Where Intelligence Meets News Analysis.

The Threat to Africa is Real

Maybe there never was much hope.  But the first direct talks, with Iran, in well over a year has once again failed.  The United States and other world powers have failed to convince Iran to renounce its nuclear ambition—most especially its enrichment of uranium.  This is an increasingly unacceptable outcome, especially if the relative peace in our world must persist.

Earlier this month, Nigerian prosecutors charged a member of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps with attempting to import prohibited firearms into Africa’s most populous and volatile nation.

According to court documents, the weapons seized in Lagos (one of Africa’s busiest ports), included assorted calibers of mortars and 107mm rockets—designed to attack static targets and used by armies to support infantry units—as well as shells for a 23mm anti-aircraft gun.

It is believed by Nigerian officials that a portion of this arsenal, found in 13 containers misleadingly labeled building materials, were also bound for the African nation of The Gambia.

It should be known that the Gambia has since cut all economic and diplomatic ties with Iran.  And Nigeria, a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, reported Iran to the Council for breach of U.N. resolution 1929 which bans Iran from “supplying, selling or transferring directly or indirectly from its territory or by its nationals … any arms or related material.”

As audacious and laudable as these steps by these African nations are, they are weak in their limited scope to protect us from the hell that threatens to befall us if the government in Tehran is not checked in good time.

The leaked cables by the anarchist website Wikileaks underscore this emergency: From Bahrain to Jordan to Saudi Arabia, fears of a nuclear Iran are unambiguously expressed by Arab states.

So it is of big surprise that much has not been made in the media of Iranian-made arms seeping into an African port.

It is not an ignorable fact that the vast majority of African states are very unstable: those actively not dealing with an armed conflict are simmering under the pressure for one.

Nigeria, where these weapons were discovered, is the largest oil producer in Africa—with an almost 50/50 Christian-Muslim ratio.

It is in this Nigeria where inter-faith violence has become an annual headliner, and where Muslim hard-liners strongly identify with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s venomous anti-Christian, anti-Judaic, and anti-West ideologies. Hard-liners such as Boko Haram, a home-grown terrorist group who has vowed to impose Sharia law in every part of Nigeria, and regularly attacks paramilitary infrastructures.

And, then, there’s the situation in the southeastern part of Nigeria, where ethnic activists routinely engage in notorious acts of violence to further their cause: Oil pipelines are sabotaged, oil workers kidnapped, and even lately, planting of car bombs in the nation’s capital.

All these I mention to show that colossal instability in the world’s 8th largest exporter of petroleum as a result of Iranian-made weapons exacerbating conflicts would be very unfortunate for our world— global oil prices (amongst other things), without any reservation, would be forced to shoot for the stratosphere.

But this is only the lesser of two evils.  A nuclear Iran represent apocalypse.  To date, Iran has not shown the attributes of a responsible state: Be it its call for the annihilation of another state (Israel); its funding of terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah; or simply its sheer disdain of U.N. resolutions.

Just as these weapons made their way to Nigeria, who can assure Africans everywhere that nuclear weapons from a nuclear Iran will not appear at an African port with a manifest for pro-Iranian terrorist outfits.

And, then what?  Shall the world only pay attention as Africa experiences its first nuclear holocaust?

Of course, I am not naïve to think there are no episodes of state-sponsored gun-running all across Africa.  Just the other day, Wikileaks released diplomatic cables showing Ukraine had tried shipping 32 unsanctioned soviet-era battle tanks to southern Sudan.  But this pales to the havoc that can be unleashed in Africa at the hands of a rogue state like Iran who continues to defy the international order.  Africa is a fuse and Iran has a lighter.

The last thing the world needs is Iran peddling its arms in Africa, which will continue if powers that be aimlessly trudge down an irresolute road.  The next talks are scheduled for next year, and I think it’s high time we started understanding the limit of carrots where Iran and global security are concerned.

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