Afghan resentment toward Iran has also grown. The canker is older and deeperthan with Pakistanis and Arabs. Sharing the same plateau, language and a longoverlapping history in which Persians/Iranians have had the greater portion ofcultural grandeur, the modern relationship has been awkward. Part of thisderives directly from Iranian perception of the Shias of Afghanistan, especiallythe Hazaras, as oppressed sectarian brethren. This has been a sensitive matterfor the Pushtun leadership which inherited Abdur Rahman's conquest of theHazaras. Pushtuns also resent having to accept the Persian language andtraditions in order to achieve elite cultural status. For their part Iraniansare frustrated by their loss of Herat in the mid-nineteenth century.

In diplomacy and especially in its involvements in the Hazarajat, Iran hasmade clear its conviction that it has a significant stake in the outcome ofAfghanistan's tragedy. During the Soviet war Iran made a concerted effort totrain and support Hazara groups for the purpose of introducing extensions of itsown revolution into Afghanistan. Several parties were organized and infiltratedinto the Hazarajat. The most effective were Pasdaran and Nasr. They confrontedthe Shura led by Sayyid Beheshti, a coalition of traditional Hazara notableswhich had taken control of the region in 1979. During the middle 1980s, theIran-supported groups seriously weakened the Shura, but their imposition ofrevolutionary doctrine backfired, forcing them to make concessions and to acceptjoint rule with the Shura.

At the time of the Soviet withdrawal, Iran made a strenuous effort toconvince the mujahidin leadership to concede as much as 25 percent of therepresentation in the proposed Afghan Interim Government to the Shias. Thisproposal was vehemently rejected.

Relations became further complicated by Iran's overtures to the Najibullahgovernment and Moscow after the Soviet withdrawal. Teheran intimated endorsementof Soviet and Najibullah's proposals for a possible political settlement of thewar. In return, the Kabul government gave assurances it would not interfere withthe defacto autonomy of the Hazarajat, a region over which it had lost virtuallyall control.

Such outside involvement complicated and distorted the mujahidin effort todefeat the Kabul forces. Especially disabling was their dependence on neighborsfor much of the financial and material support for continuing the war. As hadhappened in the past, all the Afghan protagonists in the struggle to controltheir country were beholden to outside forces whose agendas had majorimplications for the political outcome. With the withdrawal of Soviet and UnitedStates support at the end of 1991, the impact of regional meddling increased.

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