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The Killid Group
Afghan questions about Iran's Tea MoneyWritten by Killid Commentary
Saturday, 30 October 2010 15:12
News of the payment of slush funds by the Iranian government to the office of President Hamid Karzai has been dominating the international airwaves. Since the publication of a report in the New York Times last week, discussion on the payment of "bags of Euros" to President Karzai's Chief of Staff, Umar Daudzai, have dominated national and international media leading to comments, interviews, analysis and roundtable discussions. The irony is that Afghan media had already reported on this issue several times.
The money incidentally was handed over to Daudzai after his return from Iran and before he was appointed as Chief of Staff to the President. At that time, the Afghan media has labelled the payment as "Tea Money".
Now the report in the New York Times has confirmed on the basis of sources that Fada Hussein Maleki, the Iranian Ambassador to Kabul, delivered a bag full of Euros to Daudzai inside the plane departing from Iran's capital, Tehran, and that the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also brought two boxes of Euros during his last trip to Kabul for President Karzai.
Interestingly, President Karzai, who had also remained silent on earlier occasions during the publication of the news in Afghan media, chose to respond this time and confirmed that he was receiving funds from Iran. Why did he do it is not entirely clear, though it reconfirms how little the President cares about the media that reaches the Afghan people, hence how little importance he gives to the Afghan people's opinion.
He however did not explain how the money would be spent, where it came from and who would administer the fund. These are the real issues which concern the Afghan public regardless of the U.S. concerns to which President Karzai seems more sensitive or the Western motivations to turn into fresh news and old story. Curiously, the New York Times "revelation" added turmoil to the debate on the future of the security companies.
In the past nine years donor money has always been routed to the Afghan government through the Ministry of Finance and spent through the national budget - whether the operational budget or development budget. It is not clear yet how much money was received by President Karzai and his Chief of Staff through the transfer of bags of money.
It has raised questions as to the nature of the relationship between the Afghan President, his Chief of Staff and one of Afghanistan's neighbouring countries that throughout history could hardly be considered a true friend.
This manner of receiving money is outside the legal norms and it seems obvious that there must have been some quid pro quo related to the payment, as it is clear to everyone that everywhere that money is paid it comes with some strings attached.
In the last few years Iran has had disputes with Afghanistan on a number of issues, including the use of water from the Kamal Khan lake which is being dammed by Afghanistan. In recent years, with no clear and established authority in Afghanistan, Iran has been able to use the water from this lake to irrigate its lands all the way up to its Kerman province. Many people believe that the completion of the dam has been delayed because of the interests of Iran. It is likely that Iran has received other benefits as well.
Since President Karzai has turned a blind eye to the attempts of Iran to arm and fund insurgents even though NATO and Afghan National Security Forces have highlighted it, this has made people suspicious.
The Iranian Ambassador in Kabul ridiculed the story as a baseless allegation. Terming it a big insult he strongly rejected it. However President Karzai himself accepted that his office had received bags of money from the Iranian government during a press conference. This showed a contradiction in the public positions of the Iranian government and President Karzai that has raised even more questions.
While the relationship between Afghanistan and Iran continues in this manner, trust in this government is harmed. People think that this current disclosure is just a small part of a larger problem that is damaging to the national interest of this country.
Even this small disclosure has been so damaging to Afghanistan that it is likely that the revelation of the full extent of corruption would damage the reputation of Afghanistan for many generations to come.
Afghans are asking what the President's office has done for Iran in lieu of this. In the last few days has kept everyone guessing about who, apart from President Karzai and his Chief of Staff, had been paid money, how much and by whom?