by Jerry Gordon (April 2009)
The issuance of an arrest warrant on March 6, 2009 by the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague for Sudan strongman President Omar Al-Bashir has further complicated American foreign policy interests in multilateral humanitarian solutions in this largest African country. Sudan is deeply riven by tribal and religious domination by an Islamist regime. The country has been traumatized by a long internecine Jihad war perpetrated by Arab Muslims in the North against Christians and animists in the south and African nominal Muslims in the Darfur region and Nuba Mountains. Over two million have been killed, hundreds of thousands enslaved and millions made into internal refugees by the religious conflict. Added to that are the complications over land border disputes and control of Sudan’s oil reserves located largely in the South. This article presents background on the interminable and roiling jihad war, the parlous state of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Act between the central government and the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM), and the conundrum facing the Obama Administration endeavoring to resolve this humanitarian crisis. It also presents the surprising story of Israeli geo-political interests in the Sudan and support of Sudanese regional secularist interests in combating the existential threat to Israel from the Iran-Sudan-Hezbollah–Hamas terrorist axis.
Sudan -The bloody boundary
The Sudan is the largest country in Africa. Its land surface is equivalent to all of Western Europe. Sudan has long been a bloody boundary between fundamentalist Islam and the West. General Sir Charles “Chinese” Gordon lost his life in the Mahdist siege of Khartoum in 1885 in an attempt to put a stop to slaving raids into the Christian and animist south. The legendary Battle of Omdurman, in which the British ultimately vanquished a Sudanese army led by the Mahdi’s successor Abdullah al-Taashi in 1898, was chronicled by first hand witness, Sir Winston Churchill, in his book The River War. That victory purportedly defeated radical Islam in the Sudan. A half century later in 1956, the former Anglo-Egyptian Sudan became the Republic of the Sudan. Almost immediately a civil war between Islamist elements in the Arab-Muslim north and the Christian Animist south erupted. Over the past fifty years, especially in the last two decades of the 20th Century, this Islamic Jihad took the lives of more than 2 million people and countless hundreds of thousands were enslaved on raids in the Southern part of the country. Since a 1989 coup, the Islamic Republic of the Sudan has been governed by military strongman, Brig. Gen. Omar al-Bashir and the National Islamic Front headed by Dr. Hassan al-Turabi. The National Islamic Front reached out to Islamist terrorist sponsors in Tehran, invited Palestinian terror groups such as Abu Nidal and Osama bin Laden to forge a Jihad alliance. All while continuing the internecine war against the Christian Animist irregular forces of the SPLM in the South.
The Sudan Comprehensive Peace Act of 2005 and the ICC Arrest warrant for Gen. Bashir
The South has overarching importance to the Islamist regime of Gen. Bashir as it contains more than 85 percent of the estimated oil reserves of 5 billion barrels. Other areas of the Sudan, most immediately, the Kordofan ‘border zone’ between the Islamist north and the autonomous Government of South Sudan, also contains significant oil reserves. The Government of South Sudan was created by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) brokered by US Special Envoy, former US Senator John Danforth, between the government of the Sudan and the SPLM that was supposed to have ended the decades long Islamist Jihad war. The Central Government in Khartoum has entered into agreements with foreign oil developers, most prominently with the China National Petroleum Corporation. A border conflict had recently broken out in the Southern Kordofan state between armed militias and central government forces. Some observe that these clashes could lead to another humanitarian crisis in the Sudan akin to that in Darfur. Kordofan according to a recent report on the fractured politics of Sudan by the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) has prized agricultural lands and the only significant oil reserves in the north of the country.
The CPA according to the CFR addressed the following issues:
- Elections. The CPA calls for general elections before mid-2009, with the aim of replacing appointed politicians with elected officials. Elections are meant to include state governors, state assemblies, the presidencies of Northern and Southern Sudan, the National Assembly in Khartoum, and the Legislative Assembly of Southern Sudan. Elections cannot be held prior to the completion of a country-wide census. According to the implementation schedule, the census was supposed to be completed by July 2007; as of early 2009, its results had not been released.
- Wealth-sharing. The CPA calls for the distribution of a greater share of oil revenues to the south, but it also commits to development funds that invest in conflict-affected areas, and the transfer of more resources to states. According to the World Bank, the percentage of government expenditures distributed by states increased from 8 percent in 2000 to 35 percent in 2007.
- Land. The CPA promises to establish a National Land Commission to resolve the multiple legal regimes for land ownership. In some areas, the state leases tribal lands, while in others, ownership is market-based. Experts say resolving conflict in the periphery will require resolving land problems, particularly in areas like Darfur, where massive displacement has complicated ownership issues.
Gen. Bashir has fomented a genocidal war against the nominal African Muslim Darfur western region. That has become an international cause célèbre, given the displacement of several hundred thousand refugees and starvation murder of more than 400,000 Darfurians. Bashir is opposed by two Darfurian resistance groups, the Paris-based Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). The latter made an attack on Khartoum in May, 2008.
An investigation by the International Criminal court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has resulted in an arrest warrant issued on March 6, 2009 for Gen. Bashir. Bashir has rallied Islamist supporters both in Sudan and the Muslim world to his defense. Ayman al-Zawahiri in a recent al Qaeda video viewed the ICC arrest warrant against Bashir as an assault on Islam and suggested that Bashir prepare for a guerrilla war against the West. There are fears the CPA might be suborned, that national elections scheduled for mid-2009 may be aborted and that the possible 2011 referendum that might permit the creation of an independent South Sudan state, long sought after by the SPLM, could be denied. According to a report in the Financial Times the brouhaha over the ICC arrest warrant for Gen. Bashir might accelerate the emergence of an independent South Sudan and a renewal of the Jihad war, this time to encroach on the valuable oil assets in the South.
Sudan – a test of Obama’s Foreign Policy
Sudan has become an important foreign policy agenda item for the Obama Administration. Secretary Clinton during her Senate confirmation hearing referred to the question of Darfur and the Bashir regime’s culpability. In a recent New York Times report on the appointment of a Sudan Special Envoy, Swahili speaking USAF General Gration, Clinton commented:
“This is a horrendous situation that is going to cause untold misery and suffering for the people of Darfur, particularly those in the refugee camps,” she told reporters. “The real question is what kind of pressure can be brought to bear on President Bashir and the government in Khartoum to understand that they will be held responsible for every single death that occurs in those camps.”
The sharper tone and the appointment of General Gration come after criticism from activists who once saw Mr. Obama and his team as allies in the struggle to save the people of Darfur. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama lamented the “stain on our souls” left by the mass death in Darfur and vowed “never again.” Mrs. Clinton called for a no-flight zone. And Susan E. Rice, a top Obama adviser, even envisioned a bombing campaign to save victims.
But with the first major new humanitarian crisis on Mr. Obama’s watch, advocates complained that the urgency of the campaign trail had given way to inertia, infighting and inaction. More than one million Darfurians are at risk while the new administration debates what to do, the advocates said. “Why is there a disconnect?” asked Jerry Fowler, the president of the Save Darfur Coalition, an umbrella organization, recalling Mr. Obama’s strong words as a candidate. “We need presidential engagement and we need it now.”
Christianity Today in an article highlights the vindictiveness of Gen. Bashir in ejecting international humanitarian aid groups from Sudan in retribution for the ICC arrest warrant. This move could imperil the CPA and the lives of minority refugees in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and the South. Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom and a member of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom gave this grim assessment:
ICC’s “naïve” move and Bashir’s response “may prove catastrophic for millions of beleaguered Darfurians and South Sudanese.”
“[The ICC] has essentially made an empty threat that gives Bashir the excuse he’s been looking for to block international aid to war-ravaged Darfur and, quite likely, to end compliance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in the South,” said Shea.
“Bashir has in effect already carried out two genocides — in Darfur and in the South. He is a remorseless tyrant,” said Shea. “His long-term goal has been to annihilate and drive out these non-Arab and/or peacekeepers, humanitarian agencies, and governments.”
