Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, on Saturday blamed the US for the current conflict in neighbouring Afghanistan and the standoff over the Iranian nuclear program, saying there is no difference between US President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump.
In his first meeting with the newly-appointed Cabinet led by President Ebrahim Raeisi, Khamenei said there is a “predatory wolf” behind the scenes of US foreign policy that “sometimes turns into a cunning fox”.
“The source of Afghanistan’s crises is the US. During the 20 years of occupation, they committed all sorts of atrocities,” Khamenei said, while referring to Afghanistan as a “brotherly country, with the same language, religion, and culture”.
In a sign of how Iran would be approaching relations with the new Taliban-led government in Kabul, Khamenei said it depends on the “nature of their relations” with Tehran.
“We support the nation of Afghanistan,” he asserted. “Governments come and go. What remains is the Afghan nation.”
Iran has shared a love-hate relationship with the Taliban. In the late 1990s, it almost went to war with the militant group, after 10 Iranian diplomats were killed in the northern Mazar Sharif city of Afghanistan.
However, Tehran has increased its contacts with the Taliban in recent years, amid escalating tensions between Iran and the US as well as the emergence of the Daesh/ISIS terror group in Afghanistan.
In the last few years, many top-ranking Taliban leaders visited Tehran for talks with Iranian officials. Recently, Tehran also hosted intra-Afghan talks.
In the wake of the recent dramatic turn of events in the war-ravaged country, Iran has called for an “inclusive Afghan government” with the participation of different political and ethnic groups.
Khamenei said Iran’s diplomacy must not be impacted by the stalemate over the 2015 nuclear deal.
The Iranian leader slammed Washington for acting “extremely shamelessly” on Iran’s nuclear issue, saying they withdrew from the nuclear agreement, and then disregarded negotiations to revive the deal. He also blamed the Europeans for “acting like the US”.
He, however, did not specify whether Iran would continue informal talks with the US in Vienna to salvage the nuclear deal.
Khamenei further called on the new conservative administration to fortify economic aspects of the diplomacy and bolster trade and commerce with neighboring countries.
He said “except for a few countries”, friendly relations are possible with most other countries, with a focus on the neighborhood.