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Normalization with Israel, a shift in U.S. policy towards Sudan


September 1, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - The push to get Sudan off the US list of states that sponsor terrorism saw a new twist added by having normalization with Israel added as a potential precondition, wrote a U.S. analyst.

Cameron Hudson, a senior fellow at the DC-based Atlantic Council’s Africa Center said that the Trump administration now appears more keen on achieving a major breakthrough in the Middle East than supporting the democratic transition in Sudan.

The U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo stopped in Khartoum in late August for talks with Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and head of the Sovereign Council Abdel Fattah al-Burhan that appeared focused on normalization with Israel.

However, Sudanese officials coordinated their response and informed him that Washington has to first remove Sudan from the terror list before they can discuss normalization with Israel.

"The Prime Minister called on the U.S. Administration to separate the process of removing Sudan from the list of States Sponsoring Terrorism and the issue of normalization with Israel," said Hamdok in a statement issued after the meeting.

Hamdok also noted that the transitional government may not have the mandate to make a decision on the issue at this stage.

Hudson said that with Pompeo request to normalize relations with Israel “the established logic behind removing Sudan from the terror list began to morph as well”.

“No longer does de-listing appear to be part of the US leverage to further encourage and support the transitional government and their efforts to reform and transform the Sudanese state. Instead, de-listing seemingly has become the leverage to achieve a Middle East foreign policy coup in the waning days before the November election”.

Hudson further stressed that it was not the right moment to make such a demand that would further weaken the fragile transition in Sudan due to the large divisions within the ruling coalition over the normalization with Israel.

He added that the request may be “undermining the very delicate balance of power between military and civilian leaders”.

“In the end, security and intelligence forces would likely be the first and most significant beneficiaries of Israeli largesse through improved access to intelligence and defence equipment (like sought-after Israeli software for cracking the WhatsApp messaging platform), training, and information sharing,” he warned. 

The SST has been a tool in the U.S. foreign policy to fight terror groups and to press states not to provide them with any support.

Sudan’s delisting now appears linked to paying terror-related settlements to families of the victims of the 1998 twin embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

Some U.S. senators, however, insist that some of the victims who were non-U.S. nationals when the attacks occurred be paid the same as US citizens.

Hudson called on the State Department to move quickly to rescind Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

“Delaying further, in the hopes of driving Sudan into the arms of a domestically fraught suitor like Israel, would ignore the fragility of the moment Sudan is in and undervalue the important changes that have already occurred, he said.


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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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