Yoram Ettinger
Yoram EttingerCourtesy

In 1979, US policy toward Iran crashed against the rocks of reality, when Ayatollah Khomeini assumed power with the help of the US, but – contrary to US expectations - transformed Iran, "The American policeman of the Gulf" into the world's leading epicenter of anti-US subversion, terrorism and drug-trafficking.

In 2015, US policy toward Iran crashed, again, against the rocks of reality, when – contrary to US expectations - Iran's Ayatollahs did not harness the mega-billion-dollar bonanza, yielded by the nuclear accord (JCPOA), to upgrade domestic standards of living. Instead – as expected - this bonanza bolstered Iran's preoccupation with anti-US subversion, terrorism and the development, manufacturing and proliferation of non-conventional military systems.

In 2022, once again, US policy-makers seem to stick to the 1979 and 2015 practice of basing their Iran policy on assessments of the future behavior of Iran's Ayatollahs, rather than on the Ayatollahs' rogue, systematic track record since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

US policy-makers base their policy on the hope that a mega-generous Western gesture could induce Iran's Ayatollahs to depart from their 1979-2022 systematic and rogue anti-US policy, which is driven by a 1,400-year-old religious, cultural, historical and imperialistic vision.

The hope (rather than reality)-driven policy toward Iran has led to a display of eagerness to conclude an agreement with Iran's Ayatollahs, downplaying the Ayatollahs' non-good-faith conduct, and waving the military option and the regime-change option.

However, on February 1, 2022, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, the powerful Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered a strident warning to President Biden on the Senate floor: "Hope is not a national security strategy!"

Africa's geo-strategic significance

According to General Thomas Waldhauser, a former Commander of the United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM), during his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee: “instability in North Africa may be the most significant near-term threat to U.S. and allies…."

General Waldhauser's testimony has been vindicated by the accelerated transformation of Africa – the second largest continent with over 1.2 billion people - into a major global epicenter of anti-US Islamic terrorism.

Iran's Ayatollahs consider North Africa as the soft underbelly of the "infidel" Europe, and the whole of Africa as an extension of Iran's strategic depth.

One of the examples of Africa's geo-strategic significance is The Horn of Africa (150mn people, about 40% Moslems), which is one of the more militarily volatile, unstable, unpredictable and critical regions in the world. It stretches along the southern part of the Red Sea, across from Saudi Arabia and Yemen, controlling the geo-strategically vital strait of Bab al-Mandeb, which facilitates trade between Asia and Europe, including Persian Gulf oil shipments. It is a significant platform, militarily and economically, for regional and global powers.

The Washington-based Foreign Policy contends that "Europe's future will be decided in North Africa. Morocco and Spain are separated by a mere 9 miles. There are only 146 miles separating the Tunisian coast and the Italian coast, and 286 miles from Libya to Greece. Algeria’s beaches are 469 miles from those of France — about the distance from Washington, DC to Charleston, South Carolina….

"Algeria (920,000 sqm), Libya (680,000 sqm), and Tunisia (63,000 sqm) all have terrorism problems that have affected Europe in frightening ways…. Algeria and Libya border Chad, Mali, and Niger, which are themselves confronting [Islamic terrorism]….

"Africa is the foundation of the global supply chain – a strategic source of almost 40% of the raw materials, agriculture, fresh water and energy essential for global growth…. Africa has become the fastest-growing oil producing region worldwide. Not only does it produce oil that is easily refined, but many experts also believe that there are still large undiscovered oil fields with immense potential. Africa possesses 60% of the world’s diamonds, 40% of its phosphate, and 30% of its cobalt [and 18% of its uranium] resources….

"11% of Europe's natural gas is imported from Algeria… Spain, for example, gets 52% of its natural gas from Algeria. The North African giant is also Italy’s second-largest gas supplier. If Algeria descended into violence — which is not out of the realm of possibility — and its gas supplies were somehow disrupted, Europe would have a significant problem…. Libya has a lot of gas, but it is in the midst of a civil war….

The Washington-based Atlantic Council reports that "In 2015, the number of people killed in terrorist attacks in Africa was the same or higher as the number of fatalities caused by ISIS in the Middle East…. African-based groups such as Boko Haram—the second most lethal terrorist group in the world — and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) espouse dangerous anti-US and/or anti-Western ideologies…. Africa is a growing transit hub for illegal drugs…. 12% of the cocaine trafficked through Africa is destined for the US…. Drug trafficking in West Africa has been likened to drug-related violence in Latin America and the Caribbean…. [West Africa's] Guinea-Bissau has been labeled a narco-state…."

Africa as a springboard to export Iran's Islamic Revolution

Iran's Ayatollahs have been active in Africa since the early 1980s, leveraging Africa's inherent instability, failed-states, tribal, ethnic and religious military conflicts:

*Recruiting and training anti-US terrorists;
*Fueling local and regional conflicts (e.g., assisting the anti-US Polisario Front's war to end the pro-US and pro-Saudi Morocco's sovereignty in Western Sahara; and cooperating with the Algerian opposition, Islamic Salvation Front, during the 2002-1991 civil war);
*Challenging all Sunni regimes through subversion and terrorism;
*Establishing Shiite seminaries and converting Sunni Muslims to Shiism; *Forging a West Africa – Latin America drug trafficking and money laundering coordination;
*Supporting anti-US African governments (e.g., assisting Ethiopia in its war against Tigray rebels);
*Expanding access to uranium resources.

According to King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies: "Iran sought Africa’s support for its nuclear program, promoting the concept of Third World's “nuclear unity”. The initiative was designed to assist Iran's access to Africa’s uranium markets [in Algeria, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Senegal, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, and the Democratic Republic of Congo], and derail international sanctions…. Iran invested in the uranium mines of Namibia and Malawi [and possibly in Gabon and Zimbabwe].

Iran's Ayatollahs have realized that adding fuel to tribal and regional wars, unstable and failed-states – which have plagued Africa – feeds violence and global terrorism, serving the Islamic Revolution. Thus, North Africa (Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Egypt), has produced a substantial percentage of the foreigners who have joined ISIS' terrorism in Iraq and Syria in defiance of their own home-countries.

Iran's African network consists of religious, cultural, drug-trafficking, money laundering and terror operations, in collaboration with its Hezbollah proxy, and in coordination with their joint initiatives with Latin American drug cartels, terrorist groups and anti-US governments.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez' warning (ibid)

The Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee stated on February 1, 2022: "…. We are not dealing with a good faith actor here…. We can’t live in a counterfactual world where all parties remained in full compliance, but we do know that even for the first couple years of the JCPOA, Iran’s leaders… fought vigorously to keep their highly advanced nuclear infrastructure in place…. Iran’s consistent obfuscation, continual stalling, and outlandish demands have left us flying blind…."

The Chairman indicated that there are no grounds for the hope:

*that Iran's Ayatollahs will sign and comply with an accord which will undermine the hegemonic vision of the Islamic Revolution;
*that democracy will take hold in Iran;
*that Iran will desist from its nuclear ambitions;
*that the Ayatollahs will stop exporting and supporting terrorism;
*and, that they will stop their "Death to America" policy.

Will the US Executive heed this vital advice from a senior member of the Legislature?

Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, is author of "Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative" and can be reached at https://bit.ly/3hdmQ57. Yoram will be available for speaking engagements in the US during March 13 - April 10, 2022: