A well-informed Israeli effort may leverage Sudan out of a crisis situation opinion

A well-informed Israeli effort may leverage Sudan out of a crisis situation opinion
A well-informed Israeli effort may leverage Sudan out of a crisis situation opinion

In recent years, Israel-Sudan relations have seen mostly ups and downs. In October 2020, the normalization of relations between the countries was announced, and last February an Israeli delegation left for Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Eli Cohen, and the parties agreed on steps to promote the signing of an official peace agreement. But the attempted coup in Sudan about a month ago was in my hands Muhammad Hamdan Degalo (known as “father-in-law”), the vice president Abd al-Fattah al-Burhanshifted the focus to Sudan’s internal issues and their implications on the regional and international arena.

The power struggle between the president and his deputy is rooted in the different nature and complexity of Sudanese society and its political culture. It is a predominantly tribal society, containing populations of many and diverse origins, saturated with a history of conflicts and wars between them. Burhan came to power in 2019, and was preceded in the post by dictator Omar al-Bashir of the Jalaine tribe, who held the reins for 30 years. His rule was founded on the imposition of a rigid Islam, and he advocated Arab supremacy and the brutal use of military force against the population.

When Bashir was ousted from power in 2019, among the perpetrators of the military coup were General Burhan, who rose through the ranks of the Sudanese army (a member of the Sheikya tribe), and Hamati, the commander of the “Rapid Deployment Force” – an Arab militia that served the Bashir regime. The militia, before it was removed in spite of my father-in-law, was the one that committed the genocide of the African-Muslim (but not Arab) inhabitants of Darfur in 2003-2005 and even after that.

Bashir, Burhan and Hamati belong to three strong Arab tribes in northern Sudan fighting for hegemony against the West (Darfur, whose people are Africans who converted to Islam) and against the South, which in 2011 became an independent country, South Sudan, where mostly Africans whose religion is Christian live.
The reason for the current struggle between Burhan and Hamati is the latter’s desire to insert the militia under his leadership into the army and the resulting difficulties for society and the army.

The members of the Hamti militia are taking brutal actions against the population and claim that the people of Bashir (who is not clear if he escaped from prison) and that the Islamists loyal to Bashir are joining Burhan. Burhan, for his part, accuses Hamti of subversion, cruelty towards the population and attacks on the army. Until there is a reconciliation or a decision between them, it is not clear where Sudan is headed.

Intelligence and discretion

Influential international parties take part in mediation efforts between the hawks, and Israel also takes a certain part in the process. At the regional level, Sudan is given great importance. From 2014, an Arab-Sunni coalition was formed (which includes Sudan and, to an extent, Israel) that sees Iran as a threat and fights jihadi terrorism.

Recently there has been a change in this trend. The agreement recently signed between Saudi Arabia and Iran, brokered by China, promotes the end of the war in Yemen. Also, other processes are taking place such as the reconciliation of the Sunni Arab countries with Qatar and Turkey, the return of Assad to the Arab world and the strengthening of the Iranian axis. As part of this axis, Sudan can be affected by these developments, also in its relationship with Israel.

The main Sudanese interest is to get out of the economic crisis in which the country is, and the relationship with Israel can contribute a lot to it both in the practical sense and on the diplomatic level. The main Israeli interest is a presence in a geo-strategic region of which Sudan is one of the significant elements. President Burhan is currently supported by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the USA. The loss of trust between Burhan and Hamati has already caused attacks on demonstrators, over 500 of whom were killed, and the evacuation of American, French, Japanese and other citizens from Sudan, with the effective assistance of the Saudis.

In contrast, the Emirates support Hamati, as well as Eritrea and Haftar’s forces in Libya. Russia also supports Hamati and allows its Wagner Group to assist Hamati’s militia operations inside Sudan. My father-in-law visited Moscow on the second day of the invasion of Ukraine, he transfers gold to Russia and works to allow the Russian fleet to anchor in Port Sudan.

The mission of the Sudanese leadership is now to overcome the riots, economic distress and instability. Israel can offer the hawkish leaders immediate assistance in the fields of water, agriculture and solar energy as an accelerator for reconciliation between them. The citizens of Sudan will greatly appreciate such an Israeli step. Will the trend to promote peace with Israel continue in the current situation? In the event that the scale is tipped to shape a new reality, then the newly formed axis (Iran, Russia, Qatar, Turkey, Hezbollah, Hamas – while China is a bridesmaid) will try to “appropriate” Sudan to it. The move will be accompanied by an attempt to harness Saudi Arabia to its ranks, without a real counter-capability (mainly American) to neutralize it. The incentives of the emerging axis will increase the Sudanese temptation to “get off” the Israeli axis.

Israel must be discreet and conduct itself carefully and attentively to the changes that are taking place, due to the fluid situation. And if the international attempt (including the Israeli one) to reconcile Burhan and Hamati succeeds, it must be assumed that there will be a Sudanese effort to complete the process vis-a-vis Israel. If my father-in-law refuses, an Israeli situation assessment will be requested, if Burhan is to be preferred over him, whose image is not as negative as my father-in-law’s.

An informed Israeli effort, in the coordination of all possible actors involved, may leverage Sudan from a crisis situation to a positive regional focal point, within which the “Israeli process” will continue.

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