Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, met with Sudanese State Minister for
Foreign Affairs Salah Wansi late Monday night to discuss strengthening bilateral
ties, Iranian state media reported on Tuesday.
Salehi held brief talks
with Wansi during an overnight stop in Khartoum, according to the Iranian
Student’s News Agency (ISNA).
Iranian reports said the two foreign
ministers discussed ways to expand ties and also talked about developments in
Although the brief reports did not mention whether the two
senior officials touched on security matters during their talks, Iran’s decision
to publish the discussions in its state press could indicate that Tehran intends
to expand its military and security ties to Sudan.
The reports come a
week after Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir said that Khartoum would seek to
acquire “advanced weaponry” to counter “repeated Israeli attacks,” following
allegations by Khartoum that Israel had conducted an air strike against its
Yarmouk military complex in late October.
Echoing Tehran’s terminology
and rhetoric, the Sudanese leader said that Israel was “the Zionist enemy and
Israel will remain the enemy,” Sudanese news sources reported.
neither confirmed nor denied striking the Yarmouk complex but following the
accusations, Israeli officials charged that Sudan and Iran are working together
to smuggle arms to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip via Egypt.
the Yarmouk incident, Tehran denied that it was linked to the Sudanese military
complex, but two days later dispatched two warships to Port Sudan, saying that
the vessels were on a “routine visit.”
In comments earlier this month,
however, Iranian foreign minister Salehi may have hinted that Tehran has a
presence in Sudan when he said that it was “normal” for governments to purchase
weapons from each other.
“Let’s assume that Iran has established an arms
factory in Sudan, is this forbidden? This sort of trade exists between
countries... Within the framework of international laws, if there is a country
that wants to buy weapons from us we are ready,” Salehi said in an extensive
interview with Qatari newspaper al-Watan.
While Tehran has not admitted a
military alliance with Sudan, it has repeatedly emphasized Sudan’s importance to
its power nexus. Earlier this month, Iranian interior minister and former
defense minister Mostafa Mohammad- Najjar dubbed Sudan the “pivot of Iran-Africa
When Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Sudan last
year, he said the two countries planned to boost bilateral relations, and that
Tehran and Khartoum would stand together as “defenders of Islam.”
for its part, has vehemently denied that it has any kind of military alliance
with the Islamic Republic. Last week, State Minister at the Presidency of the
Republic Ameen Hassan Omar said Sudan was “outside the Iranian axis,” Gulf News
However, according to US Sudan scholar and former Special Envoy
to Sudan Andrew S. Natsios, after Bashir took power in an Islamist-backed
military coup in 1989, Sudan’s new regime approached Iran to form a
Sunni-Shi’ite alliance, based on a shared Islamist ideology.
analysts at the US-based Soufan Group also say that Tehran sent weapons and oil
supplies to Bashir’s new Islamist regime after the 1989 coup and that advisers
from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) traveled to Sudan to train the
country’s internal security forces.
Writing in a US magazine recently,
Natsios said that two decades ago Sudan and Iran signed an agreement granting
the Iranian navy unlimited access to Sudan’s major Red Sea port, Port
According to Natsios, Iran is also using Sudan as a platform for
its intelligence operations in Africa.
Anti-Bashir rebels in Sudan have
accused Iran of supplying regime forces with weapons, including land mines,
drones and Shebab-3 rockets.
In March, the Sudan Peoples Liberation
Movement North said rebels had shot down an Iranian-made drone over the Nuba
The IRGC’s elite extraterritorial unit the Qods Force is also
believed to have operated a training camp in Sudan, according to a report by
Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International
Sudan’s Islamist opposition party, the Popular Congress Party
(PCP) have also alleged that the IRGC built a weapons factory in Khartoum, in a
May 2010 report published in the PCP-affiliated newspaper Ra’y al-Sha’b. The
report, which alleged that the Qods Force built an arms factory as part of a
military agreement signed in March 2008 by Iran’s then defense minister
Mohammad- Najjar, alleged that the Iranian factory supplied arms to Hamas. The
paper was immediately suspended and three of its journalists
This month, Iran’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) said
the PCP was complicit in the alleged October Israeli air strike on the Yarmouk
complex, arguing that Israeli officials had made the decision to strike Yarmouk
based on the Ra’y al-Sha’b report.
Prior to the alleged air strike last
month, Sudan has blamed Israel for several other attacks apparently related to
the smuggling of Iranian arms to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
January 2009, Sudan accused Israel of striking a convoy in east Sudan, which was
reportedly carrying Iranian Fajr-3 rockets en-route to Gaza. In May, Sudan’s
foreign minister said Israel was responsible for an air strike on a four-by-four
vehicle in Port Sudan that killed two people, including a prominent businessman,
Nasir Awad Ahmad Saed, whom locals said was a “well known arms dealer and
In April, UAE newspaper al- Khaleej quoted Sudanese
president Bashir as acknowledging the presence of organized weapons smuggling
operations from Sudan to Egypt, and saying that there was no way to stop
On Monday, pan-Arab news outlet al-Arabiya reported on a recent study
on the situation Sinai by Palestinian expert Dr.
Samir Ghattas, who said
that the Qods Force, the extraterritorial arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard
Corps (IRGC) are involved in weapons smuggling to Egypt from Sudan and
“Enormous quantities” of smuggled weapons flow through Sinai,
al-Arabiya reported Ghattas as saying.