July 13, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran’s President Conducts Influence Tour in Sub-Saharan Africa

July 13, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran’s President Conducts Influence Tour in Sub-Saharan Africa

Latest Developments

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi wrapped up the final leg of his three-day visit to Sub-Saharan Africa with a stop in Zimbabwe on July 13, seeking to bolster Iran’s influence, trade, and business partnerships on the continent while cementing an anti-American alliance. Raisi and Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa signed 12 agreements on topics ranging from energy to telecommunications and called for countries facing Western sanctions to unite.

During the previous two days, Raisi visited Kenya and Uganda. In a meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Raisi praised the country’s newly enacted law against homosexuality, calling the orientation “one of the dirtiest things in human history” and an attack “by the West against the establishment of families and against the culture of the nations.” Raisi also met with Kenyan President William Ruto and promised to expand bilateral ties.

Expert Analysis

“The African market — and all markets — ought to be mindful of the landmines and immense risk of doing business with Iran. For years, Iran has been on the blacklist of the Financial Action Task Force, a place it shares only with North Korea and Myanmar. The task force urges financial institutions to apply enhanced due diligence to business relationships and transactions with Iran. But this will prove a nightmare for businesses because many Iranian companies use non-transparent corporate structures and shadow companies to hide their true ownership interests. Iran may say it’s open for business, but it’s not yet safe to do it.” Toby Dershowitz, FDD Senior Vice President for Government Relations and Strategy

“Raisi’s Sub-Saharan Africa tour is further proof of Tehran’s diplomatic charm offensive, which has recently deepened in Latin America and the Middle East. While the trip is generating much media attention, what follows and how Tehran tries to implement any political and economic agreements will be of key importance for sanctions implementation and enforcement.” Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

Operating in the Western Hemisphere

Weak enforcement of U.S. sanctions has emboldened Tehran to expand its influence outside of the Middle East. Raisi’s trip marks the first time an Iranian president has visited Sub-Saharan Africa in over a decade. In June, Raisi took a five-day tour of Latin America, visiting Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. Iran has shared drone technology with Venezuela and assisted in upgrading its oil refineries.

Strengthening the Russia-China-Iran Axis

Tehran has strengthened its military alliance with Russia while Moscow continues its invasion of Ukraine. The Islamist regime provides Russia with thousands of Iranian-made suicide drones and artillery shells

In February, Raisi met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, signing almost 20 cooperation agreements and calling for boosting ties between Iran, China, and Russia. Additional meetings by Iranian officials in Beijing concluded with a China-brokered deal to reestablish ties between Iran and its chief regional rival, Saudi Arabia, with both countries reopening their respective embassies for the first time since 2016.

Iran’s Raisi Embarks on Five-Day Tour of Latin American Countries,” FDD Flash Brief

Chinese President Set to Visit Tehran Following Iranian Counterpart’s Trip to Beijing,” FDD Flash Brief

Non-Enforcement of U.S. Oil Sanctions on Iran Hits New High,” FDD Flash Brief


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