AP Interview: Iran ambassador: Nuke deal could benefit Kabul


KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — As Iran and global powers move toward a nuclear agreement, Tehran’s ambassador to Afghanistan said a deal easing crippling economic sanctions would also benefit security and development in his country’s war-torn neighbor.

Mohammad Reza Bahrami also said Iran would be prepared to help fight the Islamic State group if its presence in Afghanistan grows into a real and regional threat. While fighting the militant group is Kabul’s responsibility, Iran would consider assisting the effort if the Afghan government “feels that it needs the support of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said.

“The events during recent decades have made it crystal clear for us that the challenges and threats in Afghanistan are not going to stay in Afghanistan; they are threats for other countries as well,” Bahrami said in an interview last week. “When we talk about terrorism and extremism, these are not going to remain within the borders of Afghanistan. Daesh and the Taliban . are common threats and the solution is collective cooperation.”

Daesh is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group, which has had a creeping presence in Afghanistan for much of this year. Officials believe most militants claiming to be Islamic State fighters are former Taliban disillusioned by that group’s lack of progress in almost 14 years of insurgency.

The security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated since most U.S. and NATO combat soldiers withdrew last year, handing security responsibility over to Afghan forces.

On the nuclear issue, world powers and Iran are hoping to clinch a deal by Tuesday, setting a decade of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and granting Iran significant relief from international sanctions.

The deal would boost cross-border trade, benefiting Afghanistan’s moribund economy which has been hard hit by the withdrawal of foreign troops and international aid groups. Economic development, Bahrami said, would help improve security.

“It will create more possibilities for investment by Iran in Afghanistan (and will have) a considerable impact on the bad economic conditions of Afghanistan,” he said.

The trade relationship is tilted greatly in Iran’s favor, as 30 years of war have strangled investment and industrial development in Afghanistan. It sends mostly agricultural products to Iran, and receives fuel, concrete and other construction materials, and home appliances.

A nuclear deal could allow trade in previously off-limits industries such as oil, banking and insurance.

“We want stability in Afghanistan, strong central government and economic development. If we want to neutralize and decrease the threats that Afghanistan and the region are facing, we have no solution but collective cooperation between Afghanistan and other countries from the region and beyond,” he said.