Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=TEHRAN – KHARTOUM – TRIPOLI WATCH – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Damascus – Tripoli – Khartoum/N’Djamena – Paris; Heavy Fighting Near Chad Capital N’Djamena Between Government – Rebel Units – France Flys Reinforcements from Gabon – Egypt Arrests 12 Palestinians Near Rafah Enroute to Attack Israel Resorts in Sinai
Night Watch: MASSAGUET – When Iran’s then President Mohammad Khatami visited Khartoum for three days in late summer 2004, as part of his four nation tour circumventing Egypt, it signaled Tehran was concentrating a major part of its foreign policy on controlling the resources of Northeast Africa and surrounding countries. While in Khartoum Khatami spoke of economic opportunities aware of course of the oil in the south and perhaps in the western Darfur region. His visit was a very real indication of Tehran’s support of Khartoum’s policy of displacement, begun a year previously, directed at the people of Darfur who had long been alienated from the central government. A central government that had established strategic relations with Iran during the mid-1980s. Tehran not only targets the people, who are seen as an obstacle to Iran’s control of an area, but Tehran also targets any government in support of those people, in this case Chad, which has given shelter and support to the refugees in Darfur. [SWISSINFO]
In this case, Tehran entered the war against the Chadian government in N’Djamena by giving support to rebel groups against President Idriss Deby Itno who took power in a military coup in 1990 through his support base in the east of the country, which borders Sudan’s Darfur. Chad also possessing substantial amounts of oil reserves, and development projects by France’s Total and U. S. Esso corporations, made Chad an even more important target for Tehran. Iran wants to control Chad’s oil through a government established by them the same way Tehran does with Sudan’s oil through Khartoum and here we have the basis for the expanded conflict that in normal times would just be an internal dispute.
The news reported yesterday a rebel column of 300 vehicles northeast of N’Djamena, was advancing on the capital just 30 miles (50 km), and was close to entering the city. Today, Friday, Reuters reports there was heavy fighting between Massaguet and Massakory, which is 60 miles northeast of the capital and there are conflicting reports as to who won. The Chad Territorial Administration-Interior Minister Ahmat Mahamat Bachir stated, “The column of mercenaries in the pay of Sudan…has been completely put to flight…the battle is over, it’s finished, we’re in pursuit.” But a spokesperson for the rebels, Abderamane Koualamallah claims it was the government that was defeated with its units fallen back to Massaguet. The rebel column of 300 vehicles was a united effort of three leaders, Timan Erdimi, Mahamat Nouri and Adbelwahid Aboul Makaye. I am not surprised this action took place just one month after Iran’s National Security Adviser visited Khartoum and another senior official more recently.
N’Djamena – France has nearly 1,000 troops and Mirage jets in Chad as part of a bilateral defence agreement with its former colony. Colonel Theirry Burkhard with France’s Defence Ministry said France is flying 150 troops from Gabon as reinforcement to “respond to the evolution of the situation” on the ground. This morning on Al Jazeera’s News Hour from Doha an optimistic rebel spokesperson was interviewed and denied they had any foreign support. That is an impossibility as if 300 vehicles can materialize out of nowhere. It was even reported a few years ago a Syrian general was helping Khartoum against militias in Darfur. Nor would it be surprising if the Libyan government were also supporting the rebels as another means of opposing the West. [ALJAZEERA]
Ahmad Hamdi Tunnel – Twelve armed Palestinians have been arrested by Egyptian security near the Rafah Terminal and the Ahmad Hamdi tunnel. The Jerusalem Post reports they were enroute to attack Israeli coastal resorts in the Sinai. Two were members of Hamas, two of Islamic Jihad and others are suspected to be al-Qaeda (Iran). Ten of the men entered Egypt through Rafah while the other two entered Egypt through Persian Gulf states. Israel’s highway system on its Sinai border remains closed to civilian traffic while cities in the area remain on high alert. [JPOST]
Rafah – As hundreds of Hamas supporters demonstrated at the Rafah Terminal, demanding it remain open, the Jerusalem Post reports Hamas has stated they will not allow the border to be sealed. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said, in an interview with the paper Palestine, “The Palestinian people have many options.” Haniyeh did not mention what those options were and there is no indication yet Hamas is willing to use violence to keep the crossing open. Nor is there any word the government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is willing to change its position, which is to seal the border. Without that change, I don’t see how Hamas can avoid using violence unless they believe Tehran can cause Cairo to change its position. Haniyeh could be referring to attacks directed at other Gaza crossings that lead into Israel like Karem Shalom where there was gunfire yesterday. [JPOST]