By Javad Heirannia

Saudi-UAE move in the Sahel region is for rivalry with Iran: Prof. Entessar

February 24, 2018

TEHRAN – Professor Nader Entessar from South Alabama University says that “Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been looking at the Sahel region of West Africa as a major source of investment.”

“We should look at the Saudi-UAE move in the Sahel not in isolation but in the broader context of their rivalry with Iran,” Entessar tells the Tehran Times recently.
Following is the text of the interview:

Q: Saudi Arabia and UAE have pledged to financially back a five-nation coalition force in the Sahel region of West Africa. What are the reasons behind such funding?

A: Here are two main reasons for this.  One is economical.  Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been looking at the Sahel region of West Africa as a major source of investment.  The second reason is political and strategic.  These two Persian Gulf countries want to portray themselves as supporters of global anti-terrorism and hence are committing themselves to militarily supporting the West African countries and increasing their political leverage in the Sahel region.

Q: What is the strategic importance of the Sahel region for Saudi Arabia and UAE?

A: As I stated in my answer to the previous question, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been trying to expand their economic, political, strategic and cultural foothold in Africa.  Their recent endeavor in the Sahel region must be seen in the overall context of Saudi-UAE influence buying machination in the African continent.

Q: One of the reasons as to why Saudi Arabia and UAE joined the initiative is to contain the influence of Iran and Qatar in the Sahel region. Basically, what are these countries competing for in the Sahel region?

A: Iran has also been seeking to establish an economic foothold in the continent of Africa as Tehran sees Africa as an untapped and potentially lucrative market, as does Qatar.  We should look at the Saudi-UAE move in the Sahel not in isolation but in the broader context of their rivalry with Iran.  In other words, the binary views of the Saudi-UAE axis compel them to make knee-jerk moves to check-mate Iran in every arena irrespective of the extent of their immediate gains.

Q: Right after that Saudi Arabia and UAE joined G5 Sahel force summit in Paris and pledged their support, Qatar’s emir visited the region to sign trade and economic deals. How much potential do have the Sahel region to help Qatar get rid of the hardship caused by Saudi Arabia and its allies?

A: The Sahel region's potential as a conduit to greatly alleviate Qatar's hardship is minimal at the present time, but Qatar sees the Sahel region of Africa as yet another place it can compete economically with Saudi-led Arab countries and score a point against its Saudi-UAE rivals.  However, the Saudi-led countries have an upper-hand there because of their military commitments and economic muscle.  
 

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