Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran's Anti-Communist Alliance in Africa, 197480

Friday, January 4, 2019: 3:50 PM
Chicago Room (Palmer House Hilton)
Carl Forsberg, University of Texas at Austin
During the 1970s, the regimes of Anwar Sadat in Egypt, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in Iran, and Kings Faisal and Khaled in Saudi Arabia built a powerful counter-revolutionary entente. All three states feared internal opposition movements that they believed drew strength from an alliance of the Soviet Union and the Arab left. This paper argues that from 1974, the entente turned to interventions against Marxist revolutionaries in Africa to overcome mounting differences between the three powers on Middle Eastern questions. In Ethiopia, Somalia, Rhodesia, Zaire, Angola, and Mozambique, the Egypt-Saudi-Iran entente forged and funded a transnational web of anti-communist partnerships that were largely independent of US support.

From 1977, this entente’s anti-communist activism clashed with the Carter administration’s Africa strategy, as the later sought to divorce local African conflicts from global ideological polarization. Though the Carter team initially succeeded in restraining its Middle Eastern allies, the logics of anti-communism ultimately provided Egypt and Saudi Arabia with the means to shift US policy. Drawing on declassified US and British documents, memoirs by former Iranian and Egyptian officials, and Arabic and Farsi-language newspapers, this paper explores the motives, agency, and limits of south-south counter-revolutionary alliances in elevating local conflicts into global struggles.