Isdore Guvamombe,Assistant Editor
The current tiff between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran, provides free lessons for SADC leaders on the consequences of hosting foreign military outfits.
Last week, the world woke up to news of the assassination, using drones, of Qassem Soleimani, an Iranian major-general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and, who from 1998 until his death last week, was commander of its Quds Force, a division primarily responsible for extraterritorial military and clandestine operations.
Millions of Iranians poured into the streets in grief and about 40 died in the funeral stampede, while a hundred others were injured.
The US, which has several military bases in Iraq, since it helped oust Saddam Hussein about two decades ago, accused the revered general of plotting to attack four embassies, including the US embassy.
A day later, the world woke up to hear that Iran had struck back, hitting a United States military base in Iraq overnight, with more than 20 ballistic missiles.
None of the missiles was intercepted, hence they had a field day, as US soldiers scampered for cover. The damage as seen in the footage that followed was unprecedented and catastrophic.
Casualties or no casualties, Iran’s supreme religious leader Ali Khamenei, called it a mere “slap in the face.”
This means more could follow.
A few hours later, a US-made Boeing 737, flown by Ukraine, was mistakenly or accidentally shot down soon after take-off from Iran’s capital Tehran, killing all the 176 passengers on board and the crew.
Iraq, which hosts the US troops in the region, has voted through its Parliament that the US must withdraw its troops from its soil but the US is vehemently refusing.
Iran has no muscle to bundle out US forces who have superior weaponry by any standards.
This is, so far, a balanced narrative.
Now, this is a free lesson for Sadc leaders in particular and African leaders in general, of the effects of allowing foreign superpowers to establish military bases in your region, let alone country.
Once they do that, the onus is no longer on you but on them to leave. They leave when they want. Being superior they do what they want from your country, regardless of international law.
There is no doubt that the US used the proximity provided by Iraq to kill Iran’s popular general.
There is also no doubt that Iraq did not want the general killed on its soil but it had no power to stop the US army and neither did it have the intelligence about the pending shooting. If the US was not based in Iraq, the situation would have been different.
For SADC region it is an open secret that AFRICOM, the United States military outfit, established exclusively to deal with Africa, has been looking for a country to host it.
Whichever country will host AFRICOM will create a big problem for the region. For about a decade the US has been trying all tricks to get a place to set a base for AFRICOM. That base will be used to control the region and give the US government an open cheque to access all the vast untapped mineral resources.
Sadc has largely been peaceful although it has its hotspots once in a while in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Lesotho.
The solution for Sadc is to have a homegrown military outfit such as the Sadc Brigade to marshal its own hotspots than rely on foreign military outfits like NATO and AFRICOM. Hosting these two superior foreign military outfits has far-reaching consequences and the problems in Iran at the moment are a good lesson.
While Sadc has been slowly building its own standby brigade in which every country contributes troops and resources, the process has not been fast enough to avert foreign military interventions in the case of a serious crisis occurring right now.
At least the Sadc Brigade will take instructions from regional leaders unlike NATO and AFRICOM, whose commanders take instructions from their capitals at times at the expense of indigenous ethos, aspirations and ambitions.
SADC leaders should be encouraged to invest seriously in the brigade and speed up its establishment and operationalisation.
It is import to close out especially NATO and AFRICOM, the tow outfits notoriously known to refuse to tow international law once they set base in your country or region.
Libya is a good example of how both NATO and AFRICOM helped remove Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and the country has not known peace since 2013. Everything has collapsed in that country and it has now become a war- ravaged shell and ghost of its former self.
Was it not William Shakespeare who said, it takes good men to do nothing for evil to prevail?
Pull quote “The solution for Sadc is to have a homegrown military outfit such as the Sadc Brigade to marshal its own hot spots than rely on foreign military outfits like NATO and AFRICOM. Hosting these two superior foreign military outfits has far reaching consequences and the problems in Iran at the moment are a good lesson.
“Establishing the Sadc Brigade in which every regional country contributes troops and resources is the best way, but the process has not been fast enough to avert foreign military interventions in case of a serious crisis occurring right now.
“At least the Sadc Brigade will take instructions from regional leaders unlike NATO and AFRICOM, whose commanders will take instructions from their capitols at times at the expense of indegenous ethos, aspirations and ambitions.”