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Saturday, Apr 20, 2024

Sudan Denies Iranian Request to Establish a Red Sea Naval Base

A senior Sudanese intelligence official reported that Sudan had rejected an Iranian request to establish a naval base on the Red Sea coast, which would have allowed Iran to monitor one of the world’s busiest maritime traffic corridors.
Ahmed Hassan Mohamed, an intelligence official, told The Wall Street Journal, “Iran provided the Sudanese military with explosive drones for use in the fight against rebels, and offered to supply a warship equipped with a helicopter if permission was granted to establish the base.”

Mohamed added, “The Iranians said they wanted to use the base to gather intelligence information. They also wanted to position warships there; however, Khartoum rejected this Iranian proposal.”

The presence of a naval base on the Red Sea would enable Tehran to tighten its grip on one of the busiest maritime corridors in the world. Yemen-based Houthis, supported by Iran, have launched attacks on commercial ships, with Iran and the Houthis claiming that the attacks are meant to punish Israel and its allies for the conflict in Gaza.

Under the regime of ousted President Omar al-Bashir, Sudan had close ties with Iran and its Palestinian ally, Hamas. Following the coup that removed al-Bashir in 2019, the head of the country's military council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, sought rapprochement with the United States in efforts to end international sanctions. He also moved to normalize relations with Israel.

Iran's request to build a naval base casts light on how regional states seek to capitalize on the ongoing ten-month civil war in Sudan, securing a strategic foothold in a country that serves as a crossroads between the Middle East and Sub-Saharan African nations, with a 400-mile Red Sea coastline.

Since mid-April, the Sudanese military has been fighting the semi-military "Rapid Support Forces" led by Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemedti). The conflict has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths, displaced millions, and led to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

Mohamed said, “Sudan purchased drones from Iran because we needed more precise weapons to reduce human casualties and adhere to international humanitarian law.”

The explosive drones have helped al-Burhan achieve some victories following the losses inflicted by the "Rapid Support Forces," according to regional officials and analysts monitoring the conflict.

In recent weeks, the government has regained control over significant areas in Khartoum and Omdurman.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has accused both the Sudanese military and the "Rapid Support Forces" of war crimes. The United States has also accused the "Rapid Support Forces" of committing crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, and ethnic cleansing in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.

UN officials have criticized the Sudanese military for aerial bombardments of civilian areas and denying Sudanese civilians desperately needed humanitarian aid. UN agencies have also accused the "Rapid Support Forces" of committing atrocities, including ethnically motivated attacks in Darfur.

Both the Sudanese military and the "Rapid Support Forces" have denied the accusations by the United States and the United Nations.

In February, the United States expressed concern over Iranian arms shipments to the Sudanese military. At that time, John Godfrey, the U.S. Ambassador to Sudan, stated that the reports of Iranian aid to Khartoum were "very concerning."
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