Iran, Afghanistan, and South Asia

While attention focuses on US nuclear talks with Iran, an improved US-Iran relationship could have major benefits for another US priority: shoring up stability in Afghanistan during the 2014 withdrawal of most US and NATO forces. A new South Asia Center issue brief by Fatemeh Aman and Barbara Slavin, “Iran, Afghanistan, and South Asia: Resolving Regional Sources of Instability,” examines Iran’s relations with its eastern neighbors and suggests steps to deal with acute challenges — including scarce and poorly managed water resources, energy imbalances, ethnic insurgencies, and drug trafficking — that could be alleviated by US-backed regional solutions.

The report supports recommendations by US researcher Laura Jean Palmer-Moloney and Kea U. Duckenfield to set up a commission to manage water issues to include Iran and Afghanistan plus representatives of US,  European, and UN development agencies. The commission would help Afghanistan better measure annual water flows from the Helmand River and use its portion of the water more sustainably. The United States could also contribute to regional stability by changing its Iran sanctions policy – if there is progress toward a nuclear agreement – to no longer discourage use of Iran’s Chabahar port or block completion of the so-called “peace pipeline” meant to send Iranian natural gas to Pakistan and India.

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