Sudan’s future is tangled in its connection to Israel: opinion

On October 25, the Sudanese army, under the leadership of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, seized power and placed the country under martial law. Less than a month later, there are strong indications that Burhan may have bitten off more than he could chew and is beginning to regret having been the mastermind behind the hit.

Somehow it was quite unnecessary. Even before acting, Burhan was the most powerful man in the country. He was head of the Sovereign Council of Sudan, representing the military arm in the collaborative civil-military administration of the country. Their role, which was perfectly legitimate, was embedded in the August 2019 power-sharing agreement between the military and civilian element within Sudan, in particular the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), a flexible coalition of civilian groups. .

That deal came after the overthrow of Sudan’s autocratic leader, Omar al-Bashir, in a popular uprising. Under its terms, the country would be governed by a coalition of military and civil powers that pledged to lead the country in an orderly fashion towards democracy and parliamentary elections in 2023.

However, popular sentiment had grown increasingly impatient with the administration’s failure to deal with the country’s serious economic problems and the apparent lack of progress toward any form of democracy. Relations between military and civil leaders within the Sovereign Council worsened. On October 22, national frustration erupted in a massive protest in the capital Khartoum, estimated at one million people, in support of the civilian government.

Three days later, Burhan dissolved the country’s civil cabinet, arrested Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other leading figures, and declared that the country was under military rule. Any hopes he might have harbored of quickly consolidating his seizure of power were quickly shattered. He faced instant and near universal condemnation. The UN, the African Union (AU), the Arab League, the eight-nation African development body IGAD, and Western donors to Sudan, including the United States, called for Sudan’s return to civilian rule.

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)

Within the country, popular opposition to the seizure of military power rose to a boiling point. Since then, pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets in a series of mass demonstrations demanding a return to civilian rule.

Burhan has started to back down. On November 4, he spoke by phone with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “The two sides agreed on the need to maintain the path of democratic transition,” Burhan’s office said immediately afterward. Burhan then ordered the release of Hamdok and other government ministers he had deposed in the coup. Nureldin Satti, Sudan’s ambassador to the United States, said something prematurely in a television interview that “the coup is over,” and argued that the pressure to condemn from inside and outside Sudan was too great for Burhan to resist.

Meanwhile, Hamdok, who had been allowed to meet with UN and international diplomats as part of mediation efforts to restore stability to the country, demanded the reversal of the coup as a condition for any further negotiations.

Sudan is, of course, one of the four Arab countries that signed to normalize their relations with Israel under the Abrahamic Accords, although final ratification is still awaited. Naturally, since Burhan was the head of the Sovereign Council, the normalization initiative had been led by the military, with Burhan himself playing a leading role. The civil arm of the Sudan administration is believed to have been less interested in moving. As a result, Israel is in a unique position. It has a strong working relationship with the very sector of the administration that carried out the coup, a point that has not escaped the attention of the United States.

Shortly after the military took over the country, Washington is reported to have requested Israel’s help in defusing the situation. According to Israeli and US officials, Blinken called on Israel to encourage the Sudanese military to restore stability to the country. He also said that obviously the normalization process with Sudan could not proceed until a legitimate administration was restored.

America’s message was completely in accordance with Israel’s best interests. Clearly eager not to jeopardize the ratification of its normalization agreement with Sudan, Israel has so far not issued any official reaction to the coup. He will be willing to reestablish ties as quickly as possible with both the civilian-led government and the collaborative military-civilian administration without doing anything to sour relations with Burhan.

Consequently, an Israeli delegation is reported to have visited Sudan and met with military leaders involved in the coup, including Abdel Rahim Hamdan Dagalo, a prominent general and a close ally of Burhan. Dagalo was part of a Sudanese military delegation that visited Israel several weeks earlier. This working relationship has led in some media to speculation that Israel was somehow complicit in the mastermind of Burhan’s coup, a conspiracy theory that does not have much water.

With normalization signed but not yet sealed, Israel would have little advantage in helping establish an illegitimate and unstable regime against massive popular opposition. As Israel has shown over the past year, it is more concerned with helping to stabilize Sudan’s economy, which is relatively underdeveloped compared to other members of the Abrahamic Accords.

The US envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, said in a briefing with journalists on November 2 that Burhan and his supporters in the military had “kidnapped and betrayed” the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people.

“The world is watching,” Feltman said. “The military cannot elect its civilian partners in the transitional government. They need to work together. “

Burhan, it seems, is getting the message. In an interview broadcast on November 7, he vowed to make a peaceful transition to civilian government, and indicated that he will not hold a government post afterward. “We are committed to handing over power to a civilian government,” he said. “We will fulfill our commitment, the commitment we made to the people and the international community, that we are committed to completing the transition. [and] hold elections as scheduled. “

To be sure, Israel is working behind the scenes to ensure this desirable outcome.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *