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Western Sahara and New Cell of Hezbollah involvement in North Africa

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Tehran’s recent moves against Morocco’s national sovereignty represents its plan to keep on its strategy through global supremacy by undermining and destabilizing pro-Western states. the Kingdom of Morocco decides to disjoin relations with Tehran a week before President Trump announcement of his full decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action. Iran’s existence in North Africa and Maghreb region has been increasing over time and evolve yet more marked as the deadline approached for the expected American withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action.

Morocco and Qatar Relations

Currently, Qatar has been seen as display powerful and growing relationship with the Kingdom of Morocco. Both states signed 12 agreements in March restating their strong and mutual cooperation on a range of domains. Qatar also emerged to hit targeting Morocco’s regional rival, Algeria, the key supporter of Polisario Front, on the international sphere.

For this case, Doha’s illicit support for Polisario Front is seen by some Moroccans as a stab in the back. If double-dealing is, in fact, taking place, it would be another reason of Qatar’s openly criticized style of diplomacy, wherein it has proved to achieve international right by welcoming Western countries while at the same time sustaining relations with terrorist organizations like Hamas and the Taliban.

Relations between Morocco and Qatar may have been tight as early as April when documentation of Qatari individuals’ ties to Polisario Front first surfaced. Besides, according to Saudi sources, Qatar’s charity in Somalia supports and finances Iran-backed terrorists. Iran has also organized a group of Somalian fighters in Saudi-backed Sudan, which is part of the Arab coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen. Sudan is one of the states Qatar has been aiming for military deals jointly with Turkey.

Accordingly, Saudi Arabia vowed Kingdom of Morocco that it would declare Polisario Front a terrorist organization in a major spot of support for Morocco’s territorial integrity. hence, the Western Sahara Conflict became yet another part between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, further provoke the Gulf Dilemma.

Some reports showed that Qatar’s covert support for Polisario Front is another interpretation of its plan to break into North Africa and promote an independent foreign policy. The way out of criticized this move for benefiting militias in Libya at the expense of neighborly state actors. Polisario’s Front link to Hezbollah makes the organization strategy in global terrorism, against which the Anti-Terrorism aggregate has taken a strong stand.

for the time being Qatar fully appreciated Iran for its backing during the Gulf Dilemma, which runs counter that Qatar is held hostage to Iran’s proximity to its gas zone and that it is only the Gulf Dilemma that has pushed Qatar through furthering that relationship. Such public statements likely disturb officials in Morocco who notice Iran’s act as that of a troublemaker, not as a source of support.

Morocco’s disagreement with Iran plans an intimated sitting for Qatar, which currently joined the other Gulf Countries and the US in sanctioning Hezbollah while in the same time admiring Iran’s back its Gulf rivals. It has not yet had to directly acknowledge the strange phenomenon of its coalition with a state that supports terrorist groups like Hezbollah. alike, Qatar’s supporting of the Hamas-led riots – jointly with Iran.

Hezbollah Involvement in North Africa

Hezbollah’s movements in Africa –particularly with the Polisario Front, and with the explicit supporting and assistance of powerful state actors – are a threat to regional stability and US interests. Despite Morocco’s bold move, the risk of Iranian support for radical organizations and separatist groups throughout the African continent is likely to rise in the near future. Under tension from the US and changed about the future of European financial investment as well as facing domestic opposition to costs on foreign military experimentation, Iran will enhance its relationships with South Africa and quest to make new allies, find manners of preventing newly imposed US sanctions and potential losses in profit, and collect “supplemental profit” through weapons, drugs, and human trafficking .

Iran has been engaged in Africa for a long time, and its engagement into North Africa anticipate the current milestone with Polisario Front. Iran has been drilling, training militarily and growing spies, Palestinian terrorist groups (in South Africa), and weapons for its darkness war against the West. In 2014, Kenya, which has an increasing bilateral relationship with Iran, arrested Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) helps with fake Israeli passports who were allegedly preparing terrorist attacks against US, Israeli, and British targets. In 2015, in the same circumstances, two alleged Iranian assets were also jailed. Iran’s rational impact in Africa towards its financing of infrastructures such as hospitals, schools, universities, and mosques increased after Riyadh severed relations with Iran following an attack on its embassy. It has also enlarged its commercial trading with African states twenty percent in just the previous year.

Alike Morocco’s Islamist parties notified, lately on October 2017, of Tehran’s supporting of Shiite militias in Sunni North Africa. Tehran’s foreign minister embark to the region an official visit in June of that year, talking with heads of state in Mauritania, Tunisia, and Algeria – entire states that have been paid off by Sunni extremists and militias and are at endangering of increasing destabilization.

Even it has failed to establish its own infrastructure, Iran has few choices for self-gain other than to attack stable and pro-Western states such as Morocco, imposing security and economic loss however it can. Many observers acknowledged that the Kingdom of Morocco is using this opportunity as an influence to grow its relationship with the US, which would include the US openly embracing Morocco’s autonomy plan to undermine Polisario Front. The US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and pressure on European companies to cease up doing business with Iran might likewise prevent Iran’s financing for involvement in foreign conflicts and involvement with local separatist and terrorist groups in several parts of the world.

Iran’s Northern African Allies

In 2009, Tehran obtains a Mauritanian hospital formerly condescended by Israel. Mauritania is now overrunning with jihadist groups and ripe for the picking, despite having accepted a significant amount of foreign aid from the US over the years for national security and defense. However, Senegal, Guinea, Nigeria, and Mali were also part of the visit. Iran’s Shiite movement has been aiming those countries in different ways for many years.

Additionally, Russia’s supporting of states such as Algeria and its confusion with European investors may give a temporary lifebelt to Iran’s aspiration due to the close alliance between Russia and Iran and their quest of similar goals. A powerful alliance between the US and Morocco will go a long way through countering the plans of these aspiring hegemons.

The Kingdom of Morocco can serve religious training education to African and European Imams, retaliating Iran’s ideological pushing; involve in stronger economic relations with other African countries, as it is fighting to do after rejoining the African Union; and become a cultural link between the US and Africa, initiating an additional support against Iran’s ideological impact and military hegemony. As well as the US, Europe, and the Anti-Terrorism band, Morocco is working to build up a strong reinforcement position that can help protect the African continent from the spread of Iran-backed jihadist groups and criminal activities.

Teheran’s ambitions will look profitable only concerning poor, fragile and failing states. A strong, stable Morocco is a danger to its plans to co-opt Africa and destroy American, European, and Saudi alliances and business potential. It will use Hezbollah group as well as state proxies to enhance Morocco’s adversaries, increase more terrorist entities, and manipulate ideological allies in Morocco’s backyard, as well as in more sensitive areas. And it will search to set up forces similar to Hezbollah that could be used to attack Western objectives and plant discord between allies, all the while using Africa for hidden and illegitimate activities.

Polisario and Hezbollah move

Morocco’s break with Iran came as a slap too much of the international society. Not many have pursed events and circumstances in North Africa and are aware of current illegal manipulates by the separatist group Polisario Front, which claims to represent the Western Sahrawi tribes. Polisario Front has long been known as a smuggler of weapons to Mauritania and other countries in the Sahel region, and in the last decade has been involved in drug smuggling and human trafficking.

Polisario’s Front recent movements in the defensive zone break ceasefire agreements from 1991. In a deeper violation, Polisario Front declared that it is mobilizing its facilities closer to the Moroccan border wall. latest reports about Polisario’s Front role in terrorist attacks against civilians, mostly Moroccan businessmen, fishermen, are further blaming the legacy of the group, which is strongly supported by Algeria, Iran, and Russia. Counterterrorism organizations that run activity in North Africa have decided that Polisario Front has well-established connections with al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) as well as Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah.

Western Sahara, then, is becoming just another fresh filed for Qatar’s rivalry against Saudi Arabia and others. It seems that Qatar may have been eager to design its foreign policy desire – dominating Africa and dealing a blow to the Saudis – over its clearly intimate relationship with the Kingdom of Morocco.

Conclusion

Tehran’s influence on African foreign politics and security issues can be every part as undermining and destabilizing as its pattern of terror and oppression in the Middle East. The Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) withdrawal is an enormous chance for the United State to strengthen its relationships with allies in Africa and go jointly after backing for Hezbollah, Iran, and their counter partners in Africa and somewhere else.

Jamal Ait Laadam, Specialist in and North African Studies and Western Sahara Issue, a Ph.D. fellow in Jilin University School of Public Affairs

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Middle East

Chinese purchases of Iranian oil raise tantalizing questions

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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A fully loaded Chinese oil tanker ploughing its way eastwards from two Iranian oil terminals raises questions of how far Beijing is willing to go in defying US sanctions amid a mounting US military build-up in the Gulf and a US-China trade war.

The sailing from Iran of the Pacific Bravo takes on added significance with US strategy likely to remain focused on economic rather than military strangulation of the Iranian leadership, despite the deployment to the Gulf of an aircraft carrier strike group as well as B-52 bombers and a Patriot surface-to-air missile system.

