Al-Shabaab bolsters links with Iran

Iran has opted to ignore political-ideological differences in order to establish secret-ties with al-Shabaab.


Al-Shabaab bolsters links with Iran at Turkey’s expense

January 31, 2020 (ION) – On 18 January, the insurgents of the al-Shabaab movement, which has ties to al-Qaeda, attacked a convoy of the Somali National Army (SNA) that was escorting Turkish engineers involved in upgrading the Afgoye road. Six of the engineers were wounded in the ambush. This was the third attack against Turkish nationals since 28 December 2019, when two of the country’s engineers were among the 81 killed in a truck bombing. This upsurge of attacks against Turks working in Somalia comes amid a growing rapprochement between al-Shabaab and Tehran.

Ankara in the firing line

On 28 December, al-Shabaab’s spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage, aka Ali Dhere, claimed responsibility for the deadly attack targeting Turkish nationals – something that he does not usually do when there are also many casualties among the local population. After apologising for the high number of Somalian victims, he laid into Turkey, accusing it of seeking to ‘conquer’ Somalia and of taking ‘control of all [its] economic resources’. ‘We will never stop fighting until [it] withdraws from our country’, he warned.

However, these threats seem to have done little to deter the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. On a flight home from a summit on Libya in Berlin on 20 January, he confided to the accompanying journalists that he has received a proposal from the government of Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo to become involved in oil production. This despite the fact that Mogadishu has not yet put its offshore blocks up for sale, notwithstanding an announcement by the authorities that the first licences would be issued in December 2019.

Realignment with the Iranian position

While Turkish interests are being targeted, the attack on 5 January against the Kenyan-American Camp Simba in Lamu was an expression of solidarity with Iran, which two days earlier on 3 January had lost its ‘hero’ and number two in the regime, General Qassem Soleimani. The leader of the Quds Force, the elite wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was killed in an American drone attack close to Baghdad airport.

But how to account for this unlikely alliance between the two rival faiths of the Muslim world – Shia Iran and Sunni al-Shabaab – when religious affiliations would seem to dictate a rapprochement between Ankara and Somalia’s mujahideen through the networks of the Muslim Brotherhood? What with the exporting of the revolution initiated by Ayatollah Khomeini, Turkey’s new imperialism assisted by the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar’s chequebook diplomacy, the natural assumption was that al-Shabaab would choose the Turkish camp.

Ulterior motives outweigh religious divides

In the case of Somalia, Iran has opted to ignore political and ideological differences in order to establish secret ties with al-Shabaab. Since 2014, Tehran has been using the trafficking networks of Somalian Islamists to prepare for the war in Yemen and arm Shia Houthis. The leader of al-Shabaab, Ahmed Diriye (aka Abu Obaidah), gave a pledge to Qassem Suleimani’s representative in Sanaa, Reza Shahi, that his movement would support the Houthis with a logistics unit that would supply Yemeni rebels with military equipment and other supplies.

Abu Obaidah has himself extolled the ‘deep understanding’ with Iran in an audio message broadcast on al-Andalus, an al-Shabaab radio station. He also oversaw the birth of the lucrative trafficking of Somalian charcoal to the Iranian islands of Kish and Qeshm in the Persian Gulf, which are both free-trade zones. This illicit trade between Iran, Yemen and Somalia has steadily grown and has become an important lever of influence for Tehran.

Description of source: Since 1981, the Indian Ocean Newsletter investigates within the power spheres of the Eastern coast of Africa, from Khartoum to Cape Town and the islands. Country of origin: France
© Copyrights 2020 Indigo Publications All Rights Reserved


US base faces twin challenges of Al-Shabaab and China

January 17, 2020 (ION) – The geostrategic location of Djibouti means that it is the trade hub of the Horn as well being the nexus of internet traffic. In order to counter the increasing influence of China in this sector, the US armed forces are pushing ahead with their project to render secure the fibre connections of their Djiboutian bases. The boss of Futron Inc, Waynne Zeigler, set up a subsidiary of his telecommunications firm in Djibouti in mid-December. Two months previously, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) began to cast around for an internet system that can link Camp Lemonnier up to the Baledogle airbase in Somalia.

It could prove to be a useful asset, with China – which has set up its own base a few kilometres from Camp Lemonnier – having become one of the leading telecommunications players through ZTE and Huawei.

Through these new initiatives, AFRICOM is also seeking to isolate itself from Al-Shabaab. Logistical problems have already prompted the American military to rethink the procurement arrangements for their bases. The Baledogle airbase was itself attacked on 30 October, two months prior to Al-Shabaab’s assault on Camp Simba that left three Americans dead. In response to this most recent attack, AFRICOM has deployed troops of the East Africa Response Force on the ground. On 26 December, the American high command delivered 54 armoured vehicles to Djibouti as part of a $31 million military aid package.

Description of source: Since 1981, the Indian Ocean Newsletter investigates within the power spheres of the Eastern coast of Africa, from Khartoum to Cape Town and the islands. Country of origin: France
© Copyrights 2020 Indigo Publications All Rights Reserved

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