After the decline of French influence in the Sahel region and with diminishing credibility of the West in Africa, newer powers are emerging and are trying to gain a share of the African pie. Apart from Russia’s Wagner, which has already increased its footprints in Africa, other countries are also reaching out to the continent and deepening their ties. As this whole geopolitical scenarios evolve, now Iran has also joined the list of countries seeking to expand its African footprint.
Iran goes to Mauritania
Recently, Iran’s Foreign Minister visited Nouakchott with a high-ranking delegation to bolster relations with Mauritania in “all fields”, as per a report. This visit has come two weeks after Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi sent a written message to Mauritanian President Mohammed Ould Ghazouani, inviting him to visit Tehran.
Further, similar trips have been made by Iranian diplomats to member countries of the G5.
Now, Iran seeking to bolster relations with Mauritania seems, on the surface, like a regular diplomatic engagement between the two countries. However, there could be much more to this.
What does Iran want?
Every other country of late is trying to make incursions in the African continent. Therefore, Iran too has entered the fray as it seeks to deepen ties with Mauritania.
Now, Mauritania shares borders with Western Sahara region of Morocco and Algeria. Iran has found somewhat of a supporter in Algeria before and specially the Polisario, which is backed by Algeria.
Algeria, over its support for Iran, also had to face isolation from Arab League members last year. A proposal was put forward by Morocco, to condemn Iran’s destabilizing acts in the east and the west of the Arab world, which was also backed by majority of Arab League countries but was opposed by Algeria.
Morocco, had also severed ties with Tehran in May 2018, accusing it of using its Hezbollah proxies to train and arm the Polisario separatist militias.
We told our readers earlier, how Morocco has been largely successful in establishing its “One Morocco Policy” and more and more countries have also come to endorse Morocco’s “Autonomy Plan” and have considered it as a “good basis” to end the dispute over Western Sahara.
Read More: Morocco successfully imposes its “One Morocco Policy” in UK
Now, by forging ties with Mauritania, it can be inferred that Iran is making a fresh attempt to enter the Sahel region and also tighten its grip over Morocco by joining hands with its adversary Algeria. There might be possibilities that since Algeria is losing the battle over Western Sahara, it might join hands with Iran in its military showdown with neighboring Morocco. As per a report, Algeria is preparing for a military confrontation with Rabat.
Further, after diminishing Western influence, Iran might also try to gain control of the Sahel region which has been battling a brutal insurgency. Thus, the Islamic Republic of Iran might also try to gain advantage in the region, in the name of fighting the Jihadist insurgencies in Sahel.
With peace still a distant dream in the Sahel region, the fresh emergence of Iran-Algeria axis will have serious implications on the security scenario and its stability. With all this, the geopolitical competition over the African continent will further escalate in the near future.
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