The issue raised by Shea and others is what is the moral obligation of the Obama Administration that made Darfur and Sudan a priority during the 2008 Presidential campaign. Witness this comment:
“The Obama administration has a moral responsibility to take effective action to help the targeted populations,” said Shea. “This could be airlifts of humanitarian aid, and finding sanctuaries for the displaced people of Darfur, and smart sanctions to keep the CPA on track.”
Shea said that the administration failing to take action “consistent with Sudan being treated as a foreign policy priority will raise the question of whether the President and Secretary Clinton — who attested Sudan and the CPA were a priority at her confirmation hearing — were merely exploiting Sudan as a campaign strategy.”
President Obama recently named retired Major General Scott Gration to be the special presidential envoy to Sudan. Advocacy groups have pressed hard for this diplomatic post to be named right away to bring fresh energy into the peace process in Sudan.
During the presidential campaign, Obama said ending the crisis in Sudan would be a priority. “We can’t say ‘never again,’ and then allow it to happen again,” Obama said in April 2008 in a video address to the Save Darfur Coalition, “and as President of the United Sates, I don’t intend to abandon people or turn a blind eye to slaughter.”
The problem is that Sudan may become a daunting effort for the Obama Administration to address at a time when it is also engaged in outreach to the Muslim world that has announced solidarity with the Bashir regime.
The contrast, as we will now see, is what the Israelis have done to further their geo-political objectives of combating the Sudan Islamist regime and supporting the regional autonomous interests of both Darfur and the South Sudan.
Israel’s geo-political interest in the Sudan
Israel’s involvement in the current Sudan imbroglio is connected to the Sudan-Iran-Hamas-Hezbollah terrorist axis. The Israeli government currently provides support to both the SPLM and the Darfurian SLM. Israel has provided sanctuary for Sudanese refugees. This support also includes covert delivery of arms as well as direct attacks against Sudan transit of Iranian rockets and missiles to Hamas forces in Gaza via Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula.
As noted in this Jerusalem Post analysis, the Khartoum government has had a long and extensive relation with Al Qaeda and models its forces on the Al Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Further, Sudan has facilitated transfer of weapons, rockets and missiles to Hamas in Gaza – a direct threat to both Southern and Central Israel. This has been a major factor in Israel’s recent raids on arms convoys in the Sudan and attacks against Iranian arms ships.
The regime of Brigadier Omar al-Bashir in Sudan is, with the exception of the Hamas enclave in Gaza, the only overtly Islamist and pro-Iranian government in the Arabic-speaking world. Sudan is an acknowledged member of the Iran-led regional alliance, which includes Syria, Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Sudan has maintained close relations with Iran since the 1989 coup which brought Omar al-Bashir to power. Bashir’s coup was carried out in co-operation with the National Islamic Front. Members of the front went on to hold key positions in the new regime. Iranian supplies of weapons and oil began soon after. Hassan al-Turabi, a Muslim Brotherhood associated Sudanese Islamist activist, was the key figure in building the Iran-Sudan link in the early days of the regime.
Al-Turabi , son of an Islamic law judge in the Sudan, is a graduate of the London School of Economics and the Sorbonne. He is a proponent of a heterodox form of Islamic Sharia Law that would include recognition of music, figurative art and limited women’s rights, something not acceptable to fundamentalist Islam. With the military coup in 1989 that Al-Turabi supported, Sudan reached out to fashion relations with the Mullahs in Tehran. He extended an invitation to Bin Laden to reside in the Sudan in the 1990’s and to assist in both road and highway work, development of terrorist training camps and resistance against the Christian and animist forces in the South. He also supported the Palestinian terror group Abu Nidal and gave sanctuary to Carlos ‘the Jackal’ Ramirez, until his capture by French security forces and trial in France. Al-Turabi abetted the assassination attempt by Egyptian Islamic Jihad on the life of President Mubarek of Egypt in Ethiopia in 1995.
The relations between al-Turabi and Sudanese strongman Bashir have deteriorated since their earlier alliance. He called the Darfurian JEM’s armed attack on Khartoum on May 12, 2008 a ‘positive development.’ He was promptly jailed based on allegations that his name was discovered in several JEM documents. Al-Turabi was jailed again in January, 2009 when he called for General Bashir to surrender himself to the ICC for his involvement in the Darfur genocide. He was recently released from prison on March 8th following the issuance of the ICC arrest warrant for General Bashir.
The Jerusalem Post analysis further notes:
The new Sudanese armed forces were built on the model of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. 2,000 IRGC members are reported to have visited Sudan to aid in the creation and training of the new Sudanese army.
Since 1989, Sudan has become a center for terrorist training. The regime offered a base to Osama Bin-Laden and his followers in the early part of the 1990s. It is estimated that around 10 camps are maintained in Sudan, for the purpose of offering training to Islamist terrorist and paramilitary forces. Hamas members and others are reported to have taken part in military exercises in these camps. Sudan’s documented close relations with Hamas are the main reason why the country appears on the US State Department’s list of countries supporting terrorism.
Sudan’s membership in the pro-Iranian regional alliance was in evidence earlier this month, when a senior delegation of Iranian, Syrian, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah officials traveled to Khartoum to express ‘solidarity’ with the Sudanese leader, who is currently subject to an international arrest warrant.
The Sudan Opening Created by the Israeli Rescue of Ethiopian Jews.
The Israeli opening to Southern Sudan was the result of a noble Zionist enterprise, the repatriation of Ethiopian Jews from the neighboring Ethiopian province of Gondar and their evacuation by the IDF via adjacent Southern Sudan. The proto-Marxist Mengistu Haile Mariam‘s military junta government in Ethiopia had previously been given military assistance by Israel as part of its African initiative. Nevertheless, they began raising barriers to the exit of the “Beta Israel” Ethiopian Jewish community. Thus, the largely Christian Animist irregular forces in adjacent Southern Sudan fighting the Khartoum National Islamic Front government were natural allies for the Israelis. They provided escape routes, sanctuaries and intelligence on potential landing areas for the evacuation of Ethiopian Jews fleeing from adjacent Gondar province. The Israelis also provided arms to the Southern Sudanese resistance from its supplies in Ethiopia. In two covert operations, Operation Moses and Operation Joshua, the IDF, in cooperation with the CIA and local mercenaries, rescued more than 9000 “Beta Israel” Ethiopian Jews who were in Southern Sudan refugee camps as a result of the 1984 famine in Ethiopia.
The real politic of Israeli negotiations with the faltering Mengistu dictatorship in Ethiopia eventually resulted in the dramatic rescue of over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews in the daring 26 hour Operation Solomon in 1991. Professor Mordechai Nisan of Hebrew University, a well recognized Middle East and Islamic Studies expert and advocate for Israeli protection of endangered Middle Eastern minorities had these prescient comments about the Israel Southern Sudan connection in 2000 and 2002:
The Muslim-Arab jihad in Sudan against the Christian and animist African south is an instance where Israeli interests merge with the political circumstances. The Khartoum regime of General al-Bashir promotes an Islamic agenda that includes forced conversions in the south. For Israel to assist the southern Sudanese, as apparently Israel did in the past, is to forge a Jewish-Christian alliance against Islamic fundamentalism stretching from Teheran to Khartoum.
The case of the southern Sudanese Christian crusade for survival, freedom, and power had known enormous suffering and human loss. A repressive central regime and widespread global ignorance and indifference placed the liberation endeavor in a debilitating situation, though some saw bright spots lighting up ‘the heart of an immense darkness’…”
The SPLM and SLM reach out to Israel
Israeli interests in Sudan are reflected in several initiatives with both the SPLM in the South and the Darfurian SLM.
In March, 2008, the Sudan Tribune reported the opening of offices in Israel:
After consultation with the leadership of SPLM in Juba, the supporters of SPLM in Israel have decided to establish the office of SPLM in Israel. Said a statement received by email from Tel Aviv signed by the SLMP secretariat in Israel.
