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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Are Iran and Sudan Renewing Their Ties?

Filed under: Africa, Iran, Operation Swords of Iron

Are Iran and Sudan Renewing Their Ties?
The Iranian Navy transport ship Kharg visited Port Sudan in October 2012 and was welcomed by Sudanese sailors. The Kharg, Iran’s largest ship at the time, sank in 2021 in the Persian Gulf after a suspicious fire. (Sudan Tribune)

Israel is closely monitoring the growing ties between Iran and Sudan, a development that raises concerns among senior political officials in Jerusalem due to its potential implications for the situation following the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip and Iran’s expanding presence in the Red Sea region.

There is a pressing need for strategic cooperation between Israel and the United States to address this issue effectively.

Sudan, a signatory to the Abraham Accords, established normalization of relations with Israel on October 20, 2020, in a joint statement issued by the United States, Sudan, and Israel.

However, recent developments have raised alarms in Jerusalem regarding Sudan’s renewed engagement with Iran. Following the outbreak of conflict in the Gaza Strip, Sudan resumed diplomatic ties with Iran.

Map of Sudan
Sudan is located on the Red Sea coast. (CIA)

This move marks a significant shift from Sudan’s previous stance when it severed relations with Iran in 2016 and aligned itself with the moderate Sunni axis opposing Iran.

The internal instability in Sudan is now driving it toward Iran. President Abdel Fatah Al-Burhan, heading the interim government of Sudan, announced the renewal of diplomatic relations with Iran on October 9, 2023, just two days after a terrorist attack by Hamas on Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip.

Sources close to President Al-Burhan suggest that his decision was driven by the desire to secure weapons support, especially in light of the backing received by his political rival, Vice President Muhammad Hamdan Daglu, also known as “Hamidati,” who previously commanded the Rapid Intervention Force.

It’s All About Weapons and Drones

Initially expecting support from Israel for weapons procurement, Sudan turned to Iran when such assistance did not materialize.

This development is particularly concerning for Israel, as Sudan historically served as a crucial transit point for Iranian weapons destined for Hamas in the Gaza Strip via Sudan and Egypt.

Beyond the implications for normalization with an Arab partner, Sudan’s renewed ties with Iran pose a significant threat.

Israel faces challenges regarding the occupation of the Rafah area and the “Philadelphia Corridor,” a key smuggling route from Egypt to the Gaza Strip, which facilitated the transfer of Iranian weapons via Sudan to Hamas.

Disarming the Gaza Strip is a crucial objective in the ongoing conflict, integral to dismantling Hamas’s military infrastructure. Israel must prevent the influx of weapons into the Gaza Strip following its military operations in the region.

This issue should also concern the United States. The Biden administration and Egypt and Saudi Arabia support President Al-Burhan, while Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Eritrea, and forces loyal to General Haftar in Libya back his opponent, Muhammad Hamdan Daglu (Hamidati).

Iran, leading the so-called “axis of evil,” has now secured Sudan’s alignment with its interests. President Al-Burhan, eager for arms support, may be inclined to sever ties with the United States and Israel to procure weapons from Iran.

Reports reaching the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem indicate that Iran has begun supplying President Al-Burhan’s forces, weakened by the ongoing civil war, with armed “Mohajir 6” UAVs. Bloomberg news agency also reported on this development in January of this year.1

Mohammad Hamdan Daglu’s future stance toward Iran may depend on his victory in Sudan’s internal power struggle.

While Israel remains uninvolved in Sudan’s internal dynamics, its strategic location and past ties with Hamas raise concerns. Sudan rejected Iran’s request to establish a naval base on the Red Sea shores this year but may succumb to pressure in the future.

Thus, Israel’s participation in the new U.S. coalition forged by the Biden administration becomes increasingly vital to counter the dangerous trajectory of Sudan-Iran relations.

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