KABUL—Iran has allowed the Taliban to open an office in eastern Iran and discussed providing them with surface-to-air missiles, ramping up the potential for cooperation with the insurgents, according to senior Afghan and Western officials.
Iran’s shift came after the U.S. and Afghanistan sealed a long-term partnership agreement in May, and in an effort to expand its options for retaliation should its nuclear facilities be attacked, the officials said.
Iran, a Shiite theocracy, wasn’t friendly with the Sunni Taliban government ousted by the U.S. in 2001 and hasn’t permitted an official Taliban presence in the country until now. But these days both sides “see America as the bigger enemy” a Western official in Kabul said.
“Iran is willing to put aside ideology and put aside deeply held religious values…for their ultimate goal: accelerating the departure of U.S. forces from Afghanistan,” the official said.
The Iranian Embassy in Kabul and consulate in Herat, in western Afghanistan near the border with Iran, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
A member of the Taliban’s leadership council, the Quetta Shura, set up an office in the eastern Iranian city of Zahedan in late May, according to a senior Western diplomat in Kabul and a senior Afghan official. Zahedan sits near the borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan and on an easy transit route from the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the Taliban leadership is based.
The office is in…