Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The messages from the raid on Sudan | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

With the exception of the present “salvation” era, Sudan has historically never been subject to Israeli air raids. Sudanese soldiers have fought on the Egyptian front against Israel, and they remained on the front lines for a number of years during the past century, however despite this Sudanese territory did not fall subject to Israeli aggressions. Khartoum even hosted the “Three No’s” [Arab League] summit following the 1967 [Six Day War] defeat, whilst Sudan also moved to support the Arab efforts in all forums at the time, without anybody fearing – even for a second – that Israel’s hand would extend onto the country or that Tel Aviv would think about sending warplanes to fly over its airspace, with this being viewed as military manoeuvres or rehearsals for operations to be carried out in other countries. However this was one era, whilst today we are in a different one. Sudan is no longer Sudan, whilst those in power today are nothing like those who were in power in the past; nor do they enjoy their rule in the same manner, particularly as the rulers in the past ensured that the country was well-respected and enjoyed the best relations and followed the best course.

According to the testimony of those in power in Khartoum, Israel has carried out 4 air raids on Sudan since 2009 until today, most recently the air strikes that targeted the Yarmouk weapons factory last week. We must also be aware that there are those who claim that there have been more attacks than this. In all of these operations, Israel has kept to its official policy of silence, whilst the Sudanese government responded with protests and complaints, and sometimes threats to respond “at a place and time of our choosing.” The problem is not that the government failed to respond, simply because nobody truly believes that it will respond, rather the catastrophe is that it has not taken any actions or precautions to prevent a reoccurrence of such air raids and in order to fortify Sudan’s air space or at least the airspace above the capital, Khartoum. So every time that such an air raid has occurred, we have not seen any resistance of any kind, rather it was as if nobody knew anything until after the air raid ended and the missiles hit their targets. For after the explosions that were heard by the people in the Yarmouk compound, statements were issued from Khartoum, for example, describing what happened as the result of an internal fire, ruling out the theory that this was the result of a “foreign” hand. However the Sudanese Information Minister came out a few hours later to announce that the factory had been subject to air strikes from 4 Israeli warplanes and promising to pay Israel back twofold, in the knowledge that people would rejoice if the government managed to respond in kind, or even half-fold, to these raids, or indeed if the government does anything to ensure that such raids do not happen again.

Presidential assistant and deputy leader of the National Congress party, Nafie Ali Nafie, who is known for his fiery statements on all domestic issues, suddenly discovered a modicum of logic this time around, as he stopped at describing the Israeli air raid on the Yarmouk compound as an “affliction” against all Muslims, in Sudan and elsewhere. He added that this air raid represents a “reminder and an extermination” As for President Omar al-Bashir, he described this as “a manifestation of Israel’s concerns and nervousness about the political and social upheavals in the region.”

Leaving aside these perplexing and confused responses, the question that is now being asked by many is: what is the objective of these air raids, particularly the latest air raid that targeted the capital Khartoum?

Despite the fact that Israel has not officially commented on any of these air raids, Tel Aviv would – each time – issue statements and accusations against Sudan of military cooperating with Israel or smuggling arms to Hamas. This time, the air raid took place at a time when the Egyptian – Israeli border is witnessing tension due to the activities of some jihadist groups in Sinai, not to mention what is being repeated about the smuggling of advanced weaponry into Gaza via tunnels. This is because Israel fears that with the rise of the Islamists in Egypt, and the presence of an Islamist government in Khartoum that enjoys strong relations with Iran; the smuggling of arms into Gaza to support Hamas will intensify and gain new momentum. The Israeli air raid on the Yarmouk compound was therefore perhaps the result of such feelings, particularly as rumors abound about this factory, not to mention western reports that it is operating with Iranian cooperation. Indeed Israeli reports claimed that this factory had recently begun producing Shahab missiles that Iran wants to store in Sudan as a precaution in case of the outbreak of a regional war, whilst reports also claimed that large quantities of these missiles had been smuggled to Hamas. In the face of these developments, Israel not only continued its air raids on Sudan, it also worked to strengthen its relations with South Sudan, being well aware that a presence here would grant Tel Aviv a new strategic advantage that could be used against Khartoum or even Egypt. In addition to this, there is the on-going issue over the river Nile, which is an extremely sensitive one.

In addition to the arms smuggling issue, there are those who believe that Israel wanted to send a message to Tehran that it had carried out a successful dress rehearsal regarding the possibility of carrying out air strikes targeting Iran’s nuclear reactors, particularly as the distance traveled by Israeli aircraft to reach Khartoum is almost the same as that to reach Iran’s nuclear reactors. However if the issue was a dress rehearsal, then the comparison ends here, for Iran’s military capabilities are very different than Sudan’s, whilst its nuclear sites will be strongly protected in a manner that cannot be compared to the complete absence of protection in the Sudanese case.

There is another possibility, which is that Israel also wanted to respond to the Hezbollah drone that penetrated its airspace, particularly as Hezbollah is Iran’s number one ally in the region. For its part, the timing of this drone launch was also akin to a message from Tehran to Tel Aviv. Since Israel was surprised by this operation, it is most likely searching for the location where this drone was produced, as well as where it was controlled from, whilst also seeking to demonstration that it remains in control of the air.

The operation to target the Sudanese compound appears to carry more than one encoded message being sent in more than one direction, at a time that regional tensions are intensifying, whilst some parties are preparing for the possibility of an unexpected war. As for Sudan, it is being pulled into a game that it does not excel at, nor indeed does it have any capabilities in this regard, due to the policies of its government.