Tehran fanning regional instability by backing Taliban, says US envoy

New US Ambassador to Afghanistan, John Bass, said Tehran’s backing of the Taliban could “destabilize Iran’s eastern borders”. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 27 March 2018

Tehran fanning regional instability by backing Taliban, says US envoy

KABUL: Tehran’s backing of the Taliban could “destabilize Iran’s eastern borders,” said the new US ambassador to Afghanistan, John Bass.
“Iran is providing logistical support to the Taliban,” he told the BBC in an interview aired on Tuesday, adding that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is involved in the backing. “It is tough to know why Iran sees fanning the war in Afghanistan as in its interest.”
Tehran has been fanning regional instability and sectarian conflict for the past five years, Bass said.
At the time of writing, it was not possible to reach Iran’s embassy in Kabul for comment. But a Taliban spokesman told Arab News that the US ambassador’s comments are baseless propaganda aimed at “covering America’s failure in Afghanistan and remaining here.”
The comments by Bass come days after Washington’s top general in Afghanistan, John Nicholson, who heads the NATO-led force in the country, said Moscow is arming the Taliban.
The group has waged an insurgency against the Afghan government and the US-led coalition since its ouster in late 2001.
Russia’s Embassy in Kabul said Nicholson’s comments were “idle gossip.” Last month, Bass denied Iranian and Russian claims that Washington is backing Daesh.
Tehran and Moscow were enemies of the Taliban when it ruled Afghanistan for five years, but in recent years they have forged ties with the group, which is active in vast parts of the country.
Iran and Russia say the ties are merely to protect their nationals in Afghanistan and to persuade the Taliban to join the peace process.
Najib Mahmoud, a political science professor, told Arab News that the allegations by Nicholson and Bass are part of “big US rivalries with Iran and Russia in other parts of the world, such as Syria and Ukraine.”
Mahmoud added: “Countries in the region and beyond are directly and indirectly involved in the Afghan war, with each pursuing their interests and seeking to crush their rivals.”
He said: “It would be very wise for the Afghan government to not allow the country to be further trampled on by taking sides in this war.”

Sri Lanka minister claims constitutional changes meet people's aspirations

Justice Minister Ali Sabry. (Supplied)
Updated 44 min 35 sec ago

Sri Lanka minister claims constitutional changes meet people's aspirations

  • Concern over separation of powers and free elections

COLOMBO: Constitutional changes giving Sri Lanka’s president immunity from prosecution and the power to dissolve parliament will meet the “aspirations of the people” and help “push the country to become a developed nation,” the country’s justice minister told Arab News in an exclusive interview.

The widely criticized 20th amendment, which will be voted on by lawmakers in October, will roll back the 19th amendment of 2015 that curtailed presidential powers. It would empower him to dissolve parliament at will a year after the election of new lawmakers, appoint ministers and remove the prime minister.

Last month President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said he would overturn the legislation during a speech inaugurating the country’s new parliament after his family-led Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Party claimed a landslide electoral victory.

Justice Minister Ali Sabry said the 20th amendment would give people what they wanted.

“People voted for peace, security, the nation’s development and peaceful coexistence among all communities on the island,” Sabry told Arab News on Thursday.

“The proposed amendments would ensure the aspirations of the people, who lacked confidence during the previous regime between 2015 to 2020.”

The minister referred to a series of suicide bombings in Colombo in 2019 as well as the Central Bank of Sri Lanka bond scandal in 2015, saying the 2015 legislation was not accepted by people as it brought no sense of security.

Sabry, quoting Rajapaksa’s words from the last cabinet meeting, said: “The government does not want impediments and obstacles to achieve the nation’s goals, what people want is results on the ground. A country like Sri Lanka needs a strong leader, clean leader and an independent man, who can run the nation free of corruption and nepotism, coupled with his innovative ideas to push the country to become a developed nation.”

According to Article 35 of the 20th amendment's draft, which was published earlier this month, no proceedings can be instituted against someone who holds presidential office “in any court or tribunal in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by him either in his official or private capacity.”

Under the 20th amendment, appointment of members to the country's three independent commissions — the Judicial Service Commission, Election Commission, Public Service Commission — will be in the hands of the president himself.

The proposed clauses have caused concern over the separation of powers and whether the new constitution will guarantee free elections. But, said Sabry, there were no moves to jeopardize the commission's accepted functions. “There will be timely intervention if there is any breach in the discharge of its regular functions.”

The minister, who is a Bar Association of Sri Lanka lawyer and for years has been Rajapaksa’s legal adviser, said the 20th amendment would strengthen the powers of the president and remove some of the clauses from the 19th amendment to “ensure the rule of law and democracy” in the country.

“Actually, we want to go back to the pre-19th amendment period where the country witnessed developments, prosperity and the required security,” he said, referring to the period before 2015 when the country witnessed growth and security after a 26-year military campaign against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam that ended the country’s civil war. “We need a peaceful Sri Lanka, where people can live in harmony, happiness, with prosperity and developments to take us to a new height.”

While Attorney General Dappula de Livera said earlier this month that the draft of the 20th amendment could be passed in parliament and did not require a referendum, Sabry said that people's opinions would be respected “at all costs.”

“Separation of powers will be enshrined and the proposed amendment will be discussed at all levels before it is enacted,” he added.