Tag Archives: Iran

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.

Sudan, Iran, and Gaza

There is now a full blown alliance between Iran, Sudan, and Hamas.  Hamas leaders have publicly thanked Iran in recent days and Sudan’s Bashir has long been a friend of the Iranian Regime. None of this should be surprising. This was clear  in March of 2009 when:

A delegation of senior Middle Eastern leaders has travelled to Sudan to express international support for Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, who is accused of war crimes in Darfur. Officials from Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah joined Syria’s parliament speaker and the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group for talks with al-Bashir in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital.

Sudan continues to host Iranian weapons shipments from Iran destined to reach Gaza.  The Times of Israel reports that

Israeli intelligence sources believe that a cargo, loaded a week ago in Bandar Abbas, Iran, would be shipped to Sudan and from there smuggled over land to Gaza. According to the report, the cargo may include Fajr-5 rockets of the likes already fired by Hamas during the recent conflict, and whose stocks were reportedly depleted by Israeli bombings. Also possibly included: components of Shahab-3 ballistic missiles, which could be stationed in Sudan and used as a direct threat to Israel.

In other words, Iran is planning on involving Sudan in the next conflict with Israel and firing missiles from Sudan at Israel.

“With a lot of effort, Iran has skillfully built a strategic arm pointing at Israel from the south,” an Israeli source was quoted as saying.

Not that sanity has regularly prevailed in the Middle East, but it would seem that this decision by Sudan runs the risk of promoting significant Israeli and American military involvement in Sudan and military cooperation with South Sudan. It functionally turns the Sudan Revolutionary Forces and the South Sudanese into full blown allies of Israel and America in their conflict with Iran, merging the conflicts into one larger one and escalating the strategic importance of events in Sudan well beyond the level of humanitarian concerns which are generally not highly prioritized.

In other news, Sudan is planning to relocate the Yarmouk Weapons Factory which was recently destroyed in what appears to have been an Israeli airstrike on October 24 to a place “outside of the capital.”

It would seem highly likely at this point that future Israeli military action in Sudanese territory is a virtual certainty, but also that there will be an increasing flow of weaponry and funds from Iran to the Khartoum Regime, enabling it to increase its military operations in the border regions against both the Sudan Revolutionary Forces and South Sudan itself.

We may already be seeing the first stages of this change with recent Sudan Armed Forces strikes crossing the border of Bahr El Ghazal in South Sudan and with attacks against multiple villages in the Nuba Mountains in recent days. The reports from the SPLM-North are heartbreaking, among them that:

On November 16, the NCP forces and its militia lit up the fire in the dry bush and crops around the villages of, Tafrang, Banat, Kumra, Alsamaha, Katraya Almak, Safora, Najar Alhabel, Wadelgeel, Hellat Mohamed Rasheed, Umsediana, Alban Jadeed, Alnugra, and Khor Basheer. The residents of these villages tried to put out the fire, but the NCP forces and its militias forbid them from doing so by force of weapons. The fire burned down the houses and destroyed the crops and garden fields. The fire continued burning until for days.

Since then numerous villages have been bombed by the Khartoum Regime with all targets being civilian. It appears that the Khartoum Regime feels emboldened by its newly strengthened alliance with Iran and we must fear that the level of attacks will continue if not increase in the weeks ahead without outside intercession.

The situation for the peoples of the Nuba Mountains is worsening and the threat of major conflict between Sudan and South Sudan is increasing rapidly.

The Drones of Starvation and Genocide

The DailyMail has a good article on the drones used to scout for attacks against civilians in South Kordofan, Sudan. The details are quite striking:

The drones are used to scout out targets ahead of Antonov bombing runs, providing real-time video footage for Khartoum’s forces.

We were able to recover the data card from the drone and download several flight paths.

As a result, we know that it flew over locations that were swiftly targeted in Antonov and Sukhoi attacks – including areas where we saw civilian casualties.

A former UN investigator confirmed to me that this information could provide evidence in an International Criminal Court (ICC) trial of Bashir and his indicted lieutenants.

The article also notes that impending catastrophic starvation:

‘Famine is already happening now,’ Dr Alamin Osman tells me at his clinic in the village of Tungule.

Already 25 children have died of hunger here. Villagers I speak to have exhausted whatever stocks they had left over from 2010 – and in 2011 the war stopped the planting or harvest of crops.

At the Mother of Mercy hospital Dr Tom Catena, who apart from Alamin is the only doctor in Nuba, tells me, ‘It’s much cheaper to starve people than to send weapons in and kill them.

‘Food is a weapon, a very effective weapon. People don’t cultivate, don’t farm, you cut the road off, then you subjugate them very easily.’

Evidence of Iranian Weapons being Used Against Civilians in Sudan

According to Peter Moszynski, who was interviewed by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army – North (SPLA-N) just captured Toroji and Dar. Moszynski reported that fighters from Darfur, from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), joined the SPLA-N in fighting against the Khartoum government. Moszynki noted that he did not see and Dinka or Nuer fighting along with them which is significant in that it means that the allies from South Sudan, who could help those who are fighting against the genocidal Sudanese regime are not participating in the fighting.

One of the main things that Peter Moszynski did see there were Iranian weapons being deployed by the Khartoum government:

While I was there I saw several destroyed tanks and unburied bodies lying around. The place was littered with ammunition, unexploded tank shells and several churches had been blown up or shelled. The area was heavily mined. I saw a bunch of newly captured boxes of anti-personnel mines with Farsi (Iranian language) on them. We saw what people call « chain bombs » which are cluster munitions. Apparently, one kid had his hand blown off touching one. All the houses in the town were destroyed. The SPLA-N captured over hundred vehicles. A few days later an Iranian drone was shot down.

In the interview, he also notes that the North is using food as a weapon of war and is denying access to aid organizations to South Kordofan precisely for that reason. Moszynski goes on to condemn the international community:

It’s worth pointing out that Khartoum claims that these rebels are terrorists who objected to the peace deal and who are supported by South Sudan. But it’s also worth remembering that the fighting started there in June last year before the South was independent when the government started shelling with artillery the house of the governor, Abdelaziz Al-Hilu, who was the deputy governor and is now the military leader of the SPLA-North. The problem began because they did not implement some points of the peace deal, the CPA [the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, which ended a long north-south civil war]. They didn’t implement the popular consultation; they didn’t fully implement the elections. Obviously the peace deal had not been implemented by the time that South Sudan became independent and it was very tragic watching the international community and the United Nations peacekeeping mission pulling out. Worse was leaving the civilian population there in extremely precarious conditions. When the fighting started in June many people told us they had gathered at the UN base in Kadugli for protection and yet people would be killed in front of the gate when Egyptian peacekeepers would refuse to do anything or let the people come inside. And they didn’t stop the Sudanese security forces from shooting civilians.

The suffering in South Kordofan is not an internal Sudanese issue, but an international humanitarian concern.