Iran and Nigeria terrorism

Writing in this week's Defense News, Efraim Inbar, a Political Studies professor at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, argues,

A nuclear Iran would strengthen its hegemony in the strategic energy sector by its mere location along the oil-rich Arabian Gulf and the Caspian Basin. These adjacent regions form the "energy ellipse," which holds more than 70 percent of the world's proven oil and more than 40 percent of natural gas reserves.

Improving revolutionary Iran's ability to intimidate the governments controlling parts of this huge energy reservoir would further strengthen Iran's position in the region and world affairs.

Inbar believes "terrorist entities will feel more secure and confident with the backing of a nuclear Iran" and that Tehran will feel free to increase its already substantial aid to violent groups. Inbar's concern about Iranian control of Persian Gulf and Central Asian oil should not be confined to just those regions. There have been growing ties between Iran and Venezuela, both of which have radical anti-American regimes. Now there is evidence that Iran is intervening in Nigeria, Africa's top oil exporter.

The same issue of Defense News ran this story from Agence France-Presse,

Nigeria on Nov. 12 threatened to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council if an illegal arms shipment sent from an Iranian port and discovered in Lagos violated sanctions over its nuclear program.

Nigeria's foreign minister made the comments after meeting with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki over the arms cache, which included rockets and grenades, and obtained access to an Iranian in connection with the probe.

The shipment consisted of 13 sealed containers which had been loaded on the French ship CMA CGM Everest  in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. According to the Defense News account,

Earlier this week, Nigeria's intelligence agency said it had been monitoring the shipment, which was disguised as building material, before it arrived in the country. It also said the shipment's destination was Nigeria, and "any argument that the cargo came into the country by mistake is false."

Terrorist attacks conducted by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta  (MEND) have become more violent in recent months, including two car bombs detonated near where Nigerian leaders and foreign dignitaries were attending independence day commemorations on Oct 1. MEND wants the oil rich delta to become autonomous under control of local ethnic-tribal groups, which Tehran might see as an opportunity to expand its influence over even more of the world's oil reserves. Nigeria has a population split in rough equality between Sunni Muslims and Christians, so the Shiite Islamic regime in Tehran would have no qualms about supporting violence against the Lagos government or its people.

Iran's ambitions only expand in response to appeasement or any sign of weakness by adversaries. Prof. Inbar concluded, "At this late stage, only military action can prevent the descent of the greater Mid-east into a very brutish region." It should be added that Iran's growing influence in Latin America and Africa risks making even larger parts of the world "brutish" if the regime is not taught a hard lesson about the high costs of aggression.