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Senegal’s then-president, Abdoulaye Wade, meeting with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Tehran, Iran, June 27, 2006 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

Saudi Competition Gets in the Way of Iran’s Outreach in Africa

Thursday, April 14, 2016

On Jan. 6, Djibouti announced it was severing relations with Iran in response to attacks on Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic missions in Tehran, following the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric by Saudi authorities. Shortly after, a joke appeared on Telegram, an instant messaging app popular among Iranians: “One good thing that the snapping of ties with Saudi Arabia taught me is geography. At least now I know where Djibouti is.”

Although many Iranians have since dismissed the tiny Horn of Africa state as an inconsequential actor, it was not that long ago that Tehran sought to expand its engagement with small but strategic Djibouti. Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad even traveled there in 2009, a visit that yielded five economic cooperation agreements. ...

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