An Iranian translator who recently defected to the West says that Qassim Suleymani, the leader of Iran’s paramilitary force, Al Quds, met with Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki on May 20, 1998.
According to the translator, Ahmed Hashemi, the discussions between Qassim Suleymani and Isaias Afwerki–which was also attended by Iran’s Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki–centered on strengthening bilateral relations: for Iran to develop Eritrea’s military capabilities including building an ammunition factory, and for Eritrea to provide Iran a presence in Bal el Mendeb.
The report was published in Times of Israel.
Isaias Afwerki visited Iran in May 2008 to explore “joint investment in agriculture, industry and energy, and regional and international cooperation.” Following their meeting, Iranian president Ahmedinejad told the press that “there is no limit to Iran-Eritrea ties.” A year later, and following the two parties signing memorandum of understanding, Eritrea took a vocal position in support of Iran’s desire for “peaceful” nuclear power.
As part of his “charm offensive”, Isaias Afwerki claimed that he has a soft heart for Iran because the late Ayatollah Khomeini used to include Eritrea in his Friday prayers when Eritreans were fighting for independence from Ethiopia.
Over the years, there have been persistent reports that Eritrea is providing Iran access to its territories to smuggle weapons to Palestinians as well as to the Houthi minority in Yemen, a report that the Eritrean regime has vigorously denied. Ironically, there have also been rumors for an even longer period that Eritrea hosts Israeli submarines in its territories (Red Sea), a claim that has been equally vigorously denied by the regime.
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