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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

Landing in Riyadh: Geopolitics work in Putin’s favour

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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When Russian President Vladimir Putin lands in Riyadh this week for the second time in 12 years, his call for endorsement of his proposal to replace the US defense umbrella in the Gulf with a multilateral security architecture is likely to rank high on his agenda.

So is Mr. Putin’s push for Saudi Arabia to finalize the acquisition of Russia’s S-400 anti-missile defense system in the wake of the failure of US weaponry to intercept drones and missiles that last month struck key Saudi oil installations.

“We are ready to help Saudi Arabia protect their people. They need to make clever decisions…by deciding to buy the most advanced S-400 air-defence systems. These kinds of systems are capable of defending any kind of infrastructure in Saudi Arabia from any kind of attack,” Mr. Putin said immediately after the attacks.

Mr Putin’s push for a multilateral security approach is helped by changing realities in the Gulf as a result of President Donald J. Trump’s repeated recent demonstrations of his unreliability as an ally.

Doubts about Mr. Trump have been fuelled by his reluctance to respond more forcefully to perceived Iranian provocations, including the downing of a US drone in June and the September attacks on the Saudi facilities as well as his distancing himself from Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu following last month’s elections, and most recently, the president’s leaving the Kurds to their own devices as they confront a Turkish invasion in Syria.

Framed in transactional terms in which Saudi Arabia pays for a service, Mr. Trump’s decision this week to send up to 3,000 troops and additional air defences to the kingdom is likely to do little to enhance confidence in his reliability.

By comparison, Mr. Putin, with the backing of Chinese president Xi Jinping, seems a much more reliable partner even if Riyadh differs with Moscow and Beijing on key issues, including Iran, Syria and Turkey.

“While Russia is a reliable ally, the US is not. Many in the Middle East may not approve of Moscow supporting Bashar al-Assad’s regime, but they respect Vladimir Putin for sticking by Russia’s beleaguered ally in Syria,” said Middle East scholar and commentator Mark N. Katz.

In a twist of irony, Mr. Trump’s unreliability coupled with an Iran’s strategy of gradual escalation in response to the president’s imposition of harsh economic sanctions in a bid to force the Islamic republic to the negotiating table appear to have moderated what was perceived as a largely disastrous assertive and robust go-it alone Saudi foreign and defense policy posture in recent years.

While everyone would benefit from a dialling down of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Mr. Trump’s overall performance as the guarantor of security in the Gulf could in the longer term pave the way for a more multilateral approach to the region’s security architecture.

In the latest sign of Saudi willingness to step back from the brink, Saudi Arabia is holding back channel talks for the first time in two years with Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The talks began after both sides declared partial ceasefires in the more than four year-long Yemeni war.

The talks potentially open the door to a broader Russian-sponsored deal in the context of some understanding about non-aggression between the kingdom and Iran, in which Saudi Arabia would re-establish diplomatic relations with Syria in exchange for the Islamic republic dropping its support for the Houthis.

Restoring diplomatic relations and reversing the Arab League’s suspension of Syrian membership because of the civil war would constitute a victory for Mr. Al-Assad’s main backers, Russia and Iran. It would grant greater legitimacy to a leader viewed by significant segments of the international community as a pariah.

A Saudi-Iranian swap of Syria for Yemen could also facilitate Saudi financial contributions to the reconstruction of war-ravaged Syria. Saudi Arabia was conspicuously absent at last month’s Rebuild Syria Expo in Damascus.

Mr. Putin is likely to further leverage his enhanced credibility as well as Saudi-Russian cooperation in curtailing oil production to boost prices to persuade Saudi Arabia to follow through on promises to invest in Russia.

Saudi Arabia had agreed to take a stake in Russia’s Novatek Arctic-2 liquefied natural gas complex, acquire Sibur, Russia’s largest petrochemical facility, and invest an additional US$6 billion in future projects.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak predicted that “about 30 agreements and contracts will be signed during President Putin’s visit to Saudi Arabia. We are working on it. These are investment projects, and the sum in question is billions of dollars.”

In anticipation of Mr. Putin’s visit, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), said it was opening its first overseas office in Riyadh.

RDIF and the kingdom’s counterpart, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), are believed to be looking at some US$2.5 billion in investment in technology, medicine, infrastructure, transport and industrial production.

The Russian fund is also discussing with Aramco, the Saudi state-owned oil company, US$3 billion in investments in oil services and oil and gas conversion projects.

Saudi interest in economic cooperation with Russia goes beyond economics. Ensuring that world powers have an increasing stake in the kingdom’s security is one pillar of a more multilateral regional approach

Said Russian Middle East expert Alexey Khlebnikov: “Clearly, the recent attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities have changed many security calculations throughout the region.”

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No peace for Kurds: Rojava still under attack

Silvia Fornaroli

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The Amazon is still on fire. The “lungs of the Earth” are hardly breathing while the flames are threatening people and nature reserves. As long as we do not see with our own eyes the burnt trees, the endangered species and the indigenous tribes fighting to save their dying forest, we seem incapable to understand the actual consequences.

Thousands of miles away from this environmental catastrophe, a different kind of tragedy is waiting to happen. Rojava-Northern Syria Federation — the self-declared autonomous region that Kurdish people managed to carve out in northeastern Syria during the Civil war — is burning again.

On September 24, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made a controversial speech to the United Nations General Assembly and proposed to create a “safe zone” in the north of Syria, in order to resettle up to 2 million Syrian refugees. He is hoping to establish a peace corridor with a depth of 32 kilometers and a length of 480 kilometers, which would easily turn the area into the world’s largest refugee camp. Despite the seemingly humanitarian purposes, this might represent the umpteenth attempt to destroy the Kurdish dream of an independent democratic enclave.

It is undeniably clear, in fact, how Turkey could take advantage of the situation: Erdoğan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has already claimed that Ankara’s aim is also to clear the borders from “terrorist elements.”

The People’s Protection Units and the Women’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ), which — along with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — played a key role in the fought against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), are the official army of Rojava but currently designated as terrorist organizations. These armed groups, in fact, are considered as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the far-left militant and political organization founded in 1978 by Abdullah Öcalan and  often involved in armed clashes with Turkish security forces.

Kurdish people are about to be left alone once again and the recent decisions of the White House trigger alarm in the whole Middle East.

On October 7, president Donald Trump announced that the United States  — so far the main financer, trainer and supporter of Kurds — would start pulling troops out of those territories, although it would not constitute a full withdrawal.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said that “The Department of Defense made clear to Turkey — as did the president — that we do not endorse a Turkish operation in Northern Syria,” and that “The US Armed Forces will not support, or be involved in any such operation.”

Mazlum Kobanê, the commander in chief of the SDF, announced that they will protect Syrian’s borders and fight back against Ankara’s army. Since the majority of Kurdish cities are located in this area, it is not difficult to understand how potentially devasting this ongoing operation could be.

Turkish assault is going to begin from the city of Gire Spi/Tell Abyad, once controlled by the so-called Caliphate and captured in 2015 by the YPG during the Tell Abyad offensive. The cities of Qamishli, Derek/Al Malikiya, Tell Tamer and Kobanê/Ayn al Arab are next to become target of air strikes and artillery fire as well.

It is no coincidence that shortly after the siege of Kobanê, Kurdish forces directed their efforts towards Tell Abyad, being such a strategic site for ISIL militias. The city, in fact, was better known in the West as the “Jihadi Highway”, a de-facto corridor for foreign fighters. In the chaos caused by the fighting, jihadists would surely try to regain strength and Turkish move is serving the cause.

At the Al-Hol camp — a huge detention female camp near Al-Hasakah — numerous riots have occurred in the past few weeks, and the managers of the structure believe that the women held in the prison — former jihadi brides — might be the vehicle for renewed forms of radicalization.

In view of the fact that US officials confirmed that they will not intervene nor will they seize control of those prisons, Kurdish forces called Washington’s move “a stab in the back”. Meanwhile in Raqqa, ISIL militants are still carrying out suicide bombing attacks against SDF positions.

Shervan Derwish, official spokesman of the Mambij Military Council, has expressed his concern with a very touching message on Twitter.

The YPG and YPJhave fought in many historical battles and their solitary resistance during the last Turkish Afrin offensive in January 2018 became a symbol of their resilience.

On the other hand, Turkey’s army will be backed by their well-known rebel allies:  “The Turkish military, together with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), will cross the Turkish-Syrian border shortly, “wrote Fahrettin Altun — Turkey’s communications director — in a Washington Post column. Numerous military groups are active in the region and, although their nature is still debated, there are evidence of many connections with jihadi-inspired organizations.

Working in cooperation with the SDF, Rojava’s cantons are ready to resist and defend their independence, but Trump’s decision sounds like a betrayal.

If forests are burning, so will be democracy in Syria. The Rojava project is in imminent danger, and this time there will be no mountains for the Kurds to seek refuge in. Here in the West we are blessed not to directly witness the destruction of both tragedies, but it is still up to us whether to look those flames in the eye or remember them as the unique environments they actually were.

In loving memory of Mehmet Aksoy, who dedicated his life to the Kurdish cause.