The statement said that SPLM office would promote the policies and the vision of the SPLM in the region. It further added that in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement the SPLM has the right to open in any country including Israel.
It also indicated that there are around 400 SPLM supporters in Israel.
Darfur rebel Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) Darfurian leader Abdel Wahid al-Nur said last week he opened an office in Tel Aviv. Khartoum has condemned the move saying it gives “a material proof that Darfur crisis is manipulated by foreign hands and a Jewish lobby.”
“The Southern Sudanese in Israel are very grateful to the leadership of President Salva Kiir Mayardit who persuaded the Israeli government to resettle Southerners who escaped from Egypt.” The statement said.
Subsequently, the SPLM denied in an Al Jazeera report that it was opening an ‘embassy’ in Israel.
Paris-based Darfur SLM leader Abdel Wahid al Nur, who champions a secular Democratic Sudan, continues his relations with Israel that has engendered a fracas with the Bashir government Arab League ally, Mummar Qadhafi of Libya. Note this recent Sudan Tribune report:
A Darfur rebel leader today expressed “regret” over statements made by Libyan president Mu’ammar Qadhafi today in which he accused Israel of standing behind the conflict in the Western region of Darfur.
“It will be no surprise to anyone when we say that we have found unequivocal proof that the Darfur crisis was fomented by foreign powers” Qadhafi said in a speech to an African conference organized by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
“Key rebel leaders have opened offices in Tel Aviv and meet frequently with the [Israeli] army….If Tel Aviv among others is behind the events in Darfur, why then call Bashir or the Sudanese government to account” he said.
Qadhafi was referring to an imminent decision by the judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on a case against Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir in connection with Darfur war crimes.
Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur chairman of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) who is residing in France urged Qadhafi “to refrain from indulging in sideline battles”.
“Brother Qadhafi should focus on the challenges confronting the African continent and Darfur in particular in his capacity as African Union chairman” Al-Nur told Sudan Tribune.
“Peace in Darfur can be attained through halting the killings of civilians, rape of women, disarming militias, return of IDP’s to their villages after ejecting the new settlers” he said.
“This is the way forward to put an end to the crisis in Darfur. If he [Qadhafi] can secure these conditions he can then blame us for refusing to sit at the negotiating table” the rebel chief added.
Al-Nur had maintained a long standing position on refusing to attend any peace talks without achieving security on the ground frustrating the efforts of world diplomats.
He boycotted one of the peace rounds held in Sirte, Libya along with Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) throwing the talks to collapse.
“We have seen a handful of signing ceremonies over the last six years which did not solve any of the outstanding issues. The Darfurians have certain demands and we must see that they see the lights. Otherwise all these signed agreements only cause dismay among them”.
Commenting on Israel involvement in the Darfur conflict Al-Nur said that he had offices in Libya and made visits to refugees living there “but that did not fuel the conflict and no one said that Libya was provoking the war or that we are agents of Tripoli”.
Al-Nur acknowledged last week that he “visited Israel recently in a move to boost social normalization between the Sudanese and Israeli peoples, pledging for strategic relations between the two countries”.
However the inference is clear that the SLM, SPLM and Israel have common interests vis a vis protection of Darfurian and South Sudanese refugees and more, as we shall see, including covert supply of arms.
Nina Shea commented to the author, “Israel is smart and extremely perceptive of the geo-political significance of a Free South Sudan.”
The strange case of the M/V Faina Somali pirate Hijacking
Note the case of the mystery ship, the Ukrainian roll on roll off cargo ship M/V Faina as noted by this American Chronicle report:
The Ukrainian MV FAINA operated under cover of a Belize flag when it was hi-jacked on September 25, 2008 in the late afternoon by a gang of Somali pirates in three fast skiffs off the coast of Somalia on the way to its destination at the Kenyan harbor of Mombasa, where it was supposed to arrive in the early morning hours of the September 27, 2008. Reports claimed that Sudan and Russia had a hand in the capture of the ship.
