How Israel Can Counter Iran in Africa

The recent coup in Niger, and the prospect of a Russian intervention in the country along the lines of that in neighboring Mali, make clear that Africa is an important arena of global competition. So too does a recent visit by the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi to Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. For precisely these reasons, Israel’s cultivation of diplomatic ties on the continent is critical, as Irit Tratt explains:

Kenya’s role as a member of the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency makes it an attractive ally to Iran. Raisi was feted by Kenya’s President William Ruto with a red-carpet welcome and concluded his visit by signing five memoranda of understanding in which the two leaders pledged cooperation in areas ranging from communication technology to animal health. Iran also enhanced relations with Uganda, which has discovered a trove of uranium deposits.

Furthermore, Iran is using its relationship with eastern Africa in order to maximize its presence on the region’s waterways. In particular, Iran is seeking to restore ties with Sudan, a crucial access point to the Red Sea.

The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s anticipated trip to Morocco is a necessary step towards broadening Israel’s diplomatic relations with the region. By delineating shared areas of understanding, Israel can enable Africa to view an alliance with the Jewish state through the prism of partnership rather than paternalism.

Historically, Israel has adjusted its relations with Africa in alignment with U.S. policy, but this has failed to yield strategic dividends. . . . An autonomous Israeli policy of cementing African alliances will foil Iran’s attempts to enter Africa and help reverse anti-Western sentiments rising on the continent.

Read more at JNS

More about: Africa, Iran, Israel diplomacy, Morocco, Russia


Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy