One might find it strange that Republic of the Sudan being a poor African country is able to become an outpost for countering a number of regional threats under certain circumstances. First of all, this is a question of increasing pressure of neo-colonial powers and progressively proliferating “takfirist” groups.
The current Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir, like some other officials of the state is a descendant of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. This was in due time the apple of discord in relationship with Mubarak’s Egypt and after the Sisi’s accession. At the same time, the Sudanese leader quite often used rationally benefits of his “ikhwan” roots. For instance, Sudan has someone in Libya to bet as a number of military-political factions in the state are oriented on and supported by Khartoum, causing thereby nervous irritation of Libyan General Khalifa Haftar, who keeps his eyes on Cairo and Abu-Dhabi.
Furthermore, the Sudanese government has a splendid relationship with Hamas, and it should be stressed that Sudan is important for Gaza. The route of Iranian help to Palestinians often goes through Khartoum and then through the Sinai Peninsula to Gaza Strip. It is no coincidence that Israelis jets raided Sudan several times striking storehouses and escorts. Despite Sudan was not a part of the Axis of Resistance in full measure, the country supported the coalition unofficially.
Nonetheless, the 2015 year made changes in the situation. It is referred to anti-Shia steps of Sudanese authorities that have been made recently. One of these steps is the recall of a country’s observer on Syria from Arab League, who committed the necessity of struggling the terrorist groups. Reports of Sudanese observer provoked discontent of the Syrian opposition and a number of Arab League members. As a result, Qatar authorities appealed directly to al-Bashir initiating generous offer in the form of large tranche. After Khartoum received $2 billion, the representative of the country was removed.
The incident of Iranian cultural center members dispatch took place afterwards. It is notably that authorities had not commented this situation officially. Finally, Sudan joined formally to the coalition led by Riyadh against Yemenis rebels.
Seemingly, Sudanese authorities have entirely changed its political orientation, but under the curtain of these events the sober reality hidens. The case is that al-Bashir realizes the severity of economic situation in his country. Moreover, Khartoum is still under sanctions imposed by Washington in addition to open conflicts in several Sudanese regions (Darfur and South Kordofan) and armed hostilities in neighbor Libya that make this place ideal for radicals or unfriendly regime to come to the power.
Easy money in this situation might blear eyes easily, taking into account resources of the Gulf monarchies…
Beside the Western neo-colonialism threat (including France activities on the continent), the new menace for African nations represented by ISIL-oriented “takfirist” groups appears. For instance, a number of in Nigeria and Libya not only announced themselves loudly, but also pledged allegiance to ISIL. And this tendency increases as much as the political situation deteriorates in the region. It is no coincidence that representatives of “takfirists” are already presented in Darfur province of Sudan.
Obviously, something is needed to be done in order to oppose eradicative climate that penetrates to the center of Africa. And the most suitable variant for Sudan is so called “political Islam” represented by the Muslim Brotherhood, the most influential group in this vein. Authority and weight of the “ikhwans” among population of the region is still high despite failures of the “brothers” in those states where they managed to come to power before (namely, in Egypt and Tunis).
Notably that the extremists realize it as well. In august 2015, members of ISIL called “ikhwans” to pledge allegiance to al-Baghdadi. Of course, the offer not only was refused, but the “ikhwans” had stressed that radicals factor is manipulated by third parties, in particular, by the Egypt authorities. And these statements hold validity. After the terrorist attack at Italian Consulate in Cairo, al-Sisi accused the Muslim Brotherhood along with the ISIL terrorist group. As representatives of the movement suppose, the government uses the ISIL factor to polish off the opposition.
Ideological confrontation between ISIL and the “ikhwans” in neighbour Libya very soon grew into the armed conflict. This, by the way, once more demonstrates the aggressive “takfirism” nature of ISIL regarding ideological opponents. The “brothers” in turn announced readiness to protect own principles and local followers. (The example of Libya is significant as it rebuts the imposed idea of “Sunni-Shia war” since there is no Shia community in Libya amid military operations are almost as wide as in Syria or Iraq).
So what Khartoum is able to offer the “ikhwans” in view of aforesaid and remembering about ideological ties between Sudanese political elite and the movement? No less than to propose the movement to transpose its headquarter to Sudan. This would help (a) to survive from repressions and abolishment of the movement, (b) to jointly resist the threat of proliferation of “takfirism”, which by the way absorbs minds of the “ikhwan” youth, and last but not least, to repulse increasing pressure of Western powers.
However, the ideology alone is not enough for countering radicals and neo-colonizers to the utmost. Indeed, strong allies ready to provide real support are needed. Here comes Iran, the old Sudanese partner. Stable arms procurement, an old-established partnership between military officers and common enemies are the factors that might become an excellent addendum for a new role of Khartoum. Furthermore, this would allow blurring out contradictions and misunderstandings between the old leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian elite. In fact, the “ikhwans” and Iran have historical relationships, and it is the time to regenerate them in a new form.
Common position would allow the administration of Sudan to guard against the raids of Israelis jets. Tel Aviv makes airstrikes daily with silent agreement from the world community, trying to cut off the weapon supply from Iran to Gaza and expressing therefore antagonism against the Arab state that support Palestinian at all levels. After airstrikes in 2012, Tehran offered Khartoum to expand the air defence system on the Red Sea coast, but Sudanese government dismissed the proposal. Why? Because of active contradiction of Riyadh that is not able to guard the Sudanese space not allowing to defend it by others though.
So, as the threats of neo-colonizers, zionists and “takfirists” increase in the region, Khartoum needs not just a missile shield system and ordnance alterations, but strategic allies first. Joining of Sudan with the military alliance would surely support maintaining the national security. It is hard to imagine that the Gulf states are able to help the Sudanese, par exemple, to maintain the territorial integrity. All what they can do is granting money and nothing more.
However, there are other states that have financial capacities. For instance, China, the closest ally of Sudanese. Moreover, money is not the only thing needed to save the country. And it is obvious that interested powers will not dwell on separation of South Sudan. Are these powers are interested in the strong Muslim state with large reserves of oil, and what is more important the state that has allies against the West powers?
In sum, it might be said that Sudan being the resource-rich but undeveloped country has quite good chance to become the strong regional power. And it is not requires big money and big words, it is enough to make efforts on creative, intellectual and diplomatic levels, and results can be very impressive as creation of an alternative center for the “ikhwans” and development of relations with the Axis of Resistance would not only support to become a significant power in Africa, but give an impulse for intra-Muslim unity.
Timur Fatekhov, expert