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Africa in 2014: US-Iran reconciliation and its impact in Africa

By The Africa Report
Posted on Thursday, 19 December 2013 11:22

Already, Iran is fighting off the drug cartels. Hawkish elements within the military and clerical circles are also there on the margins. If the world is concerned about a proliferation of chemical weapons from Syria, how would it judge a collapsed Iran? What would Israel’s response be?

[Saudis are] behind the curve when it comes to actual US influence in the [Middle East] region

The optimists are latching onto the Iran-United States (US) reconciliation as a way out of the nightmare scenarios that haunt the region.

Beyond the obvious benefits of a world saved from another Gulf conflict, there are several ways in which Africa might be affected.

The first and most obvious is in Egypt. The former president Mohamed Morsi ruled the country with the Muslim Brotherhood for just a year before being overthrown by the military on 3 July 2013.

The Saudi Arabian government, which dreams of regional leadership, is the sworn enemy of Iran. Iranian clerics have said that Saudi Kings are “too powerful on earth”, and the Shia government in Iraq makes Riyadh nervous.

The Saudis are also keen to be the strongest and most legitimate Sunni power, and therefore are not fans of the Muslim Brotherhood. After Morsi was toppled, Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd immediately promised extra aid for the new Egyptian leadership under General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.

If the Saudis and the Egyptian military think the US will maintain its role as their defender, they may be mistaken.

Rosemary Hollis, an expert at City University in London, thinks the Saudis are “behind the curve when it comes to actual US influence in the region.”

She points to the way the US government first went along with the revolution and is now going along with the generals.

Although Washington has made some cuts to its military aid budget to Egypt, Sisi’s saving grace is probably the Israelis, who prefer a controllable military regime in Egypt and are lobbying on its behalf in Washington.

There are other transmission lines into Africa. Qatar helped the 2011 North African uprisings on their way, and local politicians say it is funding Islamist movements in Egypt and Tunisia.

But as anti-Qatar banners have appeared on the streets in Tunis, Qatari support for Islamist movements in North Africa is fading.

Qatari influence may have hit its high-water mark – especially if the Iran-US deal sticks and Iran is resurgent. Tehran has made it clear that if it is attacked, it will retaliate against the Gulf allies of the US, and Qatar hosts the largest US base in the region.

Negotiations in Syria will also play their part. “Doha would probably come around more quickly to a deal on Syria that leaves [President Bashar] al-Assad in place forthetimebeing”, says Hollis.

This would shear Qatar’s influence over the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria and undercut their claims to be the new power broker for the movement elsewhere. ●

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