Dealing with the West to deal with the Taliban
By Akbar Houshmand, City University of New York
September 18, 2001
After looking at Iranian right-wing newspapers, I feel that I have to
clear up a few points about recent events and U.S. movements:
1- It is absolutely necessary for reformists to understand the true meaning
of the reaction of so-called conservatives to this event. The West knows
everything about the true nature of the right-wing in Iran. For the West
dealing with strict dictatorships is much easier than sophisticated and
unpredictable democracies. Thus they naturally prefer the right-wing, who
The West knows that conservatives, despite their rhetoric, are ready
to give ANY concession to U.S. and Israel if they have full control of the
country. Therefore the right-wing in Iran does not need to show sympathy
and approval of U.S. movements to get U.S. support. As soon as they seize
power, they would know how to get along with the West.
On the other hand, the reformists DO need to show that they can manage
a reasonable level of cooperation with the West. At this time the right-wing
wants to tie the hands of the reformists through their anti-American rhetoric.
The reformists should not fall into this trap, as they had done in the past,
by hosting conferences for militant Palestinian or Lebanese groups.
2- The right-wing newspapers are warning the Khatami government of loss
support from the "Islamic World". Unfortunately, such a united
Islamic world does not exist. Almost all of the Islamic countries are in
conflict with each other. Even different Arab nations clearly and loudly
hate each other, not to mention inner-conflicts within these countries.
There is hardly ever a consensus amongst Muslim groups as to whether
they should support or reject U.S. policies. Quite often it is the case
that two Muslim countries take polar stances regarding U.S. foreign policy
decisions. This shows the degree of disunity that is prevalent throughout
Moreover, those Iranians who have interacted with other Muslims have
realized that the majority of Sunni Muslims do not have the slightest respect
for Iran. In fact, millions of Sunni extremists in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia,
Persian Gulf and African countries, such as Algeria and Egypt, passionately
hate Shia Muslims and Iran. The friendliest Sunni brothers are the ones
who live in Iran and are basically Iranian!
The only time Iran is referred to as the "leader" of the Islamic
world is when heads of various militant groups meet with Iranian officials
to get money and support! In short, preserving the unity of a non-existent
Islamic World does not deserve heavy investments. Moreover, if we care about
the Islamic world, we must take action against fanatic groups such as the
Taliban who brutally abuse Muslims and damage the image of Islam.
3- Finally, let's look at the problem from a religious point of view.
The Taliban has declared a war against Christians and Jews. Does our religion
support that?! If we do not care for the innocent people who lost their
lives in the New York City attacks, we should care about the thousands of
Shia people in Afghanistan who were butchered, thousands of women who were
raped, and thousands of families who were taken apart by Taliban.
It is amazing that the Iranian right-wing, while propagating the most
shallow and LOMPAN version of Shi'ism, absolutely did not care about the
lives of Shias in neighboring Afghanistan. Now they recommend support for
the enemies of Shia Muslims. The Wahabis, who are the most reactionary of
Sunni Muslims, do not deserve Iran's support. They would kill all of us
if they had the power to do so!
For anybody who has wondered about the Islamic aspect of the story, it
is helpful to remember the story of the KHAVAREJ and Imam Ali's descriptions
of them. The KHAVAREJ would not yeild to logic, were very stuborn in their
opinions and brutal in their actions. It is not difficult to recognize these
modern-day KHAVAREJ in Iran and Afghanistan.
In short, it is necessary for reformists in Iran to use the situation
to improve the relations with the West. They should also try, to the best
of their ability, to enhance the image of Islam by active cooperation in
the campaign against the Taliban.