Iran, Al Qaeda, and Why Sudan Matters to American Security

When I talk to most people about events in Sudan, the response is all too often simply, “Those poor people.” Those who are able to do something about the situation in Sudan spend their time working on fixing symptoms. The response to “Those poor people” is most often consideration of sending them humanitarian aid, knowing full well that they will need more of it later.  What happens when “Those poor people” are being abused and oppressed by people who not only wish to do harm to the United States and its interests, but have the ability do so? What happens when the oppressor can threaten severe harm to our allies and to our way of life? The response becomes “I’m interested.”

Starting in 1992 and ending in 1996, Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden were based in Sudan. They had been invited by Hassan al Turabi, the Islamist leader, in the aftermath of a coup led by Omar al Bashir. Al Qaeda established training camps and grew in strength. The world knows the results of the failure to stop Al Qaeda then. Sudan’s troubles came to America’s cities. Moreover, when we left Sudan alone, Bashir oversaw the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocents during the next decade, “those poor people,” first in Darfur and then in the Nuba Mountains.

Pleas of “never again” fall on deaf ears. Yes, we send humanitarian aid where and when we can, but as Samantha Power, in speaking about Bosnia, noted:

No U.S. president has ever made genocide prevention a priority, and no U.S. president has ever suffered politically for his indifference to its occurrence. It is thus no coincidence that genocide rages on.

Today, Iran supports the Sudanese government financially in exchange for the ability to operate from Sudanese soil and to manufacture weaponry there so as to ease transport to Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Syria and Hizballah. Great efforts are now being made to halt weapons smuggling through the Sinai into Gaza, but weapons are freely flowing elsewhere, destabilizing the region.

Iran is seeking to station medium and long range missiles in Sudan that could be used to strike Israel. These weapons could just as easily be fired to the east towards Saudi Arabia instead of towards Israel in the north. They could also be fired by Al Qaeda affiliated militant groups instead of Iranian troops. Either way, this could be a game changer, not only for Israel but for the region.

Policy makers are so focused on the threat by Iran in the Persian Gulf that they ignore the fact that the Gulf of Aden and the entire area to the south of the Suez Canal could just as easily, if not more easily, be shut down by attacks from Sudan. How many ships attacked while attempting to cross through the Suez Canal would lead to a reduction or halt of shipping? What would happen to oil prices if the Suez Canal were shut down? How would that affect the US economy? Anyone listening now?

Meanwhile rebels from Mali have been fleeing to Darfur for refuge.

We are not paying enough attention to the threats posed by the situation in Sudan including Iranian involvement and a long history of welcoming militants who hate America including Al Qaeda. The terror incubator remains open for business and business is unfortunately booming.

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