News / Asia

Three Questions: Karzai Accepting Iranian Cash

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (r) meets with Afghan President Hamid Karzai (file photo)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (r) meets with Afghan President Hamid Karzai (file photo)

Afghan President Hamid Karzai acknowledged Monday that his office receives large cash payments in "bags of money" from Iran.

President Karzai told reporters in Kabul that the cash, up to $975,000 twice a year, is used for government expenses.  Karzai said the transactions were not secret and no different from cash payments from the United States and other "friendly countries."

VOA's Ira Mellman spoke with Daniel Markey, senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia at the Council for Foreign Relations in Washington.

Markey told Mellman he was not surprised by the admission by the Afghan President was getting money from Iran, but was surprised that it was in the form of bags of cash.

What do you think the payments mean?

It means that Iran enjoys a significant amount of influence in Kabul in a variety of ways, and it has actually been pretty effective as regional powers go in projecting its influence in Afghanistan.  Unlike Pakistan, Iran tends to use less direct support for violence and more on bribery and buying people off. What ultimately comes out of this, though is that it certainly upsets US officials to see that Karzai, someone with whom we had hoped to have had a close working relationship, is very clearly working closely with the Iranians and, in many cases, his outbursts against  Washington have been influenced by that fact.

In addition to that, are there any significant indications of Tehran’s influence in Kabul?

I guess that Iran has sufficiently inoculated itself from Afghan criticism. You don’t hear a lot of complaining about Iran in Afghanistan that could be partially because the skids have been greased by Iranian cash. Iran has funded educational institutions. A lot of Afghans are being educated in Iranian universities and things like that. So, that’s also another implication. I think that you can’t really chalk up Karzai’s concerns about partnerships with the United States to the Iranian influence, but it probably hasn’t helped, and there may be a variety of other ways where Iranian funds have found their ways into the Afghan government and probably driven wedges within individuals and personalities within that government, but this is pretty murky territory, it’s hard to know exactly how.

Is it significant that the U.S. is surprised by Iran giving bagloads of cash to Karzai and other members of his government?

I think it’s significant that Americans are surprised. Karzai himself said that he had told President Bush about the fact that he was receiving bagloads of money from Iran, so I don’t know that the US government is all that surprised. Certainly, I think the US intelligence community has been aware of that influence, but they haven’t wanted to see it come out, certainly this way. It’s clearly detrimental; it’s a bad image to hold. Even if Karzai says this is a transparent flow of cash that sounds pretty ridiculous on its face, so it just further undermines the US efforts to build a decent working relationship with the Karzai government, which is currently their preferred strategy. So it’s detrimental primarily for the symbolism, for the way it came out, the fact that it once again comes with an explosion of Karzai anger against the United States. He clearly seems to be kind of a frustrated and easily rattled individual which is not the kind of thing the US wants to see.

You May Like

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs