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Hamid Karzai Admits to Taking Bribes from Iran

Afghanistan's president was accused of accepting bags of cash from Iran and then stupidly tried to justify the bribery.

by
Josh Shahryar

Bio

October 27, 2010 - 12:00 am

The political circles in Washington have been abuzz the past few days over news that President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has been accepting money from Iran’s government. Well, this just in: he did. And we didn’t learn this from inside sources or powerful NATO officials who never seem to have the courage to give out their names.

Karzai admitted it himself.

The New York Times, which first reported the story, quoted President Karzai saying this week that “once or twice a year Iran gives his office $700,000 to $975,000 for official presidential expenses.” The Associated Press adds:

Karzai told reporters Monday that he had instructed [Umar] Daudzai, a former Afghan ambassador to Iran, to accept the money from Tehran. “It is official and by my order,” Karzai said.

Karzai added that he gets “bags of cash” from Washington as well and that the money is badly needed in the country. But hold on a second. If you’re taking money from the U.S., shouldn’t you not be taking money from Iran because um … Iran is the U.S.’s sworn enemy? Apparently, Karzai doesn’t have the smarts to figure that one out.

At least the Iranian embassy in Kabul had people with enough brains to quickly refute the president’s claims, but it’s a little too late. The question now isn’t whether he is accepting bribes from the Iranian government in return for favors. The question is, why is America putting up with this man?

I understand their reluctance to pull out their support from under his feet when he’s bribing everyone to keep himself in power. I also understand it when they put up with his tantrums as his personal antics nearly jeopardize the entire U.S. mission and the international fight against terrorism. But the folks in the White House must be kidding.

I was outraged enough when I heard the allegations of Karzai accepting money from Iran. I would have been further outraged if Iran had confirmed those allegations. But I’m unable to express myself about a man who doesn’t understand that accepting these charges of bribery and then attempting to legitimize them is absolutely inane.

But you know, one thing that I’ve learned in the past nine years is that Karzai is not insane. Sure, he may lack the ability to run a country or to conduct his diplomatic duties. But in Persian, we have a saying: “Even a crazy man knows how to make a personal gain.” And he does. He’s been taking cash from both the U.S. and Iran for years without anyone noticing it.

What’s outrageous is what is to follow. The White House, instead of taking actions to stop the flow of these slush funds, will quietly condemn the act, then, resume business as usual. It’s what they have been doing for years when it comes to Afghanistan and they will continue to do so.

The reason is simple: there is no real working strategy on how to deal with Karzai or the Afghan government in case of gaffes like this. President Karzai and his power-hungry, gaffe-prone, and strategy-deficient team have given the Afghan people nothing but disappointments and the West headaches. This has been the single most important reason why the Taliban have not been rooted out. The alternative to them is a man who doesn’t even know when to shut up.

If the fight against the Taliban is to be won, this needs to change. President Karzai needs to be back in Fremont, California, running his restaurant, and someone sensible and smart needs to be running Afghanistan. But Washington’s too busy staving off a big loss in less than two weeks and then, it’ll be two years of presidential campaigns by Obama to keep his job. Karzai, the man who is supposed to replace the Taliban but needs replacing, will remain in power.

Get ready for another of those big disappointments.

Josh Shahryar is a National Security Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. A journalist and human rights activist, he covers ongoing conflicts as well as human rights issues for various media organizations.
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