By Richard Walker
In the waning days of President Donald Trump’s first term in office, he has delivered a deal for Israel that will allow yet another Arab state to form a diplomatic alliance with Tel Aviv. Considering the fact that Sudan is run by corrupt generals, some of whom have been guilty of war crimes, this may turn out to be a deal with the devil.
The arrangement, like the one negotiated with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), required D.C. to offer Sudan’s generals what they wanted—to have Sudan removed from the U.S. state sponsors of terror list. This will permit them to apply for aid from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Presumably they will be able to transfer personal assets overseas, without hindrance from Washington. It would not be the first time Sudanese generals have been bribed. In 1984, during the slaughter in Darfur by militias run by Sudanese generals, Israel’s Mossad persuaded them to allow Jews to be airlifted to Israel by paying them massive sums in gold and diamonds. One of those generals was later charged and found guilty of taking bribes from Israel. Darfur has remained a place where the military and militias have continued to commit crimes against civilians, and where corruption is rife.
Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu turned to Washington to burnish his political credentials by asking the Trump administration to negotiate the Sudan deal for him. President Trump sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Khartoum to negotiate, and an Israeli political delegation followed. Finally, President Trump personally called Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, whose title is Chairman of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council. It is worth noting that former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir remains on the wanted list of the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes. According to the Sudanese generals now in charge, once they have a “transitional” parliamentary structure in place, the matter of normalizing relations with Tel Aviv will be finalized.
Removing Sudan from the state sponsors of terror list tends to confirm for some observers that it has always been a mechanism for convenience, to be used against countries that Washington does not like, even though some of those countries may not be engaged in sponsoring acts of terror against American citizens. By using the list, Washington can impose strict sanctions on countries such as Iran, North Korea or Syria. It never considered deploying it against the Saudis or Israelis, who had a role in the 9/11 attacks, or against Israel for bombing neighboring nations without international approval, or against the UAE for its war crimes in Yemen. By using it to satisfy Israel’s Middle East strategies, it only serves to bolster the charge that the list has no genuine value.
But this new deal may be part of a wider effort by neocons within the Trump administration’s orbit, and within Netanyahu’s cabinet, to create divisions between Muslims throughout the Middle East, especially by bringing Arab states on board a U.S.-Israel strategy that is aimed at isolating Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and ultimately Recep Erdogan’s Turkey. But as we have seen with the recent UAE alliance with Israel, it is fraught with dangerous promises to supply the Emiratis with the F-35 fighter.
Similarly, the deal with Sudan is with generals who are corrupt and may someday be removed from power in a bloody revolution. In that event, would Israel or the U.S. come to their aid?
Another factor missing in coverage of this newly agreed alliance is that Washington and Tel Aviv have become increasingly worried about Russian and Chinese influence in the Middle East, and especially on the African continent. In the past, the CIA, like the Mossad, had ties to Sudanese generals and tried to persuade Washington to take Sudan off the Terror Watch List, but lawmakers in Congress with vivid memories of the Darfur slaughter resisted the CIA request. That has changed with Netanyahu’s influence on the Trump White House and his secret ties to Sudan. He has stressed that China, for example, has heavily invested in many African nations and Sudan is no exception. Since the 1990s, Chinese money has been flowing into Sudan since it is the preferred way China has used its massive wealth to buy friends across the globe. Israel and Washington have every reason to seek to blunt the Chinese role in Sudan, given that China, like Russia, is an ally of Iran. Netanyahu met with Sudanese Gen. al-Burhan in February and may have met with him secretly since.
In recent years, China has kept Sudan afloat with large infusions of cash, making it the African country that benefited most from Chinese largesse. Should China withdraw its financial lifeline, Washington may be asked to pony up the shortfall because it is unlikely Israel will have the cash to please Khartoum’s mix of generals and corrupt businessmen. In some circles, there is a suspicion that Washington has begun to realize, perhaps much too late, that its focus on the Middle East, driven by Israeli influence, has meant that the U.S. has taken its eye off the ball in Asia where China now dominates, and in Africa where China and Russia have nurtured a growing influence.
Richard Walker is the nom de plume of a former New York mainstream news producer who grew tired of seeing his articles censored by his bosses.