Israel is trying to increase its intelligence gathering efforts vis-à-vis Iran and is now using Eritrea to that effect, a new report by Stratfor Global Intelligence said Tuesday.
According to the strategy consultancy firm, Eritrea, which sits on the eastern shore of the Red Sea, has become an arena of operations for both Israel and Iran, as both are trying to bolster their influence on the Horn of Africa.
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"In exchange for resources, possibly including modest amounts of cash and weapons, Eritrea has exhibited a willingness to become a base of support for Middle Eastern powers," Stratfor said.
"As a result, Eritrea and its waters in the Gulf of Aden have become another venue for Iran and Israel's rivalry.
"Israel and Iran's engagement with Eritrea is an extension of their rivalry over the Red Sea, which allegedly led to the bombing of the Yarmouk weapons factory in Sudan," the report said.
"Iran's operations in Eritrea are relevant to Tehran's larger goal of controlling the Bab el-Mandab Strait and the water route to the Suez Canal."
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Stratfor quoted "diplomatic and media sources" as saying that Israel keeps small naval teams in the Dahlak archipelago and Massawa, as well as a "listening post" in Amba Soira.
"Israel's presence in Eritrea is very focused and precise, involving intelligence gathering in the Red Sea and monitoring Iran's activities. Various Stratfor diplomatic sources have said that Israel's presence in Eritrea is small but significant," the report stated.
Eritrea, the report said, "Wants Israel's friendship for numerous security and political reasons," such as Jerusalem's close ties with Washington, and its desire to strike potential defense deals with Israel.
According to the report, "Asmara wants to acquire better air defense capabilities to defend against a possible attack from Ethiopia. Moreover, cooperating with Israel is a way for Asmara to balance its controversial relationship with Tehran."
The firm's geo-political analysis hedged that Israel "is less interested in expanding its presence in Eritrea than Iran" adding that Jerusalem is unlikely to jeopardize its relations with Addis Ababa or other nations in the region; as its main interest in East Africa is curbing arms smuggling from Sudan.
Israel believes that Khartoum's government supports Hamas and other anti-Israeli militant groups in the Middle East.
"Eritrea's decision to accommodate Israel and Iran is not an ideological choice. It is a way for a small and insecure nation to meet its economic and security needs," the report concluded.
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