Iran is secretly passing bags of money to some of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's top aides to promote Tehran's interests in Kabul and drive a rift between the Afghans and the U.S., reports The New York Times. Karzai admitted Monday that his government regularly receives cash from officials in Iran and other "friendly countries." He said the money didn't buy influence, it just helped his government pay its expenses. Is Karzai telling the truth, or has he sold out to Iran? (Watch a CBS report about Karzai's money)
Karzai's betrayal will set back the war effort: Karzai knows the U.S. "isn't going to be in Afghanistan forever," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway, so he's cozying up to Iran to protect his power. But his corruption is murder on "a war strategy that depends on winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. And the "influence that the Iranians are purchasing" encourages the Taliban, making Afghanistan deadlier for U.S. troops.
"Karzai corruption includes Iranian bribes"
Relax. Karzai gets far more money from us: "These cash payments hardly mean that Karzai is a dupe of Iran," says Max Boot at Commentary. He gets much more money from Washington — he's just making sure he's not "entirely reliant" on a sometimes "fickle" benefactor. But Iran's overtures should "alert us to the geopolitical stakes in Afghanistan" and remind us that Iran and Pakistan will fill the void "if we leave prematurely."
"Karzai takes Iranian cash, just in case"
Iran hates us, but it also hates the Taliban: With Iran reportedly paying to "arm and train" the Taliban, says Jon Leyne at BBC News, it's clear Tehran is actively seeking to make trouble for the U.S. and NATO. But there is only so far the Iranians will go — they are longtime enemies of the Taliban. So this cozy relationship merely signals that U.S. "leadership is not going unchallenged in the region" — but Washington has known that for a long time.
"Cash and keeping friendly relations in Afghanistan"