A delegation from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a guest of the Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, visited the Department of Foreign Policy Research of the Center for Strategic Research (CSR) on 2 November 2010. In the course of the visit to the Department, headed by Dr Mahmood Vaezi, the delegation participated in a joint session with Iranian experts. The topics discussed in the session focused mainly on the situation in Afghanistan and the Middle East region. The Afghan situation, especially the deteriorating security situation, was discussed particularly in light of the Obama administration’s stated plan to begin the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan as of summer 2011. Both sides emphasized the importance of the establishment of adequate security arrangements in order to prevent recurring instability in the country. In this   regard, the Iranian side underlined that peace and stability in Afghanistan cannot be achieved and secured without the active participation of the neighboring countries, and needless to say, Iran which is best positioned to play a critical role. The SIPRI delegation, while concurring with the imperative of peace and stability and the role of neighbors, including Iran, pointed to the   desirability of Iran-US cooperation on Afghanistan. The Iranian side, for its part, discussed the parameters for such a possible cooperation, including the US recognition of the Iranian status and role in the region, and in this particular respect, in Afghanistan. It was emphasized as well that Iran views its problems with the US, the West in general, from the prism of a package, where cooperation in one area – let’s say, in Afghanistan, or for that matter, Iraq – would be correlated to cooperation in other areas, issues and situations. The Iranian side further argued that recent and on-going stiff sanctions against Iran have made any meaningful cooperation with the US and the West practically impossible – including on the Afghan situation. 

Within the broad discussion on Afghanistan, the question of negotiation   with Taliban as a conduit to expand the political base and integrate that group in the political process was also addressed. According to the SIPRI delegation, a new generation of Taliban has emerged that is different from the older, hard-line generation, and hence, susceptible to participation in the unfolding governance structure in the country. The Iranian side, however, while dwelling on the past record of the Taliban government, did not appear to be convinced about the existence of the “good Taliban” versus the “bad Taliban,” and that engagement with the “new” group would in actuality help restore peace,   stability, and democracy in Afghanistan. 

On a related situation, in neighboring Pakistan, both sides expressed their concerns about the prospects of possible further deterioration of the security situation, also from the vantage point of possible implications for the country’s   possession of nuclear weapons. The two sides concurred that the US approach and policies in recent years, also with respect to India and the Indo-Pakistani rivalry and tension, appear to have adversely affected the overall political and security situation in Pakistan. 

In closing, the two sides underlined that mere reliance on military means can hardly solve the current formidable problems in Afghanistan, and that a lasting solution for the country would, by definition, require a comprehensive and essentially non-military strategy with the active participation of all the concerned parties – inclusive in particular of the US, Pakistan, and Iran – and provided that they pursue an agreed path of cooperation, leaving aside particular goals and agendas.

Finally, Dr. Rolf Ekeus, head of the SIPRI delegation, expressed appreciation to the Iranian side for the fruitful exchange of views and emphasized their willingness to continue cooperation between the two Institutes in the future.