Abdullah Al-Fifi "RIyadh Newspaper"
Iran chases mirage in Africa

Wherever it goes, devastation spreads, because the ideology it depends on uses the concepts of sectarianism to serve the political objectives it has set in many locations on its aggressive map in the Middle East and the African continent. What is experienced by Iran now is nothing but a rebound to the regions that have been difficult to control by Iran because they were covered by the Arab umbrella; side to side with the other Arab countries, according to a report specialized in this regard.

The report, issued by the International Institute for Iranian Studies, said that Iran is in a state of political confusion in the wake of the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement and the resumption of economic sanctions on Iran in May 2018. It is also a subject to other rebounds coming from the Arab Maghreb region as two of its countries; Morocco and Mauritania, were added to the Arab governments whose political and diplomatic relations with Iran have been strained, besides the decline in Iran's popularity among the peoples of the Maghreb countries, in the light of what Syria, Iraq and Yemen are suffering from as a result of the Iranian interference in their affairs. 

Moreover, there is an increasing realization on the part of the Algerian people of the seriousness of the Iranian efforts to spread sectarian ideology inside their territory. The first rebound came from Morocco on 1st May, 2018, when Morocco announced severing its diplomatic relations with Iran, after it had information that Iran has played a negative political role regarding the territorial integrity of Morocco. Iran’s Cultural Attaché in Algeria Amir Mousavi coordinated all meetings that took place between the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Polisario Front which opposes the Moroccan government, discussing how to practice pressure on the Moroccan government to allow the Polisario Front to secede in Western Sahara. Iran tries to use this matter as a strong pressure card in its hands against the Moroccan government which stands against Iran’s attempts to disseminate its religious sectarian ideology. 

The second rebound came from Mauritania, less than a month ago, precisely on 30th May, 2018, when the Mauritanian authorities took a package of measures to curb Iranian activities there, including the sudden summon of the Iranian ambassador to Nouakchott, Mohamed Amrani, and handing over a strong protest letter on the Iranian policy adopted towards Mauritania. They warned the Iranian Embassy of exercising any activities that spread sectarian ideology in the Mauritanian society or change its religious (Maliki) doctrine, considering that any appearance of sectarianism in Mauritania will instantly lead to the termination of the ambassador’s duty and to completely reconsider the Mauritanian-Iranian relations, a matter denied by Iran, stressing that Imrani was only handing over an Iranian message to the Mauritanian Foreign Ministry about what he called a US breach of the nuclear agreement

Regarding the measures taken in this regard in Mauritania, the report said that trimming the nails of Iran and restricting its role there justified the closure of “Imam Ali Complex” and the “Deposing of its Imam”, carried out by the Mauritanian authorities which also appointed another Imam and annexed the Complex to the Mauritanian Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Education, after receiving complaints from Mauritanian citizens about the behavior of those in charge of the Complex who publicly violated the Maliki doctrine, in force in Mauritania. The Mauritanian authorities also noticed the Complex’ intense organization of doctrinal meetings and the process of sending students to Iran and Lebanon, besides granting scholarships related to sectarian doctrines in the Mauritanian society.

The third rebound was different as it was popular rather than official as it sprang from the awareness of the Algerian people towards dissemination of sectarianism and its dangers. The Algerian bloggers and activists succeeded in expressing the demands of the Algerian public opinion, calling for the expulsion of the Iranian Cultural Counselor in Algeria, Amir Mousavi, for spreading the sectarian ideology in Algeria. They designed a "Hashtag", (#Algeria_Expels_Amir_Mousavi), on social networking sites; a matter that forced the pro-Iran Algerians to change their rhetoric and disavow their deep relationship with Mousavi. 

Iran pays a great strategic importance to the Maghreb countries because of its strategic location (especially Morocco and Mauritania, north of the African continent, which Iran pays great attention) extending from the Mediterranean coast in the North to the Atlantic Ocean to the West and its overlooking on the international maritime corridor, Gibraltar, linking the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean, and then to the two Americas, and through which oil and gas are passing as one of the vital channels that secures global trade routes. Secondly, Iran realizes that Morocco is as an influential regional player in strategic areas such as Sahel, Sahara, Arab Maghreb, and Africa; the same areas of Iranian interest, besides Mauritania's importance to Iran for its future projects in West Africa. The Iranian existence in the Maghreb countries provides it a foot in the promising black continent and provides it a gateway to enter the African countries, especially the Islamic ones. 

Going back to Iran’s setbacks in the Maghreb countries, we find that the international community has new evidences that Iran ignores all international laws and covenants which obligate individual States and groups to abide by its principles, in particular the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of States and the respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of these States. It also shows the rise of the number of Arab countries that cut off their diplomatic relations with Iran as a result of its expansionist behavior and sectarian policy. The number of Arab countries that have cut or lowered their diplomatic relations with Iran has been 12 Arab countries (nine countries boycotted: namely Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, and Comoros, three lowered relations, namely Kuwait, UAE, and Jordon) representing 60% of the Arab countries, compared with 9 Arab countries, which maintained their diplomatic relations with Iran: namely Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Qatar, Sultanate of Oman, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Mauritania (which has recently summoned the Ambassador).

The Iran-Maghreb relations, especially Morocco and Mauritania, are likely to remain as volatile as ever without maintaining a fixed line of relations. This is because of the absence of strong pillars that ensure the continuity of stable relations, in the light of the nature of the Maghreb demography where the majority of the people are Sunni (98%), in addition to the sensitivity of the decision-makers in Morocco and Mauritania regarding the religious dimension in their countries, and the relationship of this to the nature of the Moroccan and Mauritanian policies which oppose any interference in their doctrinal systems, as well as the absence of common interests between the two countries and Iran due to the deterioration of intermingling economic and trade relations, besides the continuous Iranian stance supporting the separatist ambitions of the Polisario Front. 

Finally, the main determinant of the future of Iran's relations with the two Maghreb countries, specifically Morocco, is Iran's seriousness in retreating from disseminating sectarianism and sectarian thought in both countries, as well as the extent of respect on part of Iran to the Moroccan and Mauritanian sovereignties and Iran’s commitment to the non - interference in the internal affairs of the two countries but there are doubts about the possibility of Iran's compliance with these requirements to ensure continuity of relations with these States and what is managed by the sectarian organizations to spread its thought among the Moroccan community in European countries. The Moroccans bear in minds Iran's expansionist activities in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, which led to the fragmentation and disintegration of these countries, a matter that makes the Iranian relations with the two countries in the face of a tortuous and fluctuating future

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