The dictatorship of Eritrea has formed a partnership with Iran
July 21 2010
The dictatorship of Eritrea is rarely talked about, but it has formed a partnership with Iran, helping the Islamic Republic to threaten a strategic shipping lane and pressure the pro-American Sunni Arabs into submission. The East African country has also had relations with Somali Islamists, including an Al-Qaeda affiliate that has proven effective at recruiting Americans for jihad.
Somalia expert Dr. Mike Weinstein, Professor of Political Science at Purdue University and analyst for Garoweonline.com, told FrontPage that the Afewerki regime turned to Iran after receiving a “severe slap” from the West when it sided with Ethiopia over a border dispute and that his support of Islamists is an attempt “to stymie Ethiopia at every turn.”
There have been unconfirmed reports that Iranian weapons, soldiers, ballistic missiles, submarines, and naval vessels have been deployed to Assab in Eritrea after Iran agreed to help upgrade a Russian refinery there that could help decrease their reliance upon gasoline imports.
These reports have not been verified but there have been public expressions of friendship between the two governments. After meeting with Afewerki in May 2008, Ahmadinejad said that there was “no limit for expansion of mutual cooperation” and they’d resist the hegemonic powers trying to dominate them. An Iranian opposition group claims that regime documents obtained in January 2009 revealed the same details about a buildup in Assab. Eritrea reacted to the reports by granting Gulf News permission to be the first foreign newspaper to take photos inside military sites. Predictably, the reporters only found an abandoned site with two guards at the refinery Iran was said to be upgrading.
Eritrea has also become part of Iran’s efforts to overpower those who would resist its regional domination. A member of the Eritrean opposition has accused the Iranian Revolutionary Guards of training the radical Shiite Houthi rebels in Eritrea when they were waging war against the Yemeni and Saudi government. It’s also been reported that weapons are delivered to them via the Asab harbor. The Saudis had to launch a naval blockade to stop the weapons from arriving to the rebels via this route. This wasn’t just an attempt to pressure or overthrow the Arab regimes, but an attempt to assert control over the Bab-el-Mandeb strait that is transited by oil tankers and other vessels traveling to and from the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean.