Friendship with Sudan and Israel: Why a big ‘yes’ from Trump

Sudan is in the midst of political , economic and humanitarian instability, 18 months after long-term ruler Omar al-Bashir was overthrown by the country’s non-violent protests. With the collapse of the economy and the food crisis across the nation, the country faces desperate times. This is seen by US President Donald Trump and Israel, who are friends with Sudan, as an opportunity.

The Trump administration has indicated that if Sudan accepts Israel and comes to terms with the region’s long-discredited country, then the US will withdraw its name from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, opening the door to opportunities to uplift the economy. This would be advantageous for Sudan to have the requisite economic stability.

Thirty years ago, when President Bashir seized power in a military coup in 1989, Khartoum became the centre of militant jihadism. Sudan was the new base of extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda in countries including the US, Egypt , Saudi Arabia, and Kenya to carry out their terrorist attacks around the world. The first terrorist attack in 1993 at the World Trade Center in New York led to the designation of Sudan as a US sponsor of terror.

The ripple effect has led several neighbouring Sudanese countries to raise the country’s military pressure and foreign financial sanctions. This was enough for Sudan, after three years, to drive out the most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, and other jihadists.

The CIA (US Central Intelligence Agency) discovered a new intelligence partner in Sudan’s security services after the disastrous attack on 11 September 2001 that brought down the WTC. In order to delete Sudan from the list, that should have been enough. But this hasn’t happened. Congress was also apprehensive about Khartoum and, for several other reasons, aggressive. That included war and abuses of human rights in Darfur.

The government of Bashir was already functioning in retrospect. Relations with Hamas and Iran have been very available. After pressure from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, however, ties with Iran were set loose in 2016. It was predicted that the US would change its position after Bashir was overthrown in 2019, but it did not. One of the most powerful instruments for the US State Department was the sanctions on Sudan.

Sudan is undermining all sectors of business. The state of hunger is astounding — UN reports that 9.6 million Sudanese people are in extreme food poverty. This has been made worse by the lockdown and flooding of Covid-19. The scenario is too scary to be solved by food handouts. What Sudan needs now is a significant influx of economic aid.

During his visit to Khartoum in August, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested an arrangement with Abdalla Hamdok, Sudan’s civilian Prime Minister-Sudan would be de-listed as a terrorist supporter, and if Sudan recognises Israel, President Trump would release the blocked fund. If Sudan decides to do so, it will be the fifth Arab nation to normalise relations with Israel following the decision of UAE last month.

This would also be a huge boost for Trump ‘s campaign ahead of the November Presidential elections.