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Tehran-Taliban Cooperation: Will Iran Send SAM Missiles if the US Strikes? | The Nation

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Robert Dreyfuss

Bob Dreyfuss

News of America’s misadventures in foreign policy and defense.

Tehran-Taliban Cooperation: Will Iran Send SAM Missiles if the US Strikes?

Despite Mitt Romney’s bluster in Israel, where he hugged his old finance-capital friend Bibi Netanyahu, the United States isn’t going to attack Iran in 2012, and most likely—even if Romney is elected—not ever. Indeed, the new round of sanctions just deployed against Iran this week, praised by AIPAC, make an attack much more unlikely. That’s because the very point of sanctions is, naturally, for the wielders of sanctions to relax and let them work.

Still, Iran has several aces up its sleeve, and one of—reported today in the Wall Street Journal—is to make life miserable for the United States in next-door Afghanistan. How? By arming the Taliban with Stinger-type surface-to-air missiles. According to the Journal, administration officials say that Iran isn’t supplying the Taliban with SAMs—yet. But if the threat, or the reality, of a US or Israeli strike against Iran materializes, well, all bets are off.

Says the Journal:

Iran has allowed the Taliban to open an office in eastern Iran and discussed providing them with surface-to-air missiles, ramping up the potential for cooperation with the insurgents, according to senior Afghan and Western officials.…

A member of the Taliban’s leadership council, the Quetta Shura, set up an office in the eastern Iranian city of Zahedan in late May, according to a senior Western diplomat in Kabul and a senior Afghan official. Zahedan sits near the borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan and on an easy transit route from the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the Taliban leadership is based.

Despite their many differences—after all, Iran and the Taliban almost went to war in 1999—Tehran has figured out all that stuff about the “enemy of my enemy.”

On the missiles issue, the Journal reports:

The possible introduction of surface-to-air missiles should be seen as Iran’s contingency planning if its nuclear facilities are attacked by Israel or America, coalition officials say. The Obama administration has described such a strike as an option if Iran proceeds with nuclear weapons production; Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

The dozens of US bases in Afghanistan are on Iran’s doorstep, and would be the most effective way for Iran to strike back if it is attacked first, officials say.

“Something significant would have to change…a strike against the home nation,” for Iran to introduce surface-to-air missiles, a senior coalition military official in Kabul said. “Then, red lines will be crossed and things will probably change.”

Neither, yet, is Iran supplying the Taliban with so-called “explosively formed penetrators,” the specially designed IEDs that were so effective against US forces in Iraq.

But don’t think for a minute that US military commanders aren’t worried about this, which is part of the reason why the Pentagon doesn’t like the idea of bombing Iran.

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