Iran’s bid to further its hegemonic desires through a takeover of Algeria and Morocco

Tony Duheaume
Tony Duheaume - Special to Al Arabiya English
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The emergence of an Iranian embassy in Algeria has caused great concern to the Arab world, but then came the arrival of Amir Mousavi into the country, under the auspice of being an Iranian diplomat interested in cultural affairs. The appearance of Mousavi soon took on sinister overtones, because far from being a diplomat looking to enhance cultural ties with Algeria, it soon became apparent that Mousavi was in fact an Iranian intelligence agent, whose remit was to interfere in the dispute between Algeria and Morocco over the Western Sahara conflict.

Iran’s interference in the area, has already led to Morocco to cut diplomatic relations with Tehran, over the so-called Iranian diplomat’s support for the Polisario Front, the group that is fighting for control of the Western Sahara, an area where Morocco controls about 90 per cent of the territory.

The cut in ties between the two countries, came about after irrefutable evidence came to light proving that shipments of weapons, which included surface-to-air missiles, comprising of SAM9, SAM22 and Strela shoulder-launched missiles, had been sent to the Algerian-backed Polisario, who were fighting a protracted guerrilla war against Moroccan security forces. The weapons were sent via Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, with evidence also having emerged, how members of the Polisario, were also being trained in urban warfare at a military base in Tindouf, Algeria, where they were being taught how to use ground-air rocket systems.

But one of the most sinister aspects to come to light out of Mousavi’s appearance in Algeria, was the numerous reports about how he had managed to recruit thousands of Shiite youths from impoverished areas in in the country, who will be used by the Iranian regime to destabilise the region.

The Western Sahara is the perfect choice for Iranian interference, as with tthis swathe of land being as unstable as it is, the UN Security Council, which is preparing a report on whether to extend its 27-year-old peacekeeping mission to the Western Sahara, could in all likelihood propose a referendum on the secession of the area away from the Kingdom of Morocco, and into the hands of the Polisario.

Should this come about, with so much meddling being carried out by both the Iranian regime and Hezbollah in the area, the Iranian’s could quite easily end up with a “Syrian scenario”, where Tehran controls any government that is eventually formed by the Polisario Front. Because for such a government to survive, it will need to receive a vast amount of both military and financial support from Iran. Then with the West Sahara in the mullah’s grip, the next country certain to fall would be Morocco, and then, with the next in line being Algeria, Iran would be working to its usual pattern of Hegemonic control over a region.

Through its interference in the Syrian war, Iran has gained access to the Mediterranean Sea, where through its dominance of the Sahara region, it will be able to gain access to the Atlantic Ocean, and through this, gain a firm foothold in the area, from which to pursue its interests in West Africa.

With Iran constantly on the lookout for allies in the region, the mullah regime is now desperately trying to get its claws into Africa, and has used its usual method of buying friends, and arming and training Shiite rebel groups in places like Senegal and Nigeria, to allow it to gain a solid foothold in the region.

Western Africa has vast reserves of oil, gas, uranium, various minerals, and much sought after rare metals. It is for this reason, the Iranian administration is keen on making further inroads into the region, before the People’s Republic of China (PRC), or Western nations pip them at the post. But not only that, having a good accord with certain African states also gives the regime the opportunity to supply their proxies in the Middle East with weapons and ammunition, and there is also the added advantage, of the proximity of some of these African counties to certain strategic waterways, which would enable the IRGC to block or sink Western sea-going vessels.

Over recent years, Iran has been actively seeking to establish diplomatic ties with various African nations, in the same way that it has in Latin America, using both bullet and gold to win friends. With the European Union, the United States and China already investing vast sums in both development and aid for Africa, Iran has been investing in a much more moderate way; but its back-door approach with the sale of bullets and bombs is beginning to show dividends.

It is through this back-door approach, in a growing trade coming in the form of selling weapons to Islamic militants or pariah governments, a trade which Iran has become synonymous for, it is gradually making inroads, which is angering many of the administrations of the countries being targeted, as the Islamic militants backed by Iran, are actively battling to bring down regimes Iran would like to see fall.

With so much ongoing tribal and clan rivalry taking place in Africa, certain African states that are either pro-Western or fervently anti-Shia, are guaranteed to be locked in violent insurgency with groups that Iran could easily align itself with, through offers of supplying arms or money to help sustain the rebel group in its struggle, and once such a government is overthrown, the Iranian mullahs would be gratefully received the victorious insurgents.

Through creating conflicts in the area, brought about by its interference within Shia communities and rebel groups, Iran continues to spread its influence across the region. With Algeria known to host displaced residents of the Western Sahara region, as well as Polisario members, the country makes the perfect host for both Iran and Hezbollah to take root, using it as a base to strike out at the rest of the region.

Where Algeria is concerned, with its economy having been badly hit by a drastic reduction in oil prices, its government has found the need to diversify into other economic resources, and through doing so, Iran has made great inroads as a trading partner. With the launching of a production line for Iranian vehicles, plus another for the production of medicines, and with the two countries boosting their cooperation enormously in the private sector, Iran has ensnared Algeria through an ongoing succession of trade deals.

Concerning Algeria’s connection with Hezbollah, there was already the mysterious case of a Hezbollah operative, who had been found amongst the wreckage of an Air Algerie flight, which had crashed in Mali in July 2014. Disguised as a businessman, the senior Hezbollah official was discovered amongst the 118 other victims onboard, nineteen of these were Lebanese citizens, thirty-three French military personnel, and three others high-ranking intelligence officers.

Then in a pointer to a growing relationship between Iran and Algeria, it was in December 2015, following Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal’s visit to Tehran, Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri had paid a visit to Algeria. But what had caused so much controversy over the trips, was the fact that at that time Algeria had rejected various initiatives put forward to resolve the crises in both Syria and Yemen, which gave many outsiders the impression that Algeria was siding with the Iran-Russia alliance, and through Algeria’s refusal to recognise any of the Syrian opposition groups, it had further isolated itself from the position being taken by the Saudis and the Gulf States.

Then in early in 2016, after Algiers voiced its reservations over the Arab League’s decision to ban Hezbollah, further concerns were raised over Algeria becoming too close to the Lebanese terror group. This had followed Riyadh and Algeria being at loggerheads over the Saudi Coalition’s military intervention in Yemen during 2015, after Algeria had refused to commit its army, and was doing its utmost not to side with the Coalition’s stance on the Yemen conflict.

So, with the recent furore of Iran and Hezbollah having sided with Algeria over the dispute in the Sahara, it seems to have left any future reconciliation between Algiers and Riyadh seeming quite remote.

With Iran’s interference in the politics of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen, having already caused much disruption through the support of Shia insurgent groups which have caused much mischief, through the infiltration of various groups both political and social, North Africa seems to be the next in line for Iranian interference.

But with Iran and its proxy Hezbollah already seeming to be influencing Algeria, it has also been reaching out to countries such as Tunisia and Mauritania, and with Mali, Niger, Guinea and Senegal already in the sights of the Iranian regime, it has to be a great worry for other countries in the region, who already view Iran’s expansionist policies in the area as becoming out of control.

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