From Libya to Sudan: Israel’s policies in North Africa in the spotlight

In early October, reports emerged that a Sudanese security delegation had visited Israel. Later that month, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan seized control of Sudan through a kind of coup that ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. The move came days after a US envoy arrived in Sudan. It is not clear whether the Khartoum leadership coordinated the movements they speak with in Cairo, Riyadh or the Gulf, but it would be surprising if they did not, because Sudan desperately needs support.

Meanwhile, Israel Haaretz reported that Saddam Haftar, the son of East Libyan leader Khalifa Haftar, had come to Israel to meet with officials. One report said that he offered to have relations with Israel if he backed his father.

This seems implausible because Haftar’s chances of taking over most of Libya were thwarted in the summer of 2020 when Turkey intervened in the Libyan civil war on behalf of the Tripoli government, pushing Haftar’s Libyan National Army away from it. the city gates. Haftar is backed by Egypt and probably has good ties to Greece, France and others. But he has a very remote chance of leading the entire country. You may have reached your highest watermark. Nor is he young.

There is no doubt that Haftar consolidated eastern Libya and drove out the extremists through Operation Dignity, launched in 2014. But he hasn’t been able to push the ball the last nine yards into Tripoli’s end zone. As such, you are stuck waiting for an engagement. Egypt, Russia and others want him to hold the line; Turkey wants to get it out. But now Ankara is trying to sing a courtesy song with Cairo to mend relations, so things may change.

A roadblock catches fire during what the Information Ministry calls a military coup in Khartoum, Sudan, on October 25, 2021 (credit: REUTERS / EL TAYEB SIDDIG)

What is Israel’s side in this? Israel has good relations with Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Sisi came to power in 2013 after the Muslim Brotherhood and its leader Mohammed Morsi appeared poised to plunge Egypt into chaos and extremism.

Acting on the feeling that the Egyptians did not want the kind of chaos to unfold in Iraq and Syria, Sisi moved in after protesters demanded Morsi’s resignation. Turkey had backed Morsi because it is run by the AKP, which is linked to the Brotherhood, which in turn is linked to Hamas and has the backing of Qatar. That has been the configuration in the region for a decade: a Qatar-Turkey-Hamas-Brotherhood alliance system that seeks regional domination.

ISRAEL was on the other side of that equation, more closely linked to moderate states like Jordan and Egypt under Sisi – and then after the Abrahamic Accords, Israel openly partnered with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, who are close to Arabia. Saudi and Egypt. . The ties between Sudan and Israel were a product of that. The Brotherhood had been ousted from power in Sudan in 2019. Omar Bashir, the ruthless leader who had led the extremists in charge of Sudan, was deposed.

Burhan had reportedly been close to the Saudis. “Sudanese media and analysts say Burhan coordinated the dispatch of Sudanese troops to Yemen as part of a Saudi-led coalition, which has intervened since 2015 against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels,” says France24. It was also added to China, the same report says. This puts you in a good position to understand the world and global changes.

It may be why he waited for US envoy Jeffrey Feltman to leave before acting against the prime minister. Saddam Hussein did the same after meeting with then-US Ambassador April Glaspie in 1990. In the end, Saddam failed in his calculations; Burhan does not intend to do the same.

There is another man in Khartoum: Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, who also serves as deputy head of the Transitional Military Council. He was reportedly the one who led the delegation to Israel in October. But reports have said that while Hemedti believed the connection to Israel could help Sudan, the civilian leadership was more hesitant.

“Unfortunately, even if there is no reason to believe that the Israeli military and intelligence officers were complicit in the military takeover (a possibility that even some Israeli journalists have openly speculated about), Israel is far from an innocent bystander. “according to an analysis in Haaretz by Yonatan Touval, a senior foreign policy analyst at Mitvim: The Israel Institute for Regional Foreign Policies.

“One size does not fit all,” he wrote. “Triumphant bombast may suit normalization with the United Arab Emirates, but it will not work with Saudi Arabia, Djibouti or Iraq. With Sudan, Israel’s arrogance and complicity in the coup may well flare in its face.”

THE QUESTION now is whether the Sudan coup will change things or not. Reports in Walla have said that an Israeli delegation was in Khartoum recently. But it’s unclear what’s going on behind the scenes, if at all. Less is known about the role of Egypt.

But Cairo has had several joint military visits with Sudan in recent years. He wants a Sudan based on Egypt’s Sisi model, and he wants a Sudanese partnership regarding Ethiopia’s Great Renaissance Dam. The Ethiopian government is now embroiled in civil war; It is not known what role Egypt or Sudan may have there.

Then next to it is Chad. Chad had reportedly been willing to open a diplomatic mission to Israel in September 2020. Chad’s Cabinet Chairman Abdelkerim Deby, the president’s son, had reportedly visited Israel. Chad’s leader was killed in battle in April 2021, leaving Abdelkerim and his brother Mahamat Idriss Deby in charge of the country. This has led to questions about what will come next for Chad.

All of these states are worth thinking of as linked. Egypt wants to have a bloc of states like Sudan, Chad and Libya that it can count on. In the absence of a strong state, it can work with Haftar and others.

While these are vast distances and large states, not so far from these areas in the Sahel are the extremists and chaos in Niger, Nigeria, Mali, the tensions between Algeria and Morocco and the lack of clarity about what comes next. in Tunisia, as well as a brutal war in the Central African Republic and an ongoing extremist war in Somalia led by Al Shabab.

For Egypt and its friends in the Gulf, the goal is to shore up the arc of stability and moderation, which is also an arc of authoritarianism or monarchy.

FOR THE Brotherhood and its leadership, this is not good news. But Turkey has toned down some of its hostile rhetoric. However, we can see how the Ankara-based media reports the Haftar-Israel connection as evidence of something negative. For years, there have been rumors and Israel has been portrayed as linked to Haftar, usually by the media linked to Turkey. Turkey even reported through the Anadolu media on October 26 that Haftar and Saif al-Islam Gadaffi, son of the former, now-late President Moamar Gadaffi, had contracted with an “Israeli company” that was allegedly based in the United States. United Arab Emirates in the run-up to the Libyan elections.

“The newspaper, citing leading figures from the Gulf, said that Haftar’s son signed the contract with the consulting firm that carries out successful campaigns in Israel and the world,” the report says. Turkish media say Haftar and Israel have gone from “animosity to alliance.”

The simplistic reading of this is that Haftar can trade credit for support, but this is not likely. Some Israeli officials have acknowledged that recognition is also unlikely.

So the real story is more complex. It should be seen as part of the overall history of Egypt and the Gulf, and of the policies that unite Sudan, eastern Libya and regional groupings. Sudan probably got what it initially wanted in the fall of 2020 after it agreed to normalization with Israel, but Sudan needs investment and other types of support now, probably far beyond Israel’s interests.

Similarly, Haftar’s remote chance of ruling Libya is one that Egypt must watch carefully. It is worth remembering that Turkey’s involvement in Libya began after Ankara imposed on the weak Libyan government a maritime agreement that runs along the concept of the East Med pipeline connecting Greece, Israel and Cyprus with places like Italy and France.

It is a maritime and geopolitical issue in general. The recent stories about Israel-Sudan and Israel-Libya must be understood in that context, insofar as the origins of these larger groups and associations go back many years.

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