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Sudan’s Agreement Opposition’s Big Gamble

Alwaght– Signing the power-sharing deal, Sudan’s military council and the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) said that their country will continue its participation in the Arab-led war on Yemen. With regard to its past position, the FFC was expected to reiterate its opposition to involvement in the Yemen war. Now the new stance raises a question: What has happened in Sudan’s power structure that such an approach is embraced by the new leaders?

Sudan’s role in the Yemen war

Since the beginning of the Saudi-led war on Yemen in March 2015, Sudan said it joined the Arab alliance. Until President Omar al-Bashir ousting, due to keeping the number of the Sudanese troops in Yemen a secret, the estimation was that some 14,000 were serving in the Arab bloc. Mohammad Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy head of the military council, in June said that Khartoum is beside Saudi Arabia and the UAE in their war against Yemen, adding that Sudanese forces are the largest among others in the alliance reaching 30,000.

The main nucleus of these forces is the “Janjoids” who are accused of the Darfur repression in 2002. The African country cited its “Islamic responsibility to save the two holy mosques, the religion, and beliefs” as the main justification for it to take part in the coalition. But the main reason is the severe poverty in the country and the military body’s seeking support from Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the face of the opposition. According to the New York Times, teenagers and mercenaries, who were trained in Saudi Arabia’s border areas, account for 40 percent of the Sudanese forces in the war. The soldiers are reportedly paid $480 and the Janjoid officers are paid $530 a month. The forces who served beyond six months in the war received a bonus of $10,000.

Reports suggest that many of those who return from the war buy houses in the capital Khartoum or make investment in the capital and other important cities. Saudi Arabia and the UAE make the most out of Sudan’s poverty to recruit fighters. Al Jazeera news network in a report said that every Sudanese military personnel yearns for being chosen to serve in Yemen. But these forces are in fact devotees for Saudi and Emirati officers on the ground. According to some reports, the Saudi and Emirati officers order attacks or retreat with radio headsets given to the mercenary forces’ commanders and never accompany them in their operations.

Sudan’s administrative council and Saudi Arabia  

5 out of 11 members of the newly introduced transitional administration in Sudan are military staff. The head of the new governing body is Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who is the commander of the Sudanese forces in Yemen. Another member is Dagalo who has a close relation with al-Burhan and is a patron of participation in Yemen war. The administrative council will be the main determiner of the foreign policy and will hold the right to declare war and peace.

Saudi Arabia plays a key role in Sudan’s developments and has already built a ground for its allied military commanders to rise to power in the post-Bashir Sudan. Al-Rakoba newspaper of Sudan in June wrote that Saudi Crown Prince stipulated Sudan’s stay in the war as a condition for Saudi Arabia’s all-out support to post-coup Sudan. Riyadh appears to seek to both derail Sudan’s uprising like what it did to the Arab uprisings and also deal on Yemen with the military leaders having sway in Sudan’s equations. Last week, Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that Dagalo agreed with Saudis to send 6,000 more troops to Yemen after Eid al-Adha. On Monday, Adel the Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said that Saudi Arabia backs removing Sudan from the list of countries labeled state sponsor of terrorism and that it is a “matter of time.”

The opposition’s announcement about its stay in the Saudi-led coalition is the major concession made to Saudi Arabia and the UAE— both the key military council backers—to persuade the military leaders to yield to the formation of the administrative council.

Power structure change

With a population of 40 million, Sudan has $33 billion gross domestic product (GDP). So far, the UAE and Saudi Arabia paid the country over $3 billion for its military deployment to Yemen, something equaling 10 percent of its GDP. Cutting off the aids gives the Sudanese economy a temporary shock and challenge the first repercussion of which will be military commanders’ removal from the power structure in the transitional period. The military decision-makers deposit part of the Saudi-provided aids to the central bank to win the opposition and people’s support. The Arab aids intricately reproduce rentierism in Sudan’s political and economic structure that not only affects the military commanders but also some of the political parties.

Before the negotiations, such parties as National Congress, Socialist Party, and a couple of others opposed involvement in the war. Sadiq al-Mahdi, the leader of the National Ummah Party in the past called for the end of war among Muslim countries and Islamic unity against the Israeli regime. However, comments by Ibrahim al-Amin, his aide, who backed the war indicated that a great paradox is affecting the party. Others have made similar strategic mistakes.

A couple of days ago, al-Amin voiced support to the anti-Yemeni campaign and Sudan’s presence in it, adding that “Sudan is located in a region engulfed by threats. The Red Sea is poised to be home to big disputes. It is home to a large number of military bases and poses threats to both sides of the sea, be it Saudi Arabia or Sudan.” But analysts agree that Sudan has no considerable interests in Yemen war and continued engagement could only risk its national security, foreign policy, and vital interests.

The strategic mistake of continued alliance with the Arab bloc will strike the FFC unity and undermine it in favor of the military council. After all, despite its promise, the military does not want to exit the politics and is lying in wait for a chance to marginalize the key parties which stood cause for al-Bashir’s ousting. But the reality is that Sudan’s people seek fundamental changes at home and in the foreign policy. If collation with Saudi Arabia and the UAE was fruitful, al-Bashir was certainly in rule now. On the other side, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are increasingly at loggerheads in Yemen and international pressures to end the war are mounting on them. In the mid-term, this will undermine Sudan’s military leaders gambling on Yemen.

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