Iran Acquires a Strategic Foothold in Africa – up to Chad
On Saturday, March 8, Iran and Sudan signed a string of military cooperation pacts in Tehran that stretch Iran’s military and intelligence presence in Sudan up to the borders of Chad.
The signers were Iran’s defense minister Gen. Mostafa Mohammad Majjar and his Sudanese counterpart, Gen. Abdul Rahim Mohammad Hussein, a fighter pilot appointed defense minister only three weeks ago.
The horrendous Darfur tragedy and Khartoum’s backing for Chad rebels finally led Sudan’s traditional arms suppliers, Russia, China and Libya, to back away from arming Sudan’s 120,000-strong forces. Beijing came last, sensitized to its international image by the approaching Olympic Games in August.
Libya has a major beef with Khartoum for backing the rebels fighting to overthrow Chad president Idriss Debby.
At a loss for arms suppliers, President Omar al-Bashir turned to Tehran, with a request for a package that included arms and training for the Sudanese army.
Iran jumped in with gusto. For years Tehran has been gradually building up its military ties with Khartoum with an eye on its geopolitical assets: a long coast on the Red Sea, a main sea lane to the Persian Gulf, a Muslim nation located opposite Saudi Arabia and next door to Egypt; Sudan’s command of oil resources and the White Nile, a major water source for an entire African region.
This strategic jewel was on the point of dropping drop into Iran’s fundamentalist lap. It is therefore no wonder that the Iranians managed to whip up a complete set of military documents during the Sudanese defense minister’s four-day stay in Tehran and get them signed there and then.
Mutual defense and Iranian defense systems for Sudan’s strategic sites
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Iranian sources report that both parties were in such a hurry that they signed the accords in outline and agreed to fill in the details of the various areas of military cooperation in the coming months.
Here then is the substance of the documents they signed:
1. The Sudanese Army will gradually move from Russian and Chinese weaponry to Iranian-made items.
2. Khartoum will enjoy a 50 percent discount on arms purchased from Iran.
3. Iran undertakes to build Sudan a military industry for the manufacture of Iranian weapons.
4. The two governments will establish a joint military committee to define forms of mutual defense collaboration based on the Iranian-Syrian pact. Each undertakes to come to the other’s aid in the event of foreign aggression.
The practical details remain to be agreed for fleshing out these outline accords.
5. The two air forces, navies and armored corps will exchange delegations.
6. Iran will help Sudan plan and construct defensive systems to secure its strategic locations, such as oil fields, ports and the Nile River dams.
Our military sources reveal that an Iranian military mission spent February in Sudan, was flown over to its sensitive military sites and shown the problems entailed in defending them. The Iranian defense experts toured Darfur, the Sudanese-Chad border and the White Nile dams.
The $1.8 billion Merowe Dam hydropower project, which includes a 174-kilometer long reservoir, is funded by China and Arab countries. Chinese, Sudanese, German and French companies participate in this project and in the Kajbar Dam downstream of the Merowe Dam.
White Nile dams displaces 50,000 valley denizens
The Sudanese are afraid that Egypt, which claims the Merowe project is diverting its water supply, may attack and destroy the project.
On March 10, the UN center in Geneva published a report compiled by a group of experts monitoring human rights in Sudan, which had this to say about the dams Sudan was constructing on the White Nile:
“We regret that the government did not allow access to Kajbar, Amir, Merowe and Makabrab in the northern state. The visit was planned to meet with local authorities and affected communities in the Nile valley area where two hydropower dams are being constructed. It was canceled by Sudan’s state security committee the day before it was scheduled to travel to the area. The reasons provided by the government did not justify their decision to prevent access.
After being prevented from traveling to the area, the international experts met with representatives from the affected communities in Khartoum. They urged the government to ensure the safety and adequate housing of persons displaced from the area.
They also requested access for UN human rights officers to conduct an independent assessment mission to the area.
According to the information reaching DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources, the Merowe Dam is displacing more than 50,000 people living in the fertile Nile Valley and casting them out to arid desert locations. The government is violently suppressing the protests of the Nubian people who would be displaced by the Kajbar Dam.
7. Iran has assumed responsibility for sending instructors to train Sudanese army units deployed in Darfur. To disguise the aid rendered to the forces perpetrating atrocities in Darfur, the Iranians have set up a number of welfare facilities in the province.
The have also built a military hospital to serve the Sudanese army.
Iranian agents hook up with anti-US forces via Chad
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military and intelligence sources disclose that this will not be Iran’s first venture in Darfur.
In 2006, Sudan secretly permitted Iran to deploy intelligence agents along its border with Chad. These agents were entrusted with three missions,
One – To subjugate the Chad tribes controlling or constituting the work force at the uranium deposits of eastern Chad ahead of their seizure. Two – To establish links with Chadian elements willing to challenge Libyan influence. Three – Tehran’s agents were told to strike west via Chad and hook up with the terrorist organizations battling Western influence – primarily American and Israeli – on the African continent.
This week, by no coincidence, an American-Israeli plot was suddenly “uncovered” in Khartoum – at the very moment when the Sudanese defense minister was away in Tehran, signing military pacts.
Sudan’s security agencies were said to have carried out a snap search of a private plane belonging to an unnamed American company operating in Sudan as it arrived with oil field equipment. What they claimed to have found was an “Israeli Mossad electric surveillance device” which was to have been planted at local military facilities.
Khartoum’s tie-in between a US oil company operating in Sudan and Israeli intelligence warned Washington that Omar al-Bashir was in the process of lining up behind Tehran’s anti-American campaign.
Our sources add that Sudan’s vice president Salva Kiir Mayardit, head of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), who has good relations with the Americans, has chosen to stay silent at this point and not demur against the new military pacts signed with Iran.
His inaction further signifies the Bush administration’s falling star in this part of Africa.