Building Blocks to July

KHARTOUM (Sudanow)Gradually and step by step the momentum is building towards July deadline, where the new Trump administration will lift finally economic sanctions on Sudan, or re-instate sanctions that were eased by former President Barak Obama in the last hours of his waning presidency.

 

Khartoum has appointed a military attaché’, in a reciprocal move to one taken by Washington, whose military man has arrived already in town, thus rolling back 28 years of rupture in this field. A statement attributed to foreign minister Ibrahim Ghadour stated that there is already an agreement between the two countries to promote their diplomatic relations to ambassadorial level from the current one of charge d’Affairs.

 

As a country listed among those sponsoring terrorism, there is no room for any significant military cooperation. And that is why appointing an American military attaché’ could be a signal for positive developments in the offing.

 

These are small steps reflective of the big picture that Sudan is positioning itself firmly into the Gulf alliance against Iran and where the Trump administration, unlike its predecessor, is taking a new aggressive look at Tehran.

 

Washington has already announced that it had put Iran on notice and blasted it with additional economic sanctions. The first military operation ordered by Trump hardly one week into the Oval Office was in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition that includes Sudan is fighting there, what it sees as an Iranian encroachment in the Saudi backyard.

 

More significant, Yemen was in the center of talks that took place between Trump and the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman during his recent visit to Washington. The prince became the first Arab official to meet with Trump in his Oval Office, in what they termed “a historic turning point” in their bilateral relations. In a statement, the White House said that Trump and Prince Mohamed, “directed their teams to explore additional steps across a board range of political, security, economic, cultural and social dimensions to further and elevate the US-Saudi strategic relationship and to confront, “Iran’s destabilizing regional activities.”

 

In a significant signal Trump offered his support for developing a new US-Saudi program in energy, infrastructure and technology that could be valued at more than $200 billion in direct and indirect within the coming four year. The time frame stipulated coincides with the Trump’s first term in office.

 

With this “turning point” in the Saudi-American relations, the growing importance of the new alliance against Iran, in which Sudan is a key member, the tendency to look at Khartoum through a new prism away from sanctions and more towards engagement is building in a remarkable way. Moreover, Sudan’s position in the new alliance could be a more tipping factor than the five points tabled by the Obama administration to gauge and measure Khartoum compliance before easing sanctions and were supposed to govern the next step in July. These five points cover staying away from launching of military operations against rebels, improving the flow of humanitarian aid, cooperation in fighting terrorism, not to meddle in South Sudan problems and sever any affinities with the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army.

 

Even during the cold period that has characterized bilateral Saudi-US relations during the Obama terms, Riyadh was keen to exert its influence in favor of easing economic sanctions on Sudan. And with improved Riyadh-Washington relations now, that role is expected to grow even more and more.

 

Such approach will be helped by the already existing cooperation on the intelligence field. Last year outgoing CIA director John Brennan spoke publicly about his meetings with NISS director Mohammed Atta. “I’m very pleased with what I see in terms of efforts to work with us and to try to identify and cover and then destroy these terrorist organizations,” he told the Saudi Al-Arabiya TV channel.

 

However, whatever successes are achieved in the regional and international relations should be geared towards creating a more conducive domestic political environment. After all a clever diplomacy is based on successful domestic policy. And any positive regional and international approach to Sudan, it is in the end to serve an interest for these powers. It is up to Sudan to look into its own national interests and see how to deploy these positive developments for its own ends as well as benefiting mutual ties.

 

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