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Revisiting Saudi-Iranian Rivalry: From A Cold War Perspective

Zaeem Hassan Mehmood

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Middle East considered the “bridge between the East and West” has long grabbed attention of great power policy makers due to its geostrategic and geopolitical significance. After the discovery of oil in the early part of 20th Century, Iran and Saudi Arabia had gained a prominent position at the global international arena. The defining moment in their relation was the year 1968, when the British government announced its withdrawal from the “Persian Gulf,” threatening thereby the balance brought to an equilibrium by more than 150 years of English security guarantees to the sheikdoms. The international community largely sees the conflict in terms of sectarian and on religious grounds which is an inadequate approach and one that rules out other detrimental factor. There have been little analysis and studies undertaken on the conflict from a “Cold war” perspective, which can significantly help other states in maintaining a viable balance between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The conflict dubbed as the “New Middle East Cold War” or “Saudi-Iranian Cold War” is not the first event termed as “Cold war” in the Middle Eastern history. Malcolm Kerr writing in his acclaimed book Arab Cold War 1958-67 termed the growing rivalry and quest for leadership in the Middle East at the aftermath of British and French withdrawal between Republican Egypt and conservative Arab monarchies as a regional equivalent of Cold war. The present relations of Saudi Arabia and Iran are short of war, a condition where although the contenders do not engage in open battlefields face to face, it is a ‘battle’ nevertheless fought on different fronts including the media. Daniel Serwer of John Hopkins writes that Saudi-Iran conflict is regional equivalent of20th century US-Soviet Cold war.

Characteristics of Cold War

The term ‘cold war’ had been in use before 1945 to describe period of extreme tensions between states that were just short of war. In the year 1893, German socialist Eduard Bernstein described the arms race between Germany and its neighbors as a kind of ‘cold war’ where “there is no shooting but bleeding.” The term rapidly came back into use when United States and Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) faced each other eyeball to eyeball. British writer George Orwell remarked on the significance of the moment foreseeing “a peace that is no peace” where the two mighty powers were to be “unconquerable and in a permanent state of cold war.”Anders Stephanson has defined the essence of a Cold War as consisting of characteristics whereby both sides deny each other the legitimacy as a regime, attempting to attack each other by all means short of war. This is in the view of the author, followed by an intense military buildup with a prolonged arms race.

Cold War since then has exclusively referred to as the ‘sustained state of political and military tensions’ between the 20th century superpowers. Although the rivalry had ceased with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the term and subject-matter has remained ever relevant to an extent that the study of grand strategy and security is considered incomplete without the former’s inclusion. Saudi Arabia and Iran, in order to contain conflict and to ensure; that it ends up being short and as shallow as possible, need to revitalize the lessons of the ‘original Cold War.’ United States and Soviet Union despite their sustained rivalry developed a variety of mechanism for escalation and risk management. This was undertaken without foregoing their core national interests and ideologies. The leadership understood that there was ‘wisdom in engaging’ rather than isolating the other. The approach is more relevant today in the era of globalization than it was in those years. “Geo-economics must replace geopolitics” as the focal Saudi-Iranian approach in order to reach a ‘non-zero sum situation.’

Religious and political ideology plays an important role in the foreign policy between Riyadh and Tehran. The two offer competing ideologies and political model with a strong desire for strategic and geopolitical supremacy. The standoff, experts believe is also the result of the desire and aspirations of the two, for political leadership in the Islamic world. The conflict is not the result of alleged schism between Shia and Sunni school of Islam, but is rather a byproduct of centuries’ political and religious contestation that existed between empires and is now manifested into politics of these modern states.

Diplomacy is integral to the Middle East cold war. Since establishing relations in 1929, the two have had their ups and downs. In the years of the Shah, relations began to take the turn for worse when Shah’s ‘hegemonic desires’ and Saudi Arabia’s desire not to accept Iran predominant role in the Gulf and beyond. Nevertheless, relations remained intact at least diplomatically despite severity of incidents such as Gunboat coercion and the oil wars.

Conclusion

Wars have recognizable beginnings and they comprise of direct fighting between the adversaries with armistices and peace treaties as their conclusive ends. However, a Cold war has none of these characteristics, in words of Walter Lippman, “it brings neither peace nor honour to those who wage it.” The conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia has “spillover effects” and repercussions beyond the region. States such as those in the West, and Pakistan in particular close in proximity to the two have had a tough time “balancing” their relations. A careful, delicate and pragmatic approach needs to be adopted on part of statesmen, taking into account the opportunities and challenges arising from a “Cold War” need to be taken into account. Media on both sides has an important role to play in patching up the hostilities by upholding ethical standards and avoiding propagandist contest to avoid further aggravation of the conflict. 

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