This is the not-for-work list. It’s also mostly based on my subjective sense of how much I learned from the books.
Iran: A Modern History by Abbas Amanat — This is a long book that covers several centuries of Iranian history (beginning in 1501). It is definitely worth your time. At the end I learned a lot more about the brief Pahlavi dynasty than I knew and got a peak into the dynamics of the Iranian nation-state before, during, and after the revolution. The bits on the Qajars were my favorite (while I was reading the book my wife and I watched a number of Iranian movies and documentaries. I highly recommend this strategy).
The Comoros Islands, a nation of about 800,000 people, began its programme to sell passports in 2008 as a way of raising much-needed cash. The islands arranged a deal with the governments of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait, who wanted to provide stateless inhabitants there known as the Bidoon with identity documents, but not local citizenship. The governments would buy the Comoros passports, and then distribute them to the Bidoon.
In return, the Comoros was meant to receive several hundred million dollars to help develop its economy, whose output amounts to just $600 million a year.
At the time, the Comoros was also forging ties with Iran. The islands’ president from 2006 to 2011 was Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi, who had studied for years in the Iranian holy city of Qom.
… In all, more than 1,000 people whose place of birth was listed as in Iran bought Comoros passports between 2008 and 2017, according to details of a database of Comoros passports reviewed by Reuters. The majority were bought between 2011 and 2013, when the international sanctions were tightened, particularly on Iran’s oil and banking sectors.
Remember the story about the mysterious cache of arms found in Lagos Port, Nigeria? Well, turns out the story goes beyond Nigeria. FP reports that there is reason to believe that the arms from Iran were destined for The Gambia. Authorities in Banjul expelled the Iranian officials in the country, increasing speculation that the arms were meant for rebel groups linked to last year’s coup attempt against President Yahya Jammeh who by the way, cures AIDS on Thursdays.
Just as Libya is retreating from its bad habit of financing and arming rebellions all over the Continent Tehran appears poised to assume this role, especially in Muslim sub-Saharan Africa. There is not a clear strategic reason for this kind of involvement by Iran in The Gambia, although theories abound out there. To add to these, I think it might be that someone within the Iranian government is involved in the global drugs trade and wanted to use The Gambia as a transit to Europe. On November 19th Nigeria discovered US$ 10 million worth of heroine shipped from Iran.
West Africa plays a major role in the global drugs trade. Barely afloat West Africa states, particularly Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, are key transit points for drug shipments from Latin America and Asia into Europe.