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Iranian press review: Taliban advance in Afghanistan sparks fears in Tehran

Meanwhile, some Iranians celebrate Donald Rumsfeld's death, and prehistoric Hyrcanian forests return to the public
People gather with their heavy weapons to support Afghanistan security forces against the Taliban, in Guzara district, Herat province on 23 June 2021 (AFP)

Officials worried about Taliban's expanding control 

Officials in Iran have been following the fighting in neighbouring Afghanistan with concern and are rethinking policies toward the Taliban, as the Afghan militant group expands its territorial control in the wake of the US pullout from the country.

Reports that thousands of Afghan soldiers have escaped to Tajikistan, which borders Afghanistan’s north, leaving behind military equipment, have raised alarm in Iran, with all major news outlets covering the developments on their front pages.

In an article, titled "What will Iran do with the Taliban?", the Shargh daily argued that the militant group gained international prestige after signing a deal with Trump’s administration last year to end 18 years of war.

According to the pro-reformist daily, Tehran must introduce new policies regarding the Taliban, taking into account the group's re-emergence as a significant player on the Afghan political scene. 

Meanwhile, comments from officials indicate that Tehran is ready to consider the Taliban as a political power in Afghanistan when the withdrawal of US forces from the war-torn country has been completed.

"The Taliban are from the Afghan people," the daily quoted the director-general of the West Asia office at Iran's foreign ministry Rasoul Mousavi as saying.

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"They are not separated from Afghanistan's traditional society, and they have always been part of it. Moreover, they have military power.

"The US has lost the war and can no longer carry out a military operation against the Taliban," Mousavi added.

Rumsfeld's death celebrated

Iranian media and ordinary Iranians celebrated the death of former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, highlighting his role in waging wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the current conflicts in the Middle East.

Under the headline: "Rumsfeld, architect of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and crimes in Abu Ghraib, went to hell", the Kayhan daily covered his death with photos of US forces torturing prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Rumsfeld shaking hands with late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

The daily called him a "well-known criminal" who collaborated with Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war and played a vital role in the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Rumsfeld had a vital role in supporting Saddam Hussein's criminal acts against our country," the daily wrote.

"On 20 December 1983, he held a meeting with Hussein in Baghdad and facilitated the US military and financial support to Iraq during the war with Iran.”

Meanwhile, the semi-official news agency ISNA wrote: "Rumsfeld was the person who allowed the US forces to employ torture techniques on detainees suspected of terrorism."

Some ordinary Iranians have also celebrated Rumsfeld's death, writing on social media about the impact of his policies on the lives of Middle Eastern people during the past two decades.

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"Tonight, Donald Rumsfeld has gone to sleep forever, but the fire he set in the Middle East will fiercely burn for a long time," one Iranian Twitter user wrote. 

Forests declared public

At the end of a 20-year legal confrontation between Iran's Department of Environment and the country's powerful endowments organisation, Ogaf, over the ownership of thousands of hectares of the prehistoric Hyrcanian forests, Iran’s Supreme Court announced the forests are public.

In a rare victory over the country's influential religious organisation, the Department of Environment has proven that the woods were natural heritage and public forests.

According to the Supreme Court's decision, 5,103 hectares of the forests near the northern city of Sari are public forests, and another 370 hectares of lands in the same region are public agricultural lands that farmers are permitted to work on, Mehr news agency reported.

The Hyrcanian forests are Iran's only green belt, located between the Caspian Sea and the Alborz mountain range.

The prehistoric forests are registered on Unesco's World Heritage List, and Iran's government is responsible for protecting them. In recent years, however, the forests have been severely damaged by organised timber theft, overgrazing and illegal construction.

Due to the proximity of the forest to the capital Tehran, building luxurious villas and land grabbing have sped up deforestation in this part of the country. 

Ogaf is one of the influential organisations that have claimed ownership over vast swaths of land in that region.

* Iranian press review is a digest of reports that are not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye.