Another piece slides across the board between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Middle Eastern game of thrones, as Djibouti, recently estranged from Iran, prepares to sign a deal that will give Saudi Arabia a military base in the East African country.
Djibouti’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dhia-Eddin Bamakhrama, said he “expected the signing to take place soon, adding that relations between the two countries have been steadily improving and that their security, military, economic and political cooperation have now reached unprecedented levels,” according to Gulf News.
Bamakhrama added that the agreement would cover “cooperation in all terrestrial, marine and aerial military aspects.”
He said Djibouti and Saudi Arabia had “convergent views on all issues in the region,” including terrorism, as his country had accepted an invitation from the Saudis to participate in an Islamic anti-terror coalition.
Djibouti already has French and American military bases, with the latter used for drone strikes against al-Qaeda in Yemen. Iran’s relations with Djibouti soured after the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran in January, giving the Saudis a fresh opportunity to expand their influence in Africa, much as they have done with Sudan and Somalia.
“By aligning with Saudi Arabia, Djibouti will serve as a key position for Riyadh on one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, and it may get economic deals in return. Saudi Arabia is already a top export destination of Djibouti,” International Business Times observes, further noting that, until now, Djibouti has been a conduit for Iranian supplies to their Houthi insurgent allies in Yemen.