Tensions persist between Khartoum and Riyadh

Frustrated by his Saudi ally, al-Bashir is nurturing his relations with Ankara and Doha

Tensions persist between Khartoum and Riyadh

March 30, 2018 – Frustrated by the waning support of his Wahhabi ally, Omar al-Bashir is nurturing his relations with Ankara and Doha.

The Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir is busily engaged at present in winning Qatar and Turkey over to his side to make up for Saudi Arabia’s broken promises.

Eager for economic and financial assistance, Khartoum severed diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 in the hope of securing Saudi investment in agriculture and hydroelectric dams. But as the economic crisis reaches proportions that the Sudanese population can no longer bear, the country’s ruling Islamist movement, which is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, is still waiting to see the Saudi subsidies.

To make matters worse, Saudi Arabia recently banished tens of thousands of Sudanese nationals on the grounds that they had no residence permit. In a bid to win the favours of the two main players within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), namely Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Khartoum nevertheless agreed to contribute 4,000 soldiers to the war effort in Yemen, but Riyadh considers that these ex-Janjaweed militia, now integrated into the Sudan Defence Force, are behaving like mercenaries.

In addition, Saudi Arabia is of the view that Sudan is not firmly committed to severing links with the Iranian mullahs, having constructed its security apparatus with the help of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Riyadh is also unhappy about al-Bashir maintaining relations with Doha and Sudan’s diplomatic honeymoon with Turkey, which resulted in the handover of Suakin Island to Ankara in return for promises of investment, reconstruction and military cooperation.

A missive from the emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, delivered to al-Bashir in Khartoum on 11 March and urging him not to make any ‘concessions in the face of Egyptian intransigence’ was a step too far Riyadh, and it prompted a hasty visit by al-Bashir to Cairo on 19 March to meet his counterpart Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. But he was careful not to raise any contentious issues…
Source: ION, March 30, 2018
Description of source: Since 1981, ION investigates within the power spheres of the Eastern coast of Africa, from Karthoum to the Cape and the islands. Country of origin: France
© Copyrights 2018 Indigo Publications All Rights Reserved

The Turkish crescent arcs across Egypt and Saudi Arabia

What did Recep Tayyip Erdogan negotiate during his visit to Khartoum?

January 19, 2018 – Deeming Sudan to be a key element in the expansion of the Ottoman imperium into Africa, the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a 48-hour visit to Khartoum on 24 and 25 December. Officially, the Turkish president was there solely to request the handover of the Sudanese island of Suakin to Turkey on historical grounds, though in reality Turkey has already been active on the island for more than a year. Erdogan is planning to set up a military base there, just as he has in Doha (Qatar) and Mogadishu (Somaliland). Turkey would thus possess a base between Egypt and its Saudi ally.

This strategic and military arrangement was formalised on 25 December at a meeting behind closed doors attended by the army chiefs of staff of Turkey, Hulusi Akar, of Sudan, Imad Eddine Moustafa Adwi, and of Qatar, Ghanem bin Shahine al-Ghanem. Their deliberations covered the construction of a home port on the Red Sea for maintaining the military fleet, joint Sudanese and Qatari military exercises, and Turkish technical assistance for the Sudanese army. Erdogan has already asked the Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir to set up a commission to compensate the inhabitants of Suakin Island in preparation for the installation of military facilities.

The Turkish and Sudanese regimes have both drawn inspiration from the Muslim Brotherhood and it is believed that Ankara and Khartoum have for several years had a secret arrangement to exchange intelligence and to extradite subversive elements. To prepare Erdogan’s trip, the head of the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), General Mohamed Atta al-Moula Abbas, visited Ankara on 22 December and met with his counterpart at Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MIT), Hakan Fidan, to hand over three supporters of the imam Fethullah Gulen. These gestures facilitated the negotiations on security during Erdogan’s visit to Sudan.

In light of the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Erdogan dispatched his prime minister Binali Yildirim to Riyadh on 27 December to reassure King Salman bin Abdelaziz over the Qatari presence in Khartoum.
Source: ION, January 19, 2018
Description of source: Since 1981, ION investigates within the power spheres of the Eastern coast of Africa, from Karthoum to the Cape and the islands. Country of origin: France
© Copyrights 2018 Indigo Publications All Rights Reserved

Bashir breaks with Egypt, hitches wagon to Gulf States

February 24, 2017Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir seems to change his allies more frequently than his shirts. No sooner had he distanced himself from Iran’s theocratic regime than he reached out to the monarchies of the Gulf States, taking full advantage of their financial support. As a good tactician, he is trying to show his new friends that he has parted company with Cairo since former US president Barack Obama lifted some economic sanctions in January.

Exploiting the war in Yemen

Bashir saved his regime from political and economic asphyxiation by sending a contingent of 1,200 soldiers alongside troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to fight the Houthi rebels in Yemen. After firming up his ties with Riyadh by opening a secret channel of communication with Saudi strongman Vice-Crown Prince and Minister of Defence Mohamed bin Salman, the Sudanese leader set his sights on Abu Dhabi, where he built up good relations with Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development granted a $500 million credit to Khartoum in January (2017), which is set to be deposited with the Central Bank of Sudan in order to stem the fall of the Sudanese pound against the dollar. This assistance also has a military component. On Feb. 6, an Emirati delegation led by Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Hamad Mohammed Thani al-Rumaithi travelled to Khartoum to exchange views with his Sudanese counterpart, Gen. Emadeddine Adawi and Bashir himself. Thani al-Rumaithi told them that once Sudan sent new troops to Yemen, it would be given a further $500 million in May and would see the lifting of all US sanctions, imposed at various times starting from Nov. 1997 over Sudan support for terrorist groups. By way of thanks, Bashir, through his brothers Abdulrahman and Issam, granted arable land to the United Arab Emirates for ten years.

Cairo sinks under the Nile

This new agreement comes just as relations between Khartoum and Cairo are fraying at the seams. At the African Union summit held on Jan. 30 and 31, Bashir, emboldened by the Saudi precedent of reclaiming from Egypt the Red Sea’s Tiran and Sanafir islands demanded the restitution of the Sudanese territories of Halayeb and Chalatine which he deems to have been annexed by Abdulfatah al-Sisi’s regime. The minutes of the heads of states’ in camera meetings, to which the Indian Ocean Newsletter has had access – relate that in this tense, unpredictable atmosphere, the Egyptian president nevertheless showed intransigence by responding that “the Egyptian position remains unchanged”. The tone went up a notch when Bashir retorted that the affair was “a time bomb” between the two countries.

Bashir went on to provoke Sisi even further by accusing Egypt’s secret services of not just manipulating the opposition in Sudan but also of providing them with training and weapons. For his part, Sisi evoked the red hot issue of members of the Muslim Brotherhood who are living in Sudan despite Cairo’s efforts to get them extradited. Recently, the CIA had put pressure on the Sudanese president by conditioning the easing of sanctions on the expulsion from Khartoum of the Muslim Brotherhood and members of the Islamic State group. Bashir has reportedly expelled them, but to Turkey and Qatar rather than Egypt.
Source: ION, February 24, 2017
Description of source: Since 1981, ION investigates within the power spheres of the Eastern coast of Africa, from Karthoum to the Cape and the islands. Country of origin: France
© Copyrights 2017 Indigo Publications All Rights Reserved

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