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Taliban threatens to conquer Iran amid border clashes over ongoing water dispute

May 30, 2023 at 5:57 pm

Taliban members stage a demonstration to celebrate Taliban’s first anniversary of taking over the government, in the capital Kabul, Afghanistan [Haroon Sabawoon – Anadolu Agency]

Clashes erupted over the border between Afghanistan and Iran over the weekend, leading to a Taliban official threatening to conquer Iran amid increased tensions and an ongoing water dispute.

Videos and pictures circulating on social media have shown Afghanistan’s Taliban forces and Iranian border forces firing at each other near a border post, killing at least one Taliban officer and two Iranian border guards.

There were also reports of Taliban fighters entering Iranian territory and attacking a military base. Although one video shows them approaching a fortification which flies the Iranian flag, this has not been verified.

In one video released, Abdulhamid Al-Khurasani Naser Badri, a senior Taliban commander, warned Iran that the Taliban would fight its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “with more passion” than they fought the American forces during the 20-year-long occupation of Afghanistan. Badri also added that the Taliban “will conquer Iran soon if the Taliban’s leaders give the green light”.

Despite that heated rhetoric, Taliban officials have since adopted a reconciliatory tone, with Hafiz Zia Ahmad, deputy spokesman of Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry, telling the Saudi outlet Arab News that “We don’t want relations with our neighbouring countries to deteriorate. Our request to all neighbouring countries, including Iran, is to resolve these issues through diplomatic channels”. He added that “The current situation is normal. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is never in favour of escalation.”

Aside from the accusations of which side shot first, the clashes were reportedly primarily the result of an ongoing dispute between Kabul and Tehran regarding the Taliban’s restriction of the flow of water from the Helmand River in Afghanistan into Iran.

In March 2021, shortly prior to the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August that year, the ousted former Western-backed Afghan government opened the Kamal Khan Dam, which is reported to have greatly restricted Iran’s share of the water flow.

READ: IAEA resolves nuclear issues with Iran – Iran media

The Taliban and its new interim administration had, last year, guaranteed Iran that it would allow experts to visit the dam and evaluate it in order to resolve the situation, and had agreed to share the necessary supply of water with Iran but, as of this month, no such visit has apparently been permitted and the share continues to be restricted.

Earlier this month, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned the Taliban not to violate Iran’s rights to the Helmand River’s waters, stating that “I warn the rulers of Afghanistan to immediately give the people their water rights …Take my words seriously now or don’t complain later.”

The dispute stems back to the 1973 treaty agreed between the two countries for the sharing of water, and which required Afghanistan to give Iran a certain amount of water from the Helmand River. Iran has reportedly only been receiving around four per cent of the water owed to it, however, making it an issue of dispute, particularly at a time when the country is experiencing drought and water shortages.

READ: Top Afghan, Iranian diplomats discuss water dispute