Sudan may want to consider downgrading ties with Iran and move closer to the Gulf Arab states, the country’s foreign minister reportedly said this week, in the wake of the bombing of a military complex thought to be linked to Iranian arms shipments.
Foreign Minister Ali Karti reportedly told a meeting of Khartoum’s ruling National Congress Party that the country should consider moving away from Tehran as a means of insulating itself should war break out between Iran and the West, the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat reported Friday.
“Is it in the strategic interest of Sudan in its foreign relations to bolster ties with Arab Gulf states to obtain financial and economic assistance and expand investment, or to strengthen ties with Iran for reasons related to the nature of the projected shifts in the Israeli-Iranian conflict in the region?” Karti reportedly asked the meeting.
Last week, a suspected munitions factory — thought to be linked to the flow of arms from Iran to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, via Sudan — was blown up in Khartoum, killing two. While Jerusalem has remained mum on the issue, Sudan blamed Israel and independent reports indicate the Yarmouk munitions site was indeed hit from the air.
On Sunday, Britain’s Sunday Times reported that Israeli officials indicated the bombing was meant to send a message to Tehran and was even a dry run for a possible military attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Five days after the bombing, two Iranian ships docked off Sudan’s coast on the Red Sea, though officials said the presence of the Corvette destroyer and helicopter carrier were unlinked to the bombing. On Wednesday, the ships left Sudan.
According to the report in Al-Hayat, Tehran has proposed an increased security arrangement with Sudan aimed at “protecting the Red Sea,” though Khartoum has yet to reply to the idea.
Karti told the meeting, which became so heated that many people walked out, according to the report, that siding with Iran would “expose” Sudan to attack.
According to diplomatic sources cited in the Sudan Tribune on Friday, Khartoum’s spy chief Mohamed Atta held talks with his Saudi counterpart during last week’s Hajj pilgrimage. It is not clear what the two discussed.
Iran and Sudan have historically enjoyed close relations. Sudan is thought to be a vital link for Tehran to Gaza, ruled by Iranian ally Hamas, and North Africa.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Sudan in 2011, saying the countries were united against the Western “powers of arrogance.”
According to the Sudan Tribune, however, Khartoum officials were displeased with the visit, after the Iranian president did not offer any aid to Sudan.