Iran Exports the Islamic Revolution to West Africa

Although the Islamic Republic’s economy has for some years been teetering on the brink of collapse, it nonetheless sponsors medical clinics in Niger, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Uganda, and several other African nations, as well as various academic and religious institutions. Like many technologically advanced nations, it does so to accumulate influence or “soft power” in developing countries. But Nicholas Rodman believes that is not the only reason:

Iran [wishes] to foster growing minorities of African Shiites in the region and potentially use them as terrorist proxies, or establish footholds in places where they can circumvent international sanctions. Moreover, given Niger’s status as having the fifth-largest deposits of uranium in the world, Iran in all likelihood seeks access to such resources, all of which could have implications for the growing presence of United States and [other] Western military personnel in the region.

Iran has also set up . . . branches of Al Mustafa International University, whose main campus is located in [the Iranian holy city of] Qom under the supervision of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. According to the U.S. Treasury Department which recently placed sanctions against the university, these branches serve as Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force outposts to recruit intelligence sources, convert and indoctrinate locals, and develop foreign-student exchanges. . . . [B]ranches exist throughout Africa in countries that do not have significant Muslim or Shiite populations including in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, and Madagascar.

Niger’s southern neighbor Nigeria has faced a series of terrorist activity in the last decade tied to the Islamic Republic. . . . The growing U.S. military presence in the region might additionally put itself at risk of attack, not only from Salafist movements like Boko Haram or Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, but from unencumbered Iranian-backed, Iranian-trained, and Iranian-indoctrinated radicalized terrorists unimpeded by sanctions.

Given Iran’s recent historical patterns of using shadowy proxies to commit acts of terror, including the 1996 Hizballah-linked attacks in Saudi Arabia on the Khobar Towers housing U.S. Air Force personnel, the Islamic Republic could strike at U.S. interests in places where U.S. officials least expect.

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Read more at Caravan

More about: Africa, Iran, Iran nuclear program, Shiites, U.S. Security

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy