A Taliban fighter at the entrance gate of the Afghan-Iran border crossing bridge in Zaranj, February 18, 2022 (Wakil Kohsar/AFP)

Amid rising tension between Iran’s regime and Afghanistan’s Taliban, two Iranian border guards and a Taliban fighter have been killed when shooting broke out near the Sassoli border cross between the two countries.

Several people were injured, including two other Iranian border guards. It was not immediately clear what sparked the gunfire at the post in Sistan and Baluchestan Province in southeast Iran.

Tehran accuses the Taliban, who took power in August 2022, of violating a 1973 treaty over water rights by restricting the flow of water from the Helmand River to dry regions in eastern Iran.

A spokesman for the Taliban’s Interior Ministry, Abdul Nafi Takor, said, “Today, in Nimroz province, Iranian border forces fired toward Afghanistan, which was met with a counter-reaction.”

He talked down the prospect of further violence: “The situation is under control now. The Islamic Emirate does not want to fight with its neighbors.”

Defense Ministry spokesman Enayatullah Khowarazmi echoed:

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan considers dialogue and negotiation to be a reasonable way for any problem. Making excuses for war and negative actions is not in the interest of any of the parties.

Iran’s Deputy Police Chief Qasem Rezaei said, “Without observing international laws and good neighbourliness, Taliban forces started shooting at the Sasoli checkpoint…drawing a decisive response.” The border guards declared that they had “used their superior heavy fire to inflict casualties and serious damage”.

Iranian authorities closed another border post, the major commercial crossing between Milak and Zaranj, until further notice.

The End of Reconciliation

When the Taliban claimed Afghanistan in August 2021, soon after the withdrawal of US and international forces and the collapse of the Kabul Government, the Iranian regime hailed the defeat of Washington. It welcomed good relations with the Taliban, setting aside the Afghan group’s killing of 11 Iranian diplomats and a State journalist in 1998.

But after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned the Taliban about the water rights, a former Taliban official mocked Raisi in a viral video.

The Iranian regime responded by saying it did not recognize the Taliban’s rule. On social media, it issued further criticism through its de facto English-language spokesman, Tehran University’s Seyed Mohammad Marandi: