Photo Credit: Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman shakes hands with Tanzanian President John Magufuli. March 22, 2018.

Israel is pushing Iran out of Africa, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said as he left Tanzania following a four day trip to the continent that also included visits to Rwanda and Zambia.

“Africa has huge potential and Israel as a world leader in advanced technologies has exactly what Africa needs in agriculture, medicine, security, counter-terrorism and border defenses. In every [African] country that we have alliances and agreements with, we are pushing Iran out and isolating her.

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“If Israel doesn’t seize the opportunity to deepen cooperation, then others, in particular the Iranians will do so in our place,” he warned.

During the trip, the first by an Israeli defense minister to Africa in decades, Liberman met with the defense ministers and chiefs of staff of Rwanda, Zambia and Tanzania.

While in Tanzania, Liberman and his host counterpart, Dr Hussein Mwinyi, signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the two countries “to share vital intelligence information to weed out all forms of security threats.”

The Tanzanian Daily News reported that the two ministers had agreed to cooperate in defence and security issues and to share crucial intelligence information “to combat rising cases of transnational organised crime, including terrorism.”

A report published ahead of Liberman’s visit in defenceWeb, a portal on African defense issues, said Israeli arms sales to African countries are growing rapidly, with defence exports increasing 70% between 2015 and 2016 to reach $275 million. The report said that while 2017 figures are not yet available, numbers for last year were expected to be even higher.

DefenceWeb said African armed forces are interested in different types of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), loitering weapons, communications systems and radars.

The defenceWeb report said the Rwandan Army is equipped with Israeli made Tavor assault rifles, and that in 2016, Rwanda received several ATMOS 2000 155 mm self-propelled howitzers from Israel’s Soltam.

Last month, media reports in Israel tied military hardware sales to Rwanda to an agreement in which the east African nation will receive African asylum seekers from Israel.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute “Israel is one of a range of smaller suppliers of major weapons and other military equipment to sub-Saharan Africa. It has long sold or given weapons to a host of developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and the deals are often accompanied by serving or retired Israeli military personnel and Israeli civilian contractors as instructors. Although Israeli arms exports, especially of major weapons, to sub-Saharan Africa are limited, Israeli weapons, brokers and instructors are likely to sometimes have a more significant impact than mere numbers of supplied weapons imply.”

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