Report: Taliban Threatens to ‘Conquer’ Iran After Border Shootout

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A top Taliban jihadist warned his group would “conquer Iran” if given approval in a video that surfaced this weekend after a deadly shootout between Iranian border guards and the Afghan terrorist group.

Iran and the Taliban regime, both radical Islamist and terrorist entities, have enjoyed superficially friendly relations. Iran is one of the few nations in the world to recognize the jihadists as the official “interim” government of Afghanistan in late 2021, following the Taliban’s conquest of the country after 20 years out of power. On the border between Nimroz, Afghanistan, and Sistan and Baluchestan, Iran, however, the two countries have experienced decades of tensions over the limited water supply.

Iran and Afghanistan share the Helmand River, which is dammed in Afghanistan. Iranian authorities have accused the Taliban of using the dam to limit the flow of water into Iran, resulting in extreme shortages in the border regions. The two sides signed a treaty in 1973, long before the Taliban first took power in the 1990s, in which Afghanistan committed to guaranteeing Iran’s water supply at the border.

Afghan officials insist that they are not limiting how much water is flowing to Iran – they are experiencing the same drought, the Taliban asserted this month, and do not have any more water than what is crossing the border already. Afghan news agencies, quoting local farmers and other civilians, found evidence that Afghans are facing dire water shortages like those documented in Iran.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned Taliban leaders to “immediately give the people their water rights” in May, emphasizing, “take my words seriously now or don’t complain later.”

“They (Afghan officials) should know that the [Iranian] government is determined to uphold the people’s rights in all fields. It is the right of the province’s people, and we follow it up in all border areas. As the government, we will not allow people’s rights to be violated,” Iran’s state-run PressTV quoted Raisi as saying on May 18.

Escalating tensions on the border erupted in a shootout on Saturday that, according to the Qatari news agency Al Jazeera, left two Iranian border guards and one Taliban jihadist dead.

“Today, in Nimroz province, Iranian border forces fired toward Afghanistan, which was met with a counter-reaction,” a spokesman for the Taliban’s “interior ministry” claimed. “The situation is under control now. The Islamic Emirate [Afghanistan] does not want to fight with its neighbors.”

Both Taliban jihadists and Iranian officials blamed the other side for shooting first.

“There was a shooting by Afghan border guards, and naturally, we delivered a due response,” Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said on Monday.

“Without observing international laws and good neighbourliness, Taliban forces started shooting at the Sasoli checkpoint … drawing a decisive response,” Iranian Deputy Police Chief Qasem Rezaei similarly claimed.

At the highest levels, the Taliban organization claims it is invested in negotiations and peace with Iran. The Taliban’s Bakhtar News Agency described the National Defense Ministry as lamenting the “unfortunate” shooting.

“The National Defense Ministry, stressed the resolution of tensions through understanding, said The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan considers dialogue to be the only reasonable way to address any border tensions,” Bakhtar reported, “adding that negative actions and making excuses for war are not in the interest of any side.”

Amir Khan Muttaqi, the Taliban “foreign minister,” expressed a similar sentiment in a meeting with Iranian ambassador to Kabul Hassan Kazami Qomi on Saturday. The meeting, Bakhtar reported, addressed multiple bilateral issues, among them the border water supply.

“Qomi stressed more cooperation between Afghanistan and Iran and border management and also shared details about the latest measures of his government,” Bakhtar documented. “For his part, Foreign Minister, Muttaqi said that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants good ties with Iran, and asked to resume the process of transferring Afghan prisoners, delaying executions of Afghan prisoners sentenced to death, and facilitating visas for Afghan citizens.”

Online, however, Taliban jihadists on the border are sharing videos mocking Iran, showing off water canteens and threatening to take over Tehran. In a video surfacing online over the weekend and translated in part by the independent outlet Iran International, Abdulhamid Khorasani, a top Taliban commander, said his forces were awaiting the “green light for jihad” to attack Iran.

“We will conquer Iran soon,” he threatened.

Taliban fighters had begun circulating videos in mid-May in response to Raisi’s threats to hand over the water, pretending to hand over water bottles and cans in terror of an Iranian attack. One such video appeared to show a Taliban parade in which motorcycle-riding jihadists branding jerrycans full of water.

While Taliban officials appear to have access to ample water supplies in the propaganda videos, Afghan news outlets have reported that the civilian residents of Nimroz are struggling to maintain their farms or hydrate themselves.

“We have no water for drinking while the neighboring country is asking for water, from where we shall bring water, during the past 50 years when there was enough water all went to Iran,” a Nimroz farmer, Mohammad Sarwar Tajik, told the Afghan news agency Pajhwok in a report published on Monday. “From the past five years, drought and the lack of water took all our financial resources.”

“Many farmers who cultivated for two years paid compensation, they are not willing to cultivate this year,” another farmer, Abdul Rauf Akhund, told the outlet, “the farmers even abandoned our land, they say we should work as laborers, we will get good wages, there is no yield from this land, the land is now free because there no water.”

A local official in the province, Gul Ahmad Fazli, told Pajhwok that droughts are a common problem there, but Kabul, nearly 500 miles away, has not responded to the problems

“The local government often raised its voice for its water right to the central government, Water and Energy Ministry and other relevant institutions but no one paid head [sic] to their problem,” he said, suggesting both the Taliban and the previous, U.S.-backed government failed to address the issue.

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