Nyna Karpachyova, the Ukrainian parliament’s human rights ombudsman, said that the real owner of the weapon-ship [carrying a cargo of Soviet era 33 T-72 tanks (including rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns)[is an Israeli citizen with the name Vadim Alperin (alias Vadim Oltrena). It is extremely rare for ships to be registered to individual investors such as Mr. Alperin. Alperin acquired this ship from a Russian state auction during the era of Boris Yeltsin. The ship was refurbished and later conveniently registered to fly the Belize flag. Other ships by the same owner where found to be operating as casinos, including one based in the Gulf to entertain rich Arab clients. Alperin was identified a “Mossad brother” running a number of clandestine front companies included a Kenyan Meat export company enjoying good trade with Middle Eastern countries, but covertly used for gathering intelligence from countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
For many years, the Khartoum based Sudan government accused Israel of supplying arms and providing training to South Sudan rebels. Israel once supplied illicit weapons to South Sudan from within Ethiopia’s territory, but had lost influence since the Eritrean independence. As relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia had soured, it became impossible to continue this route and Israel sought other alternative routes to get to its Uganda weapons storage for South Sudan militias through Kenyan territories.
The Somali pirates who hijacked the M/V Faina alleged they found documentation indicating that the cargo on the vessel was destined ultimately for Juba in Southern Sudan. After payment of a ransom of $3.5 million on February 9, 2009, the vessel was released to sail to its intended destination of Mombasa in Kenya.
Clearly, the Israelis were orchestrating the supply of weapons to the SPLM. The M/V Faina incident revealed the clandestine arms pipeline to the South Sudanese SPLA forces.
The Long Arm of the IAF strikes at the Iran-Sudan-Gaza arms supply chain
The stunning CBS report on March 26, 2009 of an alleged IAF attack and destruction of a convoy north of Port Sudan was the stuff of legend. The US has denied that AC-130 gunships based in Djibouti undertook the raid on the column in late January that destroyed 17 trucks, killing 39, or 100 if you believe the Sudanese press spokesperson.
Witness this comment by a US AFRICOM spokesperson from the Jerusalem Post:
“The US military has not conducted any air strikes, fired any missiles or undertaken any combat operations in or around Sudan since October 2008, when US Africa Command formally became responsible for US military action in Africa,” he said.
The Sudanese spokesperson alleges there was no raid:
The Sudani Foreign Ministry said Friday there was no proof that Israel attacked a Hamas-bound arms convoy in the country two months ago, Israel Radio reported.
A ministry spokesman, Ali Sadiq, said Khartoum was investigating several leads regarding the strike, Israel being one of them.
The Sudanese government issued the statement after the US shook off allegations that it was behind the strike
Sudanese government spokesman Rabie A. Atti said reports of the strike were emerging now because it took time to fully probe the attack. He also said that “more than 100 people” had been killed in the air raid, not the 39 reported Thursday by CBS News.
He denied the trucks that were bombed were carrying weapons. “I’ve heard this allegation, but it’s not true,” he said. “It was genocide, committed by US forces.”
When asked how he knew the forces were American, Rabie responded: “We don’t differentiate between the US and Israel. They are all one.”
Note this comment from an Israeli Res. Brig. General Shlomo Brom, director of the Program on Israel-Palestinian Relations at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. He said Israel bombing a weapons convoy in Sudan seemed “very logical.” “It fits exactly with the pattern of how Israel operates.”
But what is the connection of Iran to Sudan and hence overland to Gaza? Witness this comment from Reva Bhalla of US-based intelligence company, Stratfor, from this Jerusalem Post analysis of the Iran-Sudan-Gaza connections that lead to the IAF Sudan attack in January.
Reva Bhalla was the first to publicly note the transfer of arms from Iran to Hamas via Sudan. Speaking to reporters in early January, Bhalla suggested the involvement of Hizbullah agents in an Iranian created network bringing arms from Sudan to the Gaza Strip. Bhalla depicted the network in the following terms:
“You’ll have a bunch of Hizbullah agents who will procure arms through Sudan. They’ll enter Egypt under forged documents, pay off disgruntled Beduins in the Sinai with things like light arms, cash, Lebanese hashish – which they can sell in the black market – and pay off Egyptian security guards as well so that they can travel covertly into Gaza to pass off the weapons shipments through Hamas’s pretty extensive underground tunnel network.”
It is impossible to verify the precise accuracy of these details. However, the involvement of Sudan in the Iranian-Hamas war effort would fit with the larger pattern of Sudan’s regional alliances and activity. The close connections between Teheran, Khartoum and Hamas are a matter of public record.
The reason for such an IAF raid is revealed in this Haaretz report on the suspected Sudan attack:
Any Israeli decision to attack such a distant target would likely have been based on the belief that Iran could deliver arms into Gaza, possibly including 70-kilometer-range Fajr rockets.
That range would allow Hamas operatives to strike into the heart of Israel, Tel Aviv, from their Gaza bases.
Israel’s ability to launch such an audacious attack is based in part in an agreement reached in late January with outgoing Foreign Minister Livni and then US Secretary of State Rice concerning international assistance in preventing weapons smuggling into Gaza for Hamas terrorists to use against Israel.
There was a further report that an IAF action obliterated an Iranian ship in the Arabian Sea suspected of transporting rockets and missiles enroute to Port Sudan. The cargoes were ultimately destined for Hamas in Gaza. Witness this Jerusalem Post report:
“There were indeed two strikes in Sudan, in January and February,” Sudan’s deputy transportation minister told Channel 10 on Thursday evening. “I cannot confirm that Israel or the US was behind the attack, but I know that the US controls the airspace there,” he said.
The London Times revealed in a later report that Israel may have used armed UAVs, the Hermes 450 manufactured by Elbit, that is equipped with two Hellfire missiles. A Hermes UAV squadron is based at Pachamim air base south of Tel Aviv. Mossad may have developed the target intelligence. Further, the Israel Air Force may have used the larger Eitan UAV with a wingspan of 110 feet to possibly refuel the Hermes UAVs. The Hermes 450 UAV can remain aloft for 24 hours, while the Eitan can stay up for 36 hours. Further, Al Jazeera reported that there may have three such attacks on arms convoys in Sudan near the Egyptian border. Moreover Iranian Revolutionary Guards may have been directly involved in the smuggling of convoys of possible Fajr rockets The Times report noted:
Iranian Revolutionary Guards masterminded the smuggling operation. “The Iranians arrived in Port Sudan and liaised with local smugglers,” said a source. The convoy was heading for the Egyptian border where, for a fat fee, local smugglers would take over.
Haaretz also notes the reaction of Iran to a recent interception of an Iranian ship bound for Syria and diverted to Cyprus carrying arms:
The Iranians see the recent interception of the arms ship Monchegorsk, which was en route to Syria, as a warning of the difficulties they are likely to face in delivering arms, the source added. That ship, which was carrying arms from Iran to the Syrian army, was stopped in Cyprus following American pressure and its cargo was confiscated.
What should not be lost on Iran and its ally Sudan is that the alleged IAF raid on the convoy in January was within the same operational radius of approximately 700 nautical miles-equidistant from Jerusalem to both Port Sudan and Tehran. Like the September, 2007 IAF raid that took out a nuclear weapons assembly plant being built with North Korean assistance in Northeastern Syria, the details of the Sudan raids will remain shrouded in official silence.
American and Israeli geo-political interests in the current Sudan crisis present sharp contrasts. American foreign policy objectives under the Obama Administration seek a multilateral humanitarian resolution, driven by the focus on the Darfur genocide. Israel on the other hand seeks to deny the capabilities of Sudan to facilitate the objectives of Iran and its terrorist proxies, Hizbullah and Hamas. Notwithstanding the contrast, both countries, especially Israel, realize that support for Sudanese secular opponents of a patently Islamist totalitarian regime requires concerted and continuous action. The Obama Administration faces a daunting task to achieve its objectives through multilateral organizations without alienating the Muslim world. Israel has no such restraints.
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