Analysis: Will Sudan be the next to have a revolution?

Since the southern part of the country gained independence in 2011, the country has been in a downward spiral, leading to unrest that at any point could topple President Omar al-Bashir’s regime.

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Sudan is at a tipping point. Since the southern part of the country gained independence in 2011, the country has been in a downward spiral, leading to unrest that at any point could topple President Omar al-Bashir’s regime.
Sudan, which has aligned itself with revolutionary Islamic regimes and terrorist groups, maintains close ties with Shi’ite Iran as well as with Sunni Islamist groups such as Hamas.
Sudan, which neighbors Libya and Egypt, is being used to smuggle weapons from Libya to the Sinai Peninsula and to the Gaza Strip. It is also being used by Iran to transmit weapons to Hamas. Israel was reported to have bombed an arms factory there in October last year.
Prof. Yehudit Ronen of the political science department at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan is an expert on Sudan. She told The Jerusalem Post that Sudan, which is a failed state, is being pushed further toward the abyss as a result of being encircled by failed states, the ongoing, tragic conflict in Darfur as well as the establishment of South Sudan that has cost the state around 75 percent of its oil resources.
Its economy, political position and social life have been severely affected and most people are fed up with the regime, Ronen said.
The trigger for the current wave of bloody riots was the removal of subsidies on fuel last Sunday, causing prices to almost double for products such as cooking gas and gasoline, which will produce a chain reaction and an increase in the cost of many basic products and services.
For example, Ronen says that a gallon of diesel went from 8 Sudan pounds to 14.
“Surprisingly, Sudan was not part of the Arab Spring upheavals and it seems now that the riots will not disappear so quickly,” she said, noting that “it is unclear if they will gather momentum and further escalate or, as happened before, the state will brutally and successfully suppress the riots.”
As the killing and arrests continue, the people remain in the streets, which Ronen believes is a sign of the deep animosity toward the regime. However, “the regime is definitely not intending to give up power,” she added.
Sudanese-Iranian ties have been strong for more than a decade, with the latest evidence of their cooperation coming earlier this month when two Iranian warships docked in Sudan. It was the third such visit in the past year and such activity drew the attention of the Sunni Gulf states, which are in the midst of a regional cold war against Iran.
In his new book, Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God, Matthew Levitt brings evidence of Hezbollah’s relations with the Sudanese regime. For example, in 2010 Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah offered fighters to help the government deal with unrest in Darfur. Though no evidence exists that the fighters arrived, the governor of Northern Darfur responded positively, saying, “Darfur is a land in which Islam runs deep and we are more than eager to support the Palestinian and Lebanese causes [through] jihad and martyrdom.”
In 2010, Khartoum quietly added Hezbollah to its list of terrorist organizations, writes Levitt, pointing out that at the time, Sudan was trying hard “to win Washington’s good graces,” and it is unclear if the designation led to any concrete measures.
Backing up the fact that Sudan never really meant to act against Hezbollah, reports this year demonstrate Hezbollah’s support for Bashir’s regime. A report by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies published on Sunday states that sources in the region believe Hezbollah has established permanent bases in Sudan around Khartoum, in Darfur and close to the border with South Sudan.
In addition, Iran has dispatched Arabic-speaking Hezbollah trainers to Sudan to train regime-backed militias that could target international forces in Darfur. Furthermore, they would be able to aid Bashir’s forces in any conflict with the South.
Lastly, according to the report, such a base could serve as “an ideal launching pad for potential terrorist operations against US targets in the entire region including the Red Sea, the African Horn and provide a sea shore for Iranian activities south of the Suez Canal.”
Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Post on Sunday that without question, Sudan has been a proxy of Iran and has been in bed with groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. “For that reason Sunni states like Saudi Arabia who have sought to counter Iranian influence would be in favor of toppling the regime,” he said.
At the same time, he noted that the Saudis have given aid to Sudan to buy influence.
Whether the Gulf states are, or will, actively support the Sudanese opposition and support the protests is not known, but the regime is “brittle,” said Schanzer, adding that US sanctions in place since the 1990s and the international isolation of the regime have taken a toll.