    Right to stand against attacks

    We have right to stand against anyone who attacks our people just like what the U.S. has done. This is not war, it's defense.

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    Negotiate instead of going to war

    The first priority must be to stop the shooting war. If Iran wants to help the Shi'ite minority it would be better to offer food and medical supplies as a bribe for better treatment than to escalate the violence. A decade of negotiations would be better than ten days of war.

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    Government that cares

    Iran is a great nation. Like Americans we should feel safe having a government who cares and protects us. Few years ago some Indian terrorists decapitated a Norwegian journalist. Norway did nothing and I think Norwegian government is yellow and doesn't deserve all those taxes they get.

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    Irresponsible adventurism

    Iranians have achieved too much and have come too far in the past few years to fall in another costly and deadly conflict. A military conflict would certainly deliver another unnecessary blow to Iran's already ailing economy and make times even worse for the people of Iran. Furthermore, such a military conflict is precisely what the hardliners in Iran need to kill the emerging glimmer of free speech, media and s\political activism. Finally, Iran's recent efforts to mend its relationship with the outside world and certainly with the Arab world would fall a victim to this irresponsible adventurism. It is true that on an official and governmental measure, Iran possesses a considerably more significant military capability than the Taleban authority. But, please try to remember what the mountanous terrain of Afghanistan and the flood of Arab and American assistance did to the Soviet effort in that country. As the famous modern American proverb goes (often used to refer to an unwinnable situation), "this could be Iran's Afghanistan!"

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    A civilized response

    The fanatic Taleban murdered our innocent Iranian countrymen for no good reason. I don't believe their claim that the murders were committed without the authority or knowledge of their high ranking leaders. As much as I believe and wish that Iran's government should engage in some kind of military force to punish the fanatic, backward Taleban, at the same time, I believe Iran should choose a more civilized and diplomatic way to punish them and hopefully to undermine their advances in that area of the Middle East.

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    Expose Taleban

    Iran and other Muslim nations should reveal the true nature of the barberic Taleban to the world by wide spread covrage of the crimes that are committing.

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    Focus on ourselves

    Enough of worrying about others; let's focus on our internal interests and join families that have been separated for more than 20 years.

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    Our own fault

    Truly we are responsibile for what is happening now. For over ten years Iran has been providing shelter, food, etc. for over two million Afghanis. With some foresight, Iran could have predicted that its enemies are going to surround the country with hostile neighbors. Look at it now, from the east Iran has to face Pakistan and Afghanistan. From the west Iran is facing Iraqis, Kurds, and off course Turks and now Israelis. From the north, Iran is dealing with several bankrupt, money hungry "republics" who, I predict, will do anything to get $$ in their hands. From the south, well you know better. Iran should have trained the Afghanis to form their own army. Iran could have provided them with all kinds of support without trying to make them all follow the official Iranian line. Most of the Afghani refugees in Iran are honorable people who had to leave their homeland because of the war. Iranians must be proud for providing them with some living support for this period of time. Foreign Minister Kharazi was warned about the consequences of Pushtu's growth with the support of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia several years ago by an Afghani brother when he was Iran's U.N. ambassador. I was told that his answer was silence. Instead of realizing the severity of the Iran's national security problem, we have been spending our energy, money, and time on truly trivial problems. See how much energy we waisted on Karbaschi's case. See how much we have alienated our people from the government and Islam by attacking women and intellectuals in the last twenty years. How can we face Allah and claim that we used his blessings in an efficient way? We can not. Truly we are responsible.

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    Support Afghan goverment

    Iran should continue to recover econimically and improve the lives of Iraninans. Certinley Iran should not not accept any more Afghan refugees. Iranians should not forget the pain imposed by Afghan immigrants. Iran should support the Afghan goverment and leave it to them to find a solution to thier problems. The Afghan goverment should not worry about intervention or military attacks by other countries and it should concentrate in resolving its own internal issues.

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    Their business is their business

    Iran should show the world that she is a responsible, sensible and peace-seeking country. If she launches military action, she is only stooping to the level of other trigger-happy bullies. In regards to the Shi'ites in Afghanistan, the right thing to do is to open the borders for anyone that wants to leave Afghanistan, not to go in and interfere with the internal affairs of its neighbor. their business is their business.

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    Can't afford another war

    Iran should only negotiate with them diplomatically for right now. Besides Iran cannot afford to engage in another war. As bad as our economy is, how could they get involved in a full-scale military action. We might have nine people dead at this time, but with military action we would have many many more dead on our hands and the state of our economy would get much worse.

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    Hard questions

    These are very hard questions. I have always felt that the fate of a country should be left in the hands of the citizens of that country. I don't think it's our job to intervene on anybody's behalf or try to make decisions for Afghans. After all, isn't this what we have been objecting to, for decades, about Westerners and, particularly, U.S. trying to act as if they know what's good for us (and everybody else)? Don't we have enough problems of our own to address and try solve that we need to get involved in problems of others? Didn't enough young men die in the war against Iraq? However, like everything else, there are, obviously, exceptions. That's why these are such hard questions to answer.

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    Win political mileage

    Iran must take the high ground and win political mileage out of this impasse. Iran could show the world that compared to Taleban's Afghanistan, Iran is a much more civilized country.

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    We should not forget that while Iran is helping the innocent people of Afghanistan who are just like our brothers, Iran has to review many laws that obstruct real democracy in Iran. Notwithstanding, we all love Iran and would like to see Iran and Iranians prosper but we all need to tolerate and respect one another's ideas and philosophy. I do believe in President Khatamei but Iran still needs more relaxation of some of its laws.

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    * For the first batch of comments on the Iran-Afghan crisis click here.

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