Israel has been monitoring activities in Iran by operating bases in Eritrea, a report by Stratfor Global Intelligence said Tuesday.
The report said that Eritrea, located on the eastern shore of the Red Sea, has become an arena of operations for both Israel and Iran, as both are trying to bolster their influence on the Horn of Africa.
“In exchange for resources, possibly including modest amounts of cash and weapons, Eritrea has exhibited a willingness to become a base of support for Middle Eastern powers that want to exert greater influence in the Horn of Africa,” said the report.
“As a result, Eritrea and its waters in the Gulf of Aden have become another venue for Iran and Israel's rivalry. Israel and Iran's engagement with Eritrea is an extension of their rivalry over the Red Sea, which allegedly led to the bombing of the Yarmouk weapons factory in Sudan,” added the report, referring to the mysterious bombing at a military factory in Khartoum on October 23.
Sudan fingered Israel for the bombing, which led to speculation that Iranian weapons were stored or manufactured at the factory. Khartoum has denied Iranian involvement in weapons manufacturing and has accused Israel of "spreading fabricated information".
“In 2008,” said the Stratfor report, “Tehran struck a deal with Asmara to maintain a military presence in Assab -- officially to protect the state-owned renovated Soviet-era oil refinery there. In return, Asmara received cash and other military support from Tehran through official and unofficial channels. In 2009, the same year in which Eritrea openly supported Iran's nuclear program, the Export Development Bank of Iran transferred $35 million to support the Eritrean economy.”
“Israel also operates inside Eritrea,” the report continued. “According to Stratfor diplomatic and media sources, Israel has small naval teams in the Dahlak archipelago and Massawa and a listening post in Amba Soira.”
“Israel's presence in Eritrea is very focused and precise, involving intelligence gathering in the Red Sea and monitoring Iran's activities,” said the report. “Various Stratfor diplomatic sources have said that Israel's presence in Eritrea is small but significant.”
According to Stratfor, “Asmara wants Israel's friendship for numerous security and political reasons. Eritrea wants to use Israel to influence the United States -- an ally of both Israel and Ethiopia -- in decisions regarding Eritrea on the international stage. The country also wants to acquire better air defense capabilities to defend against a possible attack from Ethiopia. Moreover, cooperating with Israel is a way for Asmara to balance its controversial relationship with Tehran.”
At the same time, Stratfor said, “Israel has good relations with both Eritrea and Ethiopia and is less interested in expanding its presence in Eritrea than Iran. Israel would not want to harm its relations with Ethiopia and other regional countries, as it has a wider interest in East Africa -- mainly containing Sudan's Islamist government, which allegedly supports Hamas and other anti-Israeli elements in the Middle East. As Israel has expanded its security cooperation with South Sudan and Kenya in recent years, Eritrea has responded by strengthening its ties with Iran.”