News / Africa

Sudan's Iran Alliance Under Scrutiny

An Iranian soldier stands guard near Iranian Navy helicopter carrier Kharg at Port Sudan at the Red Sea State, October 31, 2012.
An Iranian soldier stands guard near Iranian Navy helicopter carrier Kharg at Port Sudan at the Red Sea State, October 31, 2012.
Sudan's accusation that Israel bombed a Khartoum weapons plant last week has drawn attention to long-standing Israeli complaints of alleged Sudanese cooperation with Iran in smuggling weapons to Palestinian militants.

Sudan and Iran have been allies for decades and boosted military ties under a 2008 agreement. As part of that relationship, two Iranian warships docked at Port Sudan on Monday, in what both sides described as a "routine visit".

But, allegations that the two allies also cooperate in arms smuggling have grown since the October 24 explosions at Khartoum's Yarmouk weapons facility.

Khartoum complex raises suspicions

The Yarmouk military complex in Khartoum, Sudan following the alleged attack. A U.S. monitoring group says satellite images of the aftermath of an explosion at a Sudanese weapons factory suggest the site was hit by an airstrike, October 25 2012.
The Yarmouk military complex in Khartoum, Sudan following the alleged attack. A U.S. monitoring group says satellite images of the aftermath of an explosion at a Sudanese weapons factory suggest the site was hit by an airstrike, October 25 2012.
The Satellite Sentinel Project, a U.S.-based monitoring group, says images of Yarmouk taken before and after the pre-dawn incident suggest the complex housed "highly volatile cargo" that exploded when struck by air-delivered munitions.

Sudanese authorities say four people were killed and blamed the destruction on Israeli warplanes.

Since the incident, Israeli defense commentators have claimed that the volatile cargo at Yarmouk included missiles made under Iranian supervision for smuggling through Sudanese and Egyptian territory to Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli officials decline to comment on what happened at Yarmouk, but repeat their accusations of Sudanese-Iranian coordination in arms smuggling.

Sudan, Iran react to allegations

Speaking Tuesday, Sudanese and Iranian officials denied any Iranian involvement at the Yarmouk complex and accused Israel of looking for a false pretext to attack Sudan.

Sudanese Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs Mohamed Osman Rahamtalla says the Yarmouk incident is purely a Sudanese matter.

"We know the source of that attack and we have sent a very strong message against [the attackers]. Iran has nothing to do with this," he says.

Sudan says the apparent air strike was meant to damage its military capabilities.

Sunni-majority Sudan has been trying to improve those capabilities with the help of predominantly-Shi'ite Iran since the 1989 coup that brought President Omar al-Bashir to power.

Alliance rooted in Islam

Former U.S. special envoy to Sudan Andrew Natsios says a prominent Sudanese Islamist who supported the coup, Hasan al-Turabi, later approached Iran's Islamist rulers to form a Sunni-Shi'ite alliance between the two nations.

Writing in a U.S. magazine earlier this month, Natsios says Sudan is the only country that has formed what he calls "an enduring alliance with Iran based on a shared Islamist ideology."

Several specialists told VOA that Khartoum and Tehran developed an intelligence partnership in the 1990s, with Sudanese agents going to Tehran for training and Iranian agents using Sudan as an African hub.

Magdi El Gizouli, a Germany-based Sudan researcher with the Rift Valley Institute, says Sudanese admiration for Iran's Islamist system is no longer as important to the alliance as it was before.  

"To prove that, you only need to think about the continuous intelligence cooperation between Sudan and the United States -- a development that started after the 9/11 [terrorist attacks] and continues until today," he says.

Sudan's need for weapons

Gizouli says Sudan wants Iranian arms because it is dealing with insurgencies on several fronts.

Rebels have been battling the Khartoum government in Sudan's southern provinces of South Kordofan and Blue Nile since last year. Khartoum also has been fighting rebels in the western region of Darfur since 2003.

Gizouli says arms embargoes on Sudan implemented by Western powers also have forced Sudanese authorities to seek alternative sources of weapons.

"They have customized versions of Iranian missiles, Russian missiles and Chinese missiles, whatever they could lay their hands on," he says. "So any country that is ready to deliver technology to Sudan, Sudan will jump at the opportunity."

The United Nations Security Council imposed an arms embargo on warring parties in parts of Sudan in 2004. But, it has permitted countries to supply weapons to Sudan provided they receive guarantees the arms will not be used to commit atrocities.

Gabe Joselow in Nairobi contributed to this report.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: khalid AlMubarak from: London
November 01, 2012 2:37 AM
The Gaza blockade has been declared "unsustainable " and "unacceptable" by the G8(that include the US and UK) in Canada in 2010..Many Jews and Israelis oppose it,some have joined ships that tried to end it.The far right israeli Netanyahu-Lieberman coalition tries to deflect attention from its international isolation and Apartheid policies by false accusations and blatant aggression.Why did Israel attack a desert convoy during Hosni Mubarak's rule in Egypt instead of alerting the subservient ally and arrange for TV cameras to record proof of weapon smuggling when the convoy is confronted at the Egyptian border?

by: Johnson Armory from: Texas
October 31, 2012 3:08 PM
the Iranian soldier carries an Israeli Uzi... doesn't he??? well, you have to acknowledge - Iranians are not stupid... the Israelis are the best - and the best is the best... and an Israeli design of fifty years ago is still the best and performs far above all the "new" and expensive sub machine guns in existence... I know - I have them all...

by: Azam Shah from: Iran
October 31, 2012 2:57 PM
what a stain of shame on us!!! Hatred for Israel by our Mullahs so called "leaders" in their den of lepers and infidels - is so soul consuming that we are allied with Sunni Muslims... genocidal regimes - Sudan... Syria... to do what? kill more Black farmers in Darfur?? help degenerate Arabs?? Arabs are the snakes that will bite us eventually... what are we doing???

where is our "Iranian media"...?? does anyone believe what we hear in our "media"?? let me suggest that Iranian hatred for US/Israel and the West is not the beginning of the end but the stench of putrefaction of a body and mind dead already and in the process of decay already... Iran - rise up against those who betray God and His Chosen People... Rise up and reclaim our dignity...!!!

by: popota rocks mokoena from: Gauteng Province
October 31, 2012 10:50 AM
I rocks would suggest that way suden alience are easly targeted by united state so that they has to combine the military to protect them.
way so to many people are surfer in turkey
Shorely african people are so despirately for freedom which lie us to the country of war.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs