Libmonster ID: VN-1243
Author(s) of the publication: S. V. KOSTELYANETS
Educational Institution \ Organization: Institute of Africa, Russian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: Arab Spring, Sudan, Islamism, Muslim Brotherhood, foreign policy, conflicts

The Arab crisis, known as the "Arab Spring", began in late 2010 and resulted in regime change in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, the civil war in Syria, and mass unrest in several other Arab countries. The wave of protests has not spared Sudan, which is weakened by serious domestic political and economic problems, primarily related to the separation of the oil-rich south of the country. In the midst of an acute economic downturn and political instability, the country has nevertheless skillfully used destabilization in the Middle East and North Africa to strengthen its role in the region.

The division of the Sudan into two States - the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan - was proclaimed in July 2011. It ended a period of remarkable economic growth that had begun with Sudan's entry into the global oil market as a major exporter in 1999. The decline in oil exports in 2012 caused a "fiscal cliff" and a skewed balance of payments: the loss of almost 60% of total tax revenues and most of foreign trade receipts.1

The disillusionment of the population with the" surrender " of the South, the devaluation of the national currency and a sharp increase in food prices, the abolition of fuel subsidies and an increase in a number of taxes were the main factors in the growth of mass discontent with the policies of the Omar al-Bashir regime and the escalation of the protest movement in 2011-2013. Protests stemming from economic difficulties, increased media censorship, and the unresolved conflict in Darfur have regularly erupted in the capital and other major cities of the country, culminating in clashes with police and mass arrests. The bloodiest events were observed in September 2013 after the abolition of fuel subsidies, as a result of which gasoline prices almost doubled. Hundreds of people were reportedly killed in the crackdown on the September protests, although Khartoum officials said only 70 people were killed.2 Police brutality, including the killing of unarmed demonstrators, has paid off. In 2014, the protests continued, but significantly weakened. In March 2014 In Khartoum, one protester was killed and more than a hundred were arrested during the dispersal of a demonstration against the war in Darfur. At the beginning of 2015, opposition Sudanese politicians, journalists, and activists of protest movements continued to be detained, and they were often held without charge.


According to some Western analysts, 4 Sudan was doomed to follow the path of overthrown regimes. However, such an analysis did not take into account the role of Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood ,which was banned in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya until the 2011 revolutions, but enjoyed considerable popular support, as one might expect,

The article was supported by the Russian Science Foundation grant N 14 - 18 - 03615 "Russian policy in the Middle East: opportunities and limits of cooperation with the countries of the region".

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they took the side of the opposition. It should be noted, however, that the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood is an integral part of the ruling group and actively supports the preservation of the regime, which in fact was one of the main reasons for the failure of the 2011-2014 unrest in this country.

In addition to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Wahhabi organizations Ansar al-Sunna and Jama'a Salafi are represented in the Government of President Omar al-Bashir, but the Brotherhood is the most influential Islamist group in Sudan.5 The crucial role of Islamists in Sudanese politics predetermined Khartoum's position on the crisis events in neighboring countries. Interestingly, while Sudanese protests against al-Bashir's policies were suppressed in the most brutal way, the discontent of Tunisians, Libyans and Egyptians who put forward similar demands was understood by the Sudanese leadership.

Thus, Sudan officially welcomed the overthrow of the regimes of Muammar Gaddafi, Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, relations with which for a long time remained strained*. Moreover, during the intra-Libyan conflict, Khartoum actively supported the National Transitional Council of Libya, supplying weapons to Benghazi, and the Sudanese army was directly involved in driving out supporters of the leader of the Libyan Jamahiriya from the Libyan oasis of Kufra (located more than 300 km from the Libyan-Sudanese border).

As a result of the Arab crisis, Sudan strengthened its foreign policy position in the region, as its ideological allies, the Muslim Brotherhood or similar movements, came to power in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. The new Libyan leadership, grateful for Khartoum's help during the conflict, cut off the supply of weapons to the Darfur rebels. In 2012, Khartoum and Tripoli agreed to establish good-neighborly relations and build transport arteries between the two countries, as well as to establish joint units to protect the border between them and counter the Darfur armed groups.

Even though Khartoum's Islamist allies had already lost much of their political gains in North Africa in 2013, the window of opportunity in the instability surrounding Sudan dramatically increased the country's importance to states as diverse as Shiite Iran and Sunni Qatar, which needed transportation corridors, transit bases, and training camps to advance their interests. interests in Syria, Palestine, Libya, Yemen and other countries. Under the new circumstances, Khartoum has focused its foreign policy on extracting maximum political and economic benefits from the current situation.


While Sudan regularly emphasizes its solidarity with the Arab world, its de facto strategic ally is Iran. Khartoum is ostensibly trying to distance itself from Tehran, due to Sudan's economic dependence on Saudi Arabia, Iran's main opponent in the region. Nevertheless, it can be argued that the development of military-technical cooperation with Iran, which began in 2008, is considered by Khartoum to be a priority direction of its foreign policy.

With Iranian help, Sudan has built the country's largest military-industrial complex, Yarmouk, and two air bases.6 Iran supplies weapons and military technology to Sudan and trains Sudanese military specialists. Given the international sanctions regime against Sudan and the ongoing armed conflicts on its periphery-in Darfur, Kordofan, and Blue Nile State-the importance of Iranian assistance to Khartoum cannot be overemphasized.

Sudan "pays off" with Iran by providing its territory for the supply of weapons to the countries of the region. If before the Arab crisis, Tehran sent military aid mainly to Palestine, Lebanon and Somalia, then in recent years Yemen has become another important destination for Iranian weapons.

The supply of weapons via Sudan to the Shiite Houthi group worried Saudi Arabia, which feared the strengthening of Shiites on the peninsula. In October 2014, after a visit to Saudi Arabia, President al-Bashir compared the Houthis to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, saying that the Houthis were even more dangerous than IS. Obviously, Saudi Arabia has threatened serious economic sanctions if al-Bashir continues to support Yemeni Shiites. As another concession to Riyadh, Khartoum announced the closure of more than 200 Iranian cultural centers in the country.

However, despite the apparent weakening of the Iran-Sudan alliance, Khartoum has not exchanged its partnership with Tehran for friendship with Saudi Arabia, although it is making significant diplomatic efforts to create the appearance of this friendship. The cementing factor of the Iran-Sudan partnership is-

* In 1995, the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood, including employees of the Sudanese special services, were involved in the assassination attempts on Gaddafi and Mubarak (author's note).

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The organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, which aims to cooperate with Iran, including in order to spread political Islam, is interested in it. At the same time, the special services of Sudan have extensive links with radical movements operating in a vast territory from Nigeria to Afghanistan.7 It is possible that Sudan plays the role of a mediator between Iran and a number of Islamist movements (Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, etc.) and benefits significantly from this mediation.

Relations with Saudi Arabia remain extremely complex. On the one hand, this Arab state is the third largest trading partner of Sudan (after the UAE and China), and more than half a million Sudanese work in the kingdom, whose remittances are a serious help for the weak economy of this African state.

On the other hand, the deepening of contradictions between Riyadh and the international organization "Muslim Brotherhood" has led to an aggravation of relations between the two states. According to publications in the international and Sudanese press and statements made by senior Sudanese officials on social media, the bloody events of September 2013 in Khartoum may have been caused by Saudi intelligence agencies, allegedly preparing "another Arab revolution." 8 However, an official statement from the Sudanese Foreign Ministry called these assumptions "inaccurate and harmful to strong ties between the two countries." 9.

Khartoum does not want and cannot afford a complete break with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states of the Persian Gulf, but Riyadh also feels vulnerable in the face of radical groups associated with Khartoum and the possible strengthening of the Iranian military presence in Sudan. Sudan's foreign policy in this context is aimed at strengthening a real alliance with Iran in the context of seemingly balanced relations with the Saudis and Iranians.

Sudan's relations with Qatar, a country that stands out among the Gulf states, are developing dynamically. The Emirate became the largest Arab donor to Sudan, providing it with grants and loans worth $500 million in 2013, and providing another $1 billion. in April 2014 In August 2014, shortly after President Bashir's visit to Doha, Qatar extended a $1.22 billion loan to Sudan. ($500 million to pay for imports of goods from Qatar and more than $ 700 million). Central Bank of Sudan to stabilize the exchange rate)10.

It was Qatar's assistance that helped more or less stabilize the financial system of Sudan in the context of the economic crisis. At the same time, Qatar invests in housing construction, agriculture, banking and gold mining. Since 2009, Qatar has been making diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict in Darfur, providing a negotiating platform for the warring parties in the capital Doha.

The mutual interests of Qatar and Sudan go beyond economic cooperation and peacemaking. As you know, it is in Qatar that the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, lives, and the channel Al-Jazeera, owned by the Qatari government, was the channel that conveyed the views of the Brothers during the Arab crisis. It is the "Brothers" who are the main link between Sudan and Qatar, which gives their cooperation strategic importance.

The nature of this cooperation was clearly demonstrated in September 2014, when the Libyan Government of Abdullah al-Thani, based in Tobruk, detained a Sudanese plane with Qatari weapons. Presumably, it was intended for the Islamist coalition "Dawn of Libya", based in Tripoli 11.

With the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, the defeat of Islamist parties in Tunisian elections, and the escalation of the internal conflict in Libya, Sudan has remained Qatar's only ally in North Africa and a natural corridor for helping Libyan Islamists. Moreover, Khartoum is trying to make the most of its geopolitical position in relations with Qatar, converting it not only into Qatari investments and loans, but also into military assistance. In November 2014 Sudan and Qatar signed an agreement on military-technical cooperation, under which the countries will be able to exchange military technologies, conduct joint exercises and make investments. Qatar also announced that it will start supplying liquefied natural gas to Sudan in 2015.12


As for Sudan-Libya relations, they have been overshadowed for many years by the Gaddafi regime's support for rebel movements in southern Sudan and Darfur. The Libyan leader was also dissatisfied with his de facto exclusion from active participation in the" pacification " of Darfur and Khartoum's preference for Qatar. From Tripoli's point of view, al-Bashir also behaved incorrectly during the period when Gaddafi was trying to extend his term as chairman of the African Union. That is why, until the Libyan revolution, Gaddafi provided "shelter" to the leader

page 44

opposition Darfurian Movement for Justice and Equality Khalil Ibrahim after his expulsion from Chad.

In the 2011 revolution, Khartoum saw an opportunity to eliminate this threat by supporting the Libyan rebels. After the overthrow of Gaddafi, a process of rapprochement between the two countries began, in particular, a joint Sudanese-Libyan border detachment was created, controlling the border between south-eastern Libya and northern Darfur. This measure allowed the Darfur Zaghawa rebels to be cut off from their fellow tribesmen in Libya.

Following a visit to Khartoum in November 2011 by Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Chairman of the National Transitional Council of Libya, President Al-Bashir announced plans for economic integration between Sudan and Libya, in particular the construction of the first paved road connecting the two countries.13

The aggravation of political differences in Libya in 2014 led to a de facto split of the country, and Islamists close to Khartoum found themselves in opposition to the government recognized by the international community. Currently, Khartoum's policy is aimed at supporting Islamists who have occupied the country's capital, Tripoli. In Khartoum, they do not hide that they sympathize with the "Dawn of Libya", although they strongly deny the supply of weapons to this organization. At the same time, the Sudanese government is trying to put pressure on the Libyan leadership in Tobruk to force it to return Islamists to power structures.

In this regard, the reaction of the Libyan leadership to the above-mentioned incident with a Sudanese plane carrying weapons is indicative. At first, Libya accused Sudan of violating its national sovereignty and supporting terrorism and expelled the Sudanese military attache from the country. But already in October 2014, Libyan Prime Minister al-Thani visited Khartoum, where he rejected the accusations made earlier by the Libyans, and also expressed hope that the neighboring country would contribute to the reconciliation process in Libya. Moreover, the Prime Minister expressed Libya's readiness to provide economic assistance to Sudan.

Sudan, in turn, offered to hold talks in Khartoum between the warring Libyan parties. In November 2014, the Sudanese Foreign Minister paid visits to Tripoli and Tobruk and stated that the parties had accepted the Sudanese proposal to hold peace talks. 14

The ceasefire agreement between the parties to the Libyan conflict, signed in Geneva on January 15, 2015, seemed to allow us to hope for a political settlement in this country in the foreseeable future. In this regard, it can be assumed that the policy of Sudan in Libya could bring Khartoum political and economic dividends.

The Egyptian direction is another important vector of Sudanese foreign policy. Khartoum supported Egypt's 2011 Arab Spring, but, unlike its actions in Libya, refrained from directly intervening. In 2012-2013, during the reign of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood, relations between the two countries reached a qualitatively new level. Governments made no secret of their ideological affinity and planned to reinforce it with ambitious investment projects and the opening of new border crossing points.

The fall of Morsi's government in Egypt has brought relations back to pragmatism. At present, the most important task of the Sudan is to ensure the implementation of the Sudan-Egypt agreement on mutual freedom of movement, residence, ownership of property and employment, signed in 2004.

The priority of this task is due to the difficult situation of the Sudanese in Egypt. According to various sources, between one million and four million people from Sudan live in the country. Most do not have a visa or work permit. Cairo, however, is hesitant to implement the agreement due to the high level of unemployment and the extremely negative attitude of the population towards migrant workers.

Another priority of Sudanese diplomacy is to achieve recognition of the Halaib Triangle, currently controlled by Egypt, as a territory of Sudan. President Al-Bashir has repeatedly stressed in his speeches that Sudan considers Halaib an integral part of Sudan. It is difficult to assess the practical value of this region, but its symbolic significance can be compared with the significance of the Kuril Islands for Japan.

Finally, Cairo serves as the headquarters for many Sudanese opposition movements. Khartoum has been trying for years to persuade the Egyptian authorities to close the offices of the Sudanese opposition and expel its leaders from the country. It was in Cairo that Sadiq al-Mahdi, the leader of one of the oldest Sudanese Umma parties, took refuge from the Sudanese authorities. In 2014, al-Mahdi accused pro-Government paramilitaries of committing serious crimes in Iraq.

* Halaib-a disputed area of 20 thousand km2 on the Red Sea coast on the border of Egypt and Sudan. In 1902, the United Kingdom transferred the district to Khartoum. Halaib was under the control of Sudan until 1995. Against the background of the aggravation of Sudanese-Egyptian relations in 1995, Egypt sent troops to the area and expelled representatives of the Sudanese authorities from it.

page 45

conflict zones in Darfur and Kordofan, including rape, looting and arson of villages.

In response to these accusations, al-Mahdi was arrested and charged with undermining the constitutional order. After his release from prison (al-Mahdi was forced to apologize), he left Sudan and settled in Egypt, where he sharply increased criticism of the Sudanese regime and expressed support for the political goals of the rebel movements.

Khartoum relies on several serious arguments to advance its agenda in its relations with its northern neighbor.

First, Egypt needs the support of Sudan to maintain the conditions for dividing the Nile waters, which do not take into account the interests of other coastal countries of the Nile River basin. Currently, Egypt and Sudan receive 90% of the Nile's water, but the construction of the" Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam " in Ethiopia could significantly reduce water withdrawals from the Nile in these countries15.

Second, Sudan has granted asylum to many Muslim Brotherhood members fleeing persecution in Egypt, but has so far severely restricted their activities. Thus, the Egyptian "Brothers" are prohibited from engaging in public political activities in Sudan.

Third, the success of the Libyan Islamists in the fight against the Egyptian-backed and internationally recognized Libyan government makes the pyramid country vulnerable to terrorist attacks across the western border. To date, the Egyptian army is stuck in operations against jihadists in the east of the country - in the Sinai. The government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi knows that Khartoum's influence on Libyan Islamists is great, and a quarrel with it can turn into a conflict on the western borders of the country.

In general, it should be noted that despite Egypt's complete demographic, economic and military advantage and its historically established image of a" big brother", Khartoum has enough arguments to get concessions from Cairo on a number of issues. The Arab crisis has significantly improved Sudan's negotiating position on Egypt.

* * *

In conclusion, it should be noted that in the context of the Arab crisis and the growing activity of Islamist organizations in the Middle East and North Africa region, the importance of Sudan as an Islamist-friendly state continues to increase. Ties with States that support various Islamist groups in the region, especially Iran and Qatar, which compete for influence in the region, are also being strengthened accordingly.

Due to its limited internal resources, Sudan is forced to maintain good-neighborly relations (or rather, their appearance) with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, currently the main opposing states of both the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Dawn of Libya coalition, and the Yemeni Houthis. Relations with Libya are considered promising in Sudan: a political solution to the Libyan conflict, providing for the entry of Islamists into the government, would allow for the resumption of cooperation between these two countries.

Kostelyanets S. V. 1 Sudan after partition: search for ways to overcome the crisis / / Asia and Africa today. 2014, N 10. с. 31. (Kostelyanets S.V. 2014. Sudan posle razdela: poisk putei preodoleniya krizisa // Aziya i Afrika Segodnya. N 10) (in Russian)

2 Sudan Tribune. 05.11.2013 - article48705

3 Amnesty International. 11.04.2014 - sudan-student-shot-dead-and-more-100-arrested-khartoum-protest-2014 - 03 - 11

4 Sudan Research, Analysis and Advocacy. 10.07.2012 -; World Affairs. July/August 2012 -

Kostelyanets S. V. 5 Darfur: The History of the Conflict, Moscow, 2014, p. 98. (Kostelyanets S. V. 2014. Darfur: istoriya konflikta. M.) (in Russian)

6 National Interest. 24.11.2014 - double-trouble-beware-the-irani-sudanese-partnership-11719

7 In the 1990s. Sudan has provided safe haven to leaders and fighters of many Arab terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, for which Washington has added it to its list of States that support terrorism. Under pressure from Western countries, Sudan stopped openly supporting the most extreme movements, and only Hamas was allowed to maintain an official representation in Khartoum, with the condition that it engage exclusively in political activities. In 2011, the United States left Sudan on the list of state sponsors of terrorism in connection with the country's cooperation with Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In the spring of 2014, after two terrorist attacks in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, that killed 94 people, a Nigerian government official revealed links to Sudan and said that " most of the leaders of Boko Haram have been to Sudan or studied there." 17.05.2014 - rrested-in-sudan

8 Africa Confidential. 10.10.2014 -; Sudan Tribune. 05.10.2013 -

9 Kuwait News Agency. 04.10.2013 -

10 Sudan Tribune. 13.08.2014 - article52020

11 The Guardian. 07.09.2014 - 2014/sep/07/libya-khartoum-weapons-islamist-rebels

12 Sudan Tribune. 05.11.2014 - spip.php?article52949

13 Xinhuanet. 26.11.2011 - english2010/world/2011 - 11/26/c_122338488.htm

14 Sudan Tribune. 12.11.2014 - spip.php?article53023

15 For more information, see: Bragin A. N. Ethiopia. "The Great Dam of Renaissance" / / Asia and Africa today. 2012, N 1. (Bragin A.N. 2012. Ethiopia. "Velikaya damba vozrozhdeniya" // Aziya i Afrika Segodnya. N 1) (in Russian)


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