(Editor’s Note: Iran180.org is a non-profit organization that seeks to unite the efforts of fellow organizations to report on human rights and political abuses within Iran. This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Africa.com or its staff.)
Having lost the support of much of the west due to its recklessness, rampant human rights abuses, and nuclear activities, Iran has shifted its focus to African nations, seeking to take advantage of the financial needs of cash-strapped economies, attempting to purchase support and allies wherever it can. As Deutsche Welle reported last year:
As a result of its isolation from the world (particularly the West), Iran has had to turn to Africa in an effort to gain more relevance in global affairs.
“By strengthening its relationship with African countries, Iran is trying to overcome its de facto isolation,” Walter Posch, a researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, told Deutsche Welle.
[Sanam] Vakil [an expert on Iran at the Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C.] agrees: “Iran is always trying to expand its areas of diplomatic and economic influence to counterbalance against its own isolation,” she said.
The quid-pro-quo nature of Iran’s efforts is explicit, with CNN reporting that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Uganda last April to gain the latter’s support for the former’s nuclear programs within the United Nations. Iran has done everything it can to buy support within Africa, including exporting guns to Nigeria in flagrant violation of UN sanctions.
It is within this context that specific details of Iranian violations of international sanctions have come to light. The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal have reported that Iran has shipped weapons to Syria, was involved with a Nigerian seizure of rockets, mortar shells, grenades, and other ammo, and continued to pursue the development of nuclear weapons in violation of international law. More news of Iran’s growing entanglements with Africa broke last Monday, as the Wall Street Journal reported that the Iranian government is working with Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe to attain uranium that can be used to advance its nuclear activities. While it is unclear what the Iran offered, it can be safely assumed that Ahmadinejad made it well worth Mugabe’s time.
We all must join together to deplore Iran’s actions. Africa is not a political pawn, a continent where support for illicit, illegal, and dangerous actions by an unethical regime can be purchased for money or arms. President Ahmadinejad’s actions—and their implication that the support of Africans can be bought and sold—make a mockery of the legitimate governments operating throughout the continent. Moreover, even the appearance of complicity among some African nations with the Iranian regime threatens to cause Western nations to paint all of Africa with a broad, negative brush. Particularly now, at this moment of revolution and renewal, when it appears that the continent is moving into a new era of freedom and civil rights, we must deplore these actions on the part of the Iranian regime and demand that the nation change course or risk being cut off, not just from the West, but from Africa as well.