Kenya Boosts Trade Links with Iran While Welcoming More U.S. Troops

Kenya's President, Uhuru Kenyatta gives an address on November 27, 2019, during the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report in Nairobi, that was attended by opposition leader and former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga and Deputy President, William Ruto, that ushers a national discussion on the future of Kenya …
TONY KARUMBA/AFP via Getty Images

The United States deployed additional military support to Kenya this week to strengthen security against the Islamist terror group Al-Shabaab. Nairobi, on Tuesday, reiterated its commitment to expanding trade links with Iran.

Iran shot over a dozen ballistic missiles in the direction of Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops early Wednesday morning local time, allegedly “revenge” for an American airstrike eliminating Iranian terror chief General Qasem Soleimani.

A team of American crisis response soldiers, known as the East Africa Response Force (EARF), is currently stationed at a Kenyan military base in Manda Bay to help secure the site following another attack by Al Shabaab terrorists on Sunday.

“The EARF provides a critical combat-ready, rapid deployment force. The EARF’s ability to respond to events spanning a vast area of responsibility provides a proven and invaluable on-call reinforcement capability in times of need,” said U.S. Africa Command (Africom) Director of Operations Major General William Gayler in a statement on Tuesday.

The deployment is mainly a response to the attack by al-Shabaab on the Manda Bay Airfield on Sunday, where three American service personnel were killed and two others were wounded. Despite being driven out of their stronghold in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, the group continues to carry out deadly terrorist attacks across East Africa on a regular basis.

Al-Shabaab has maintained a campaign of deadly bomb and gun attacks despite being ejected from their bases in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, and other areas years ago.

Kenya’s commitment to U.S. relations may be strained as a result of its increasing trade links with Iran. Next month, Nairobi plans to send its third tea trade mission to Iran to consolidate its place as Tehran’s main supplier, despite the range of economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. against the Iranian regime.

“Iran remains one of our key markets and the demand for the beverage is still high in that country,” said Anthony Muriithi the director-general of Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA). Muriithi will lead next month’s delegation to Tehran where he will meet with senior regime officials and members of the Iranian Tea Association.

The trade missions are particularly important given the impact of economic sanctions, which require such products to pass through and their payments to be processed via Europe or the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over a fear of violating the U.S.-imposed sanctions, imposed by President Donald Trump following his decision to withdraw from Barack Obama’s nuclear deal.

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