Improved U.S.-Iran relationship on nuclear agenda could improve Afghanistan relationship

If Iran and the U.S. can overcome their differences on Iran's nuclear program, there could be progress on issues in Afghanistan like drug trafficking, the U.S. State Department said on Monday.

Ambassador James Dobbins, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan for the State Department, made the remarks on Monday during a press briefing in Washington. Dobbins responded to a question about how U.S.-Iran relations affect progress in Afghanistan. He said improved relations between the U.S. and Iran could help address the creation of a stable, peaceful Afghanistan.

"I think that if Iran and the United States are able to overcome their differences regarding Iran's nuclear program, if there begins to be some progress in that regard, then I do see opportunities for dialogue and cooperation on a broader range of issues, including my issues, which is to say Afghanistan," Dobbins said.

Dobbins said that Iran was helpful in organizing the Bonn conference which established an interim government in Iran. He said it was unfortunate that the cooperation with Iran was not able to be sustained since 2001.

"I think if we are able to make real progress on the nuclear agenda, then the opportunities for progress on these other issues is definitely there," Dobbins said. "I think objectively, Iran and American interests and Afghanistan are if not coincident, at least overlap significantly. Iran has historically wanted a stable, peaceful Afghanistan."

Dobbins said that improved U.S.-Iran relations could result in Afghan refugees in Iran returning home, the reduction of drug trafficking between Afghanistan and Iran and economic improvement in western Afghanistan. He said the makings of cooperation are there, but the focus will stay on more serious U.S.-Iran issues like the nuclear program until such issues are solved.