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Iran’s Troubled Relations with Afghanistan and Tajikistan: A Compound Alignment Dilemma


Afghanistan’s reversion to Taliban rule poses severe threats to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Tehran faces a dilemma over how best to respond to these dangers: it could continue to conciliate the Taliban or it could revert to the antagonistic posture it adopted towards Kabul in the 1990s. While each of these strategies can improve Iran’s security situation to some extent, they also entail unintended consequences that exacerbate Iranian vulnerabilities. More importantly, whatever policy Tehran pursues has an impact on Iran’s nascent alignment with Tajikistan, as well as on Tajikistan’s relations with Afghanistan. The fact that Iran’s decision to conciliate the new leadership in Kabul did not prompt Dushanbe to scale back its belligerence towards the Taliban poses a puzzle for Glenn Snyder's concept of the alliance security dilemma. Its solution requires a reconsideration of adversary–ally dynamics that highlights the reciprocal interaction between shifts in inter-state alignment and changes in domestic political contestation.
Keywords: security dilemma; threat; Afghanistan; Iran; Tajikistan