Sudan President al-Bashir with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, host King Abdullah II of Jordan and other leaders at the 2017 Amman Arab League meetings, March 29-30, 2017
The Arab League Summit hosted by King Abdullah II of Jordan, March 29-30, 2017 at a resort near the Dead Sea, had more to report in its several declarations than rekindling peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians based on the 2002 plan of the late Saudi King Abdullah. Virtually unnoticed were reports of a wide ranging series of economic development projects involving the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Emeriti players focused on the Sudan, hence the presence of indicted war criminal President Bashir.
The objective is to transform the Sudan into the virtual breadbasket for the Sunni Arab confederation in the Middle East. This economic integration plan would imply support for the strategic goal of the Khartoum regime’s Arab Coalition plan for the Sudan that President Bashir hopes to conclude by 2020. That plan’s objective is the ethnic cleansing of indigenous people in Darfur, Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile Region with replacement by Arab tribal settlers from the Janjaweed peace force and foreign Jihadi fighters.
Tens of billions of dollars of Saudi and Emeriti funded projects were announced at the Arab League Summit providing the economic incentives for fulfillment of Bashir’s Jihad and Caliphate plans for the Sudan and ultimately the Sahel region. This upwelling of Sunni Arab support for the Sudan followed President al-Bashir’s switch of alliance in 2014 from the Shiite Islamic Republic of Iran.
What occurred at the Arab League Summit in Jordan
A little noticed Arab news release on March 30, 2017, spelled out the deepening extent of the Sudan economic development projects on the agenda of the GCC members led by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. A translation revealed the following.
King Salman bin Abdul Aziz at the Amman Arab League summit this year asked to be seated next to Sudan President Omar al-Bashir. The king extended an invitation to President al-Bashir to lunch at the residence of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques announced his intention to visit Khartoum in May 2018 to discuss the establishment of the largest integrated meat complex in the Middle East with a production capacity of 25 million heads of cattle per year.
Also on the agenda was the Saudi continuing investment in the Red Sea minerals extraction project estimated at about 4 billion dirham’s or $1.08 billion dollars. In addition there was discussed the establishment of the Nadak wheat project, the largest Arab project for the cultivation of pulses (dried seeds) and fruits in the world at a cost of $13.1 billion dollars. These were among the Saudi commitments to be included in the Amman Declaration on large investment projects in the Middle East.
There were also projects announced by a number of GCC Emeriti, the Kingdom of Jordan and Lebanon.
The United Arab Emirates committed to financing of one of the largest palm-growing projects in the Sudan, involving 225 million trees.
The Kingdom of Jordan announced funding of a large self-sufficiency rice crop project in the Sudan.
Kuwait committed to funding a 67 thousand cattle project in the Sudan for export of beef to its market
Lebanon announced funding for the largest feed project in the city of White Nile.
A joint Bahrain and Qatar project was announced to grow fruits and legumes in Sennar near the Nile.
These projects encompass more than 12 million feddans or approximately 13 million agricultural acres in Sudan, one of the largest Arab integration projects in the world
Sudan President Omer Hassan al-Bashir (C) flanked by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (L) and UAE Vice-President Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (R) in Abu Dhabi, Feb. 22, 2015
The Deepening Economic Ties between Sudan and the UAE
In February 2015 there were preliminary economic development discussions between Sudan President al-Bashir and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and UAE Vice-President Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum in Abu Dhabi. This culminated in March 2017 announcements in advance of the Amman Arab League summit. Those announcements were the latest manifestation of the economic benefits that have accrued to President al-Bashir for ending his long term relationship with Tehran in 2014. A March 7, 2017, Sudan Tribune article reported:
During his visit last month, al-Bashir discussed with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan ways to enhance economic and development cooperation. The Sudanese President pointed that directives were issued to the UAE ministers to work with Sudan in the various fields.
According to Sudan Minister Abdel-Ghani, the meeting discussed the current production projects especially the fattening and slaughter house schemes besides the vegetables and oilseeds projects.
“We have developed an integrated vision in coordination with the industrial sector and now we are in the process of determining the sites and signing the contracts,” he said
The Sudanese minister pointed out that the delegation includes representatives of various UAE companies registered in Europe.
Sudan managed to achieve a breakthrough in ties with UAE after a long period of strained relations over Khartoum’s close ties with Tehran.
The UAE is in a long-standing territorial dispute with Iran over the three Gulf islands of Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb.
Iran refuses international arbitration over the dispute and insists that its sovereignty over the islands is non-negotiable.
In 2014, Sudanese authorities ordered the closure of the Iranian cultural center in Khartoum, and other states in a move which was seen as a gesture to the Arab Gulf states.
The estimated size of UAE investments in Sudan is approximately $11 billion of which about $5 billion are projects in progress while the rest are still in pre-execution phase.
In May 2015, Sudan said it offered UAE’s companies $59 billion dollars of investment opportunities mainly in agricultural projects.
Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir visits Saudi King Salman Riyadh November 2015
The Saudi Sudan Connections – Money for Switching Sides
One of the strategic aspects of this latest wave of ethnic cleansing in Darfur in Western Sudan and in the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan is motivated by the exploitation of gold deposits. Further, we noted the backing of Saudi Arabia and Emeriti members of the GCC behind possible creation of a Caliphate in the Sahel region of Sub-Sahara Africa.
There are several developments arising from the sudden switch of Sudan, as the only Sunni country in the horn of Africa, to have been a long-standing ally of the Shi’ite Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran had assisted the Sudan in creating a munitions industry. Sudan had facilitated transshipment of Iranian weapons to other Sunni proxies, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza. That prompted periodic Israeli air attacks on convoys transiting from Port Sudan across Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, as well as interdiction of Iranian arms cargoes in the Red Sea. Moreover, Sudan had been a major state supporter of terrorism providing training camps for Osama bin Laden. It had also previously supplied weapons for the Houthi insurgency in Yemen across the Bab al Mandab straits in the Red Sea.
Sudan faced onerous fiscal isolation caused by nearly 20 years of international sanctions, the loss of substantial oil revenues with the founding of the independent Republic of South Sudan and civil war there. Khartoum found itself in dire financial straits facing internal unrest and protests over its faltering economic policies. Military and security expenditures claimed fully 70 percent of Sudan’s dwindling budget. What to do?
The answer was to switch sides and opt for major Saudi financial support and investment in precious metals development both offshore in the Red Sea and on-shore in both North Darfur and the Nuba Mountains. That switch took place in 2014 when Sudan closed Iranian and Shia cultural centers in Khartoum. In 2015 the Bashir regime sent 6,000 troops with supporting aircraft to provide boots on the ground in the Saudi and GCC campaign against the Iranian backed Houthi rebels. The Iran-supported Shi’ite Houthi had ousted the Yemeni government of Saudi ally, President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. The Saudi Kingdom provided a $5 billion military aid package to Khartoum. Riyadh invested in the Atlantis II Red Sea bed mineral extraction project. It may produce a $20 billion profit for the Saudi Kingdom under its so-called modernization program aimed at reducing reliance on oil revenues.
Eleonora Ardemagni an international relations analyst of the Middle East, focused on Yemen and the GCC region, noted these developments in an April 2016 article published by The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, DC, “The Yemeni Factor in the Saudi Arabia Sudan Realignment”. She summarized the financial benefits to Khartoum from switching sides:
The Saudi-Sudanese realignment is based on a “money for proxies” informal pact: external financial-military aid from Riyadh to Khartoum in exchange for direct military commitment of Sudanese troops for overseas operations. Such military interdependence has also boosted economic ties and joint projects between Sudan and Saudi Arabia, as well as other Arab Gulf states. This includes Sudanese gold production and the exploitation of offshore mineral resources in the Red Sea, where Saudi Arabia and Sudan share a common area, the Atlantis II joint venture. In 2015, the Sudanese central bank received $1 billion from Saudi Arabia and, previously, $1.22 billion dollars from Qatar. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi hosted the Saudi-Sudanese and the UAE-Sudanese Investment Forum, respectively. In November 2015, Saudi Arabia committed $1.7 billion for the building of three dams in northern Sudan, to be constructed within five years, plus $500 million for water and electricity projects and the cultivation of agricultural land in eastern Sudan.
With the influx of billions of dollars in Saudi and GCC funds, Khartoum now has the financial underwriting for its ‘final solution’ for Darfur and South Kordofan giving it a free hand to exploit their gold deposits. Perhaps the long sought gold production in these regions might back its faltering currency. Moreover, the profits from joint ventures with the Saudis would aid in launching its mercenary Jihad Army to create a Caliphate across most of the Sahel region of sub–Sahara Africa. It also may have the Saudi Kingdom’s support to intercede on its behalf to end the 20-year international sanctions regime.
These billion dollar economic development integration projects in Sudan funded by Saudi Arabia and Emeriti members of the GCC may have played a part in former President Obama partially lifting the US sanctions against the Sudan. As we noted in a recent New English Review article, it has not stopped Genocide in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile region. If anything the relentless Jihad against indigenous people in these Sudan regions is aimed at their replacement with Arab tribes and foreign fighters. This may have been a factor behind statements made by US Rep. Jim Mc Govern, co-chairman of the bi-partisan US Congressional Human Rights Commission, calling for the introduction of new legislation in the 115th Congress re-instating Sudan sanctions.
Jerry Gordon is a Senior Editor at the New English Review.
Lt. Gen. Abakar M. Abdallah is Chairman of the Sudan Unity Movement.
Deborah Martin assisted in the preparation of this article.