Tags: sunni | shiite | sudan | sides

In Sunni/Shiite Battles, Sudan Plays Both Sides of the Street

By    |   Wednesday, 14 August 2013 03:09 PM

Although it is a longtime ally of Iran, the Sudanese government headed by President Omar Bashir has become an arms supplier to Syrian rebels working to overthrow Iran’s longtime strategic ally: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The New York Times reports that the Khartoum government headed by Bashir, who has been charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court , has sold Sudanese- and Chinese-made arms to Qatar, which arranged delivery to the rebels through Turkey.

These weapons, which have included anti-aircraft missiles and newly manufactured small-arms cartridges that have appeared on the battlefield in Syria, “have helped sustain the opposition against government forces emboldened by aid from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah,” according to the Times.

Sudanese presidential spokesman Imad Sid Ahmad denied providing weapons to the Syrian rebels and suggested that if Sudanese weapons had reached Syria, they may have been provided by Libya.

Ahmed said that Sudan admitted selling arms to Libyan rebels who overthrow longtime strongman Muammar Qadhafi in 2011. Libya has been a supplier of weapons to Syrian rebels.

But that explanation would not explain the Sudanese-made 7.62x39-millimeter ammunition which the Times found this year in the possession of Syrian opposition forces near the city of Idlib. According to its stamped markings, the ammunition was produced in 2012.

Nor would it explain how Chinese-made FN-6 anti-aircraft missiles - possessed by neither side in the Libya conflict – ended up in the hands of Syrian regime foes. A rebel commander complained about the quality of those weapons, telling the Times they had been shipped from Sudan to Turkey and provided to the opposition by a Qatari intelligence officer.

Sudan’s role in supplying these arms is particularly notable given Bashir’s longtime alliance with Tehran.

Since 1991, when Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani visited Sudan pledging financial aid, fuel and Chinese weapons, relations between the Islamist regimes have grown, Middle East analysts Daniel Wagner and Giorgio Cafiero write in a new research paper published by the Institute for Near East & Gulf Military Analysis.

Several thousand members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were reportedly sent to Sudan to train Sudanese forces to combat insurgents in that nation’s civil war. In 2008, the two countries signed a military cooperation agreement, and in May the pace of construction of Iranian logistical and naval bases in Port Sudan was considerable enhanced.

Sudan has also become an extension of Iran’s proxy war with Israel. The Jewish State has bombed Sudan four times since 2009 in retaliation for allowing Tehran to use its territory to smuggle weapons to jihadists in Gaza and Lebanon, and has sent security experts to Khartoum’s rival, South Sudan, to train soldiers to operate T-72 battle tanks.

Experts believe the Khartoum regime is performing a balancing act. Close to three-quarters of Sudan’s exports go to Sunni-controlled Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, leaving Khartoum vulnerable to economic pressure from governments who regard Iran as a strategic threat.

On the other hand, Tehran and Khartoum are linked by Islamist revolutionary fervor and a long history of strategic ties.

It is likely that for the foreseeable future, Bashir will try to continue to play a double game: trying to placate Qatar and other GCC states by supporting their jihadist allies in Syria, while continuing its military/strategic relationship with Iran.

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Although it is a longtime ally of Iran, the Sudanese government headed by President Omar Bashir has become an arms supplier to Syrian rebels working to overthrow Iran's longtime strategic ally: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Wednesday, 14 August 2013 03:09 PM
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