Society - International - Zimbabwe - Diplomacy - Governance
Iran-Zimbabwe forge closer military ties amid outcry
A state of the art helicopter training repair center is being set up in Zimbabwe by Iran a move that will further cement military cooperation between the two countries.

But the proposed multi-million dollar facility has caused political friction in the southern African country. The helicopter centre would offer repair, maintenance and training services with technicians across Africa expected to benefit from the center.

Iran’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Rasoul Momeni says his country’s technicians are expected in Harare anytime to finalize the setting up of the base. "Iranian technicians will be coming into Zimbabwe in a few weeks to finalise the setting up of a helicopter maintenance base. The move will see the whole African region benefiting,” he said.

Momeni, who described Zimbabwe’s air force as highly literate and professional, said he expected the country’s technicians to benefit greatly from the base. “We share strong ties with Zimbabwe in areas of military co-operation. We have been training AFZ technicians in maintaining and repairing helicopters. Zimbabwe has a highly literate and professional force; they are in their own class in the region. We expect they will benefit greatly from this arrangement” said Momeni.

Late last year, President Mugabe accused the West of hypocrisy for condemning Iran’s nuclear programme and described the U.S-led military campaign in Iraq as "genocide". Mugabe said only those countries without nuclear weapons could sit in judgment over Iran.

Mugabe has sought to strengthen ties with Asian and Middle Eastern countries in recent years under what he calls a "Look East policy”. But Zimbabweans say Harare’s continued relations with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are damaging the countries already battered image.

“Iran’s relation with us is worrying.. Just on Sunday Ahmadinejad ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) to start enriching high-grade uranium to a purity of 20 percent. The West wont lift sanctions if we continue relating with one of its chief enemies,” said Zimbabwean Allen Moyo, a political science student.

It is not clear how Iran is benefiting from dealing with Harare but speculation is rife that high grade minerals are being flown to Tehran as payment. If true, Harare could see itself, in the near future, branded in the axis of evil just like Tehran by the west.

Iran and Zimbabwe have signed several joint venture deals ranging from agriculture to telecommunication and broadcasting that led to the digitalization of the state controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation’s television studios in Harare.