Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates traded insults on Wednesday in Kabul. Gates accused Iran of claiming to support the Karzai government in Kabul but of playing a ‘double game’ and secretly giving aid to the Taliban. Ahmadinejad complained that the US fostered Sunni radicalism in the 1980s as part of its struggle to expel the Soviets from Afghanistan, and now had no right to complain about radicalism and terrorism in the region.
In this exchange, Ahmadinejad surely won on points. Gates’s allegation of substantial Iranian support for the hyper-Sunni Shiite-killing Taliban is implausible on the face of it, and makes Gates look silly in regional eyes.
The dispute is particularly unfortunate, since the US and Iran largely have the same goals and friends in Afghanistan, and the Obama administration should have been talking to Iran all along about their overlapping interests in that country.
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