World News Iran entry in Sudan crisis causes concern to the US

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Saturday, 24 February 2024


A man walks while smoke rises above buildings after aerial bombardment, during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum North, Sudan on May 1, 2023. PHOTO | REUTERS

Saturday February 24 2024

Sudan’s growing links with Iran are informing the latest flurry of diplomatic activity between Washington and Addis Ababa, the headquarters of the African Union.

US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee led a high-level delegation to Ethiopia this week, embarking on a whirlwind of meetings with Sudanese stakeholders and regional partners on the AU summit’s sidelines.

Sudan formally renewed diplomatic ties with Iran in October 2023, on the back channels of Iran. But recent footage from the war in Sudan as published by the Sudan Armed Forces (Saf) suggests that there had been enduring links between the military and Iran in spite of the Bashir-era severance of ties back in 2016.

Read: Sudan, Iran agree to restore ties after 7-year rift

In Addis Ababa, Ms Phee was joined on her trip to the East African region by USAid’s Africa chief Monde Muyangwa, US Special Envoy for Horn of Africa envoy Mike Hammer, and Sudan ambassador John Godfrey.

She held talks with Kenya’s President William Ruto, Angola’s João Lourenço on peace efforts in Sudan, Eastern DR Congo and Somalia.

But, top on the agenda was Sudan’s perceived ties with Iran, which the Sudan Armed Forces are now using to access arms, a move that has irked the United States.

Intelligence reports indicated that, as recently as January, Sudan’s military was using drones sent in from Iran.

“We are deeply concerned by external support to Saf and RSF and have since the beginning of the conflict urged external actors to refrain from providing material support to the two belligerent parties, which has two principle consequences: one, it prolongs the fighting, extends the war and reduces prospects for finding a negotiated exit from the conflict,” John Godfrey, US Ambassador to Sudan said Wednesday.

“