By: Mir M.Hosseini
When the U.S. declared war on the Taliban in Oct, 2001, she was pleasantly surprised to find a silent ally in Tehran. Diplomats speak of a commonality of interests. It was believed that the two neighboring theocracies would have a world in common but Iran's Shiite clergies never got along with Taliban, For years, Iran complained that Afghanistan's %15 Shiite minority had been persecuted by the Taliban. The two countries almost went to war in 1998 when nine Iranian diplomats and a journalist were found murdered in Afghanistan.
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami promptly offered his condolences after the September, 11 attacks, but Iran's Supreme Leader ruled out Iranian help in any US led attack on neighboring Afghanistan. Iran sent 30,000 extra police and troops to seal its border with Afghanistan in order to prevent a massive tide of refugees from streaming across in case of an attack. There were an estimated 2,000,000 Afghan refugees already in Iran.
Iran later vowed to rescue US pilots who crashed on Its soil and played a significant role in easing the war for the US troops by supporting the Northern Alliance. Iran also assured the United States through Swiss intermediaries that it would try to rescue any American military personnel it found, Iran was somehow flirting with the U.S. and showing an olive branch as part of Khatami's softened approach towards the international community. However, the US missed the opportunity and president George Bush's branding of Iran as a member of the axis of evil during a speech in 2002 came as a shock in international community; a major reason for US failure to gain international support after occupation of Iraq.
On the other hand, Iran lost little time in asserting her influence in Afghanistan, especially in the west of the country.