As President Donald J. Trump, backed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, appears to be signalling that he is not seeking military confrontation, his administration is reportedly considering a third round of sanctions that would focus on Iran’s petrochemical industry. The administration earlier this month sanctioned the country’s metals and minerals trade.

The sailing raises the question whether China is reversing its policy that led in the last quarter of 2018 to it dramatically reducing its trade with Iran, possibly in response to a recent breakdown in US-Chinese trade talks.

“The question is whether non-oil trade remains depressed even if some oil sales resume, which I think it will. That’s the better indicator of where Chinese risk appetite has changed. Unfortunately Iran‘s reprieve will be limited—but better than zero perhaps,” tweeted Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, head of Bourse & Bazaar, a self-described media and business diplomacy company and the founder of the Europe-Iran Forum.

A Chinese analyst interviewed by Al Jazeera argued that “China is not in a position to have Iran’s back… For China, its best to stay out” of the fray.

The stakes for China go beyond the troubled trade talks. In Canada, a senior executive of controversial Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei is fighting extradition to the United States on charges of violating US sanctions against Iran.

Reports that Western companies, including Kraft Heinz, Adidas and Gap, wittingly or unwittingly, were employing Turkic Muslims detained in re-education camps in China’s north-western province of Xinjiang, as part of opaque supply chains, could increase attention on a brutal crackdown that China is struggling to keep out of the limelight.

The Trump administration has repeatedly criticized the crackdown but has stopped short of sanctioning officials involved in the repressive measures.

Bourse & Bazaar’s disclosure of the sailing of the Pacific Bravo coincided with analysis showing that Iran was not among China’s top three investment targets in the Middle East even if Chinese investment in the region was on the rise.

The Pacific Bravo was steaming with its cargo officially toward Indonesia as Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was touring his country’s major oil clients, including China, in a bid to persuade them to ignore US sanctions.

A second tanker, the Marshal Z, was reported to have unloaded 130,000 tonnes of Iranian fuel oil into storage tanks near the Chinese city of Zhoushan.

The Marshall Z was one of four ships that, according to Reuters, allegedly helped Iran circumvent sanctions by using ship-to-ship transfers in January and forged documents that masked the cargoes as originating from Iraq.

The unloading put an end to a four-month odyssey at sea sparked by buyers’ reticence to touch a cargo that would put them in the US crosshairs.

“Somebody in China decided that the steep discount this cargo most likely availed … was a bargain too good to miss,” Matt Stanley, an oil broker at StarFuels in Dubai, told Reuters.

The Pacific Bravo, the first vessel to load Iranian oil since the Trump administration recently refused to extend sanction exemptions to eight countries, including China, was recently acquired by China’s Bank of Kunlun.

The acquisition and sailing suggested that Bank of Kunlun was reversing its decision last December to restrict its business with Iran to humanitarian trade, effectively excluding all other transactions.

The bank was the vehicle China used in the past for business with Iran because it had no exposure to the United States and as a result was not vulnerable to US sanctions that were in place prior to the 2015 international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear program.

China’s willingness to ignore, at least to some extent, US sanctions could also constitute an effort to persuade Iran to remain fully committed to the nuclear accord which it has so far upheld despite last year’s US withdrawal.

Iran recently warned Europe that it would reduce its compliance if Europe, which has struggled to create a credible vehicle that would allow non-US companies to circumvent the sanctions, failed to throw the Islamic republic an economic lifeline.

In a letter that was also sent to Russia and China, Iran said it was no longer committed to restrictions on the storage of enriched uranium and heavy water stocks, and could stop observing limits on uranium enrichment at a later stage.

Russian president Vladimir Putin warned in response to the Iranian threat that “as soon as Iran takes its first reciprocal steps and says that it is leaving, everyone will forget by tomorrow that the US was the initiator of this collapse. Iran will be held responsible, and the global public opinion will be intentionally changed in this direction.”

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The Iran Question

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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Will there be war with Iran?  Will there not be war with Iran?  The questions are being asked repeatedly in the media even though a single carrier task force is steaming up there.  The expression is old for the latest carriers are nuclear powered.  Imagine the mess if it was blown up.

There are two kinds of weapons in the world … offensive and defensive.  The latter are cheaper, a fighter plane compared to a bomber.  If a country does not (or cannot afford to) have offensive intent, it makes sense to focus on defense.  It is what Iran has done.  Moreover, its missile centered defense has a modern deadly twist — the missiles are precision-guided. 

As an Iranian general remarked when questioned about the carrier task force:  some years ago it would’ve been a threat he opined; now it’s a target.  Iran also has a large standing army of 350,000 plus a 120,000 strong Revolutionary Guard and Soviet style air defenses.  In 2016 Russia started installation of the S-300 system.  It has all kinds of variants, the most advanced, the S-300 PMU-3 has a range similar to the S-400 if equipped with 40N6E missiles, which are used also in the S-400.  Their range is 400 km, so the Iranian batteries are virtually S-400s.  The wily Putin has kept trump satisfied with the S-300 moniker without short-changing his and China’s strategic ally.  The latter continuing to buy Iranian oil.

Iran has friends in Europe also.  Angela Merkel in particular has pointed out that Iran has complied fully with the nuclear provisions of the UN Security Council backed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action i.e. the Iran nuclear deal.  She is mustering the major European powers.  Already alienated with Trump treating them as adversaries rather than friends, they find Trump’s bullying tiresome.  President Macron, his poll ratings hitting the lowest, is hardly likely to engage in Trump’s venture.  In Britain, Theresa May is barely able to hold on to her job.  In the latest thrust by senior members of her party, she has been asked to name the day she steps down.

So there we have it.  Nobody wants war with Iran.  Even Israel, so far without a post-election government does not want to be rained upon by missiles leaky as its Iron Dome was against homemade Palestinian rockets.

Topping all of this neither Trump nor Secretary of State Pompeo want war.  Trump is as usual trying to bully — now called maximum pressure — Iran into submission.  It won’t.  The wild card is National Security Adviser John Bolton.  He wants war.  A Gulf of Tonkin type false flag incident, or an Iranian misstep, or some accident can still set it off. 

In Iran itself, moderates like current President Hassan Rouhani are being weakened by Trump’s shenanigans.  The hard liners might well want to bleed America as happened in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Iran’s game just started

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By announcing that Iran will begin keeping its excess uranium and heavy water, the Islamic Republic now sends a firm and clear message to the west, exactly one year after U.S. president, Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from its nuclear deal with Iran. 

At this point, it seems that Iran has made a wise decision. Over the last year, the European troika has not only done anything to revive the nuclear deal or bring any kind of benefit to the Iranian nation, but they have actually backed up U.S. by developing new plans to undermine Iran’s “missile work”, and diminish its “power in the region” as well as its “nuclear technology”.  

As stated in clauses 26 and 36 of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), if the other side fails to meet its obligations, Iran is entitled to partially or completely end its commitments as well. So, Iran’s recent decision could be analyzed both on legal and strategic terms. 
However, it seems that the strategic aspects of Iran’s decision are even more important than its legal aspects. This decision is strategically important because it stops Washington and European troika to carry out their anti-Iran scheme, a dangerous scheme that they actually started devising when Trump took the office in 2017.  

At the time, Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, and Emmanuel Macron, the French president played a major part in carrying out the west scheme. A scheme based on enforcing Iran to keep its “nuclear promises” and stay committed to a “distorted nuclear deal” while “U.S. had abandoned the deal”, and at the same time, trying to “diminish Iran’s power in the region” and “reduce its missile activities”. 

All other actions of Europeans toward Iran were also simply targeted at carrying out this major plan, including how they constantly changed their strategies toward Tehran, and how Germany, U.K. and France intentionally delayed in launching the alternative trade mechanism (Instex) with Iran.  

Now, Iran’s decision to keep its Uranium and heavy water is definitely in compliance with JCPOA, and more importantly, it will seriously undermine the “American-European” joint plan against Iran. This also explains why French government was so distressed by Iran’s new nuclear strategy and had such a quick reaction, considering that Emmanuel Macron, the French president and Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French Foreign Minister both have had important roles in carrying out the American-European anti-Iran scheme. 

At any rate, what is clear now is that the game has just started! And the Iranian political system and specially the foreign ministry have a great mission to run this game wisely.  

In following days, the European troika might want to force Iran into changing its decision by threats such as reviving the European Union sanctions against Iran or even taking Iran’s case to the United Nations Security Council (so that Trump administration can meddle in Iran’s affairs). But, it is time for Iran political system to be adamant in its decision.  

The Iranian Foreign Ministry should clearly ask the Europeans to choose one of these options, either Iran will “further reduce its commitments to the nuclear deal” or the Europeans should do something practical to “protect the rights of Iranian nation”. 

It is also necessary that the Iranian political system reveals the American-European joint anti-Iran scheme to the people so that the true nature of Europeans is showed to Iranians. In that case, Europe and specially the European troika will completely lose their reputation.    

First published in our partner Tehran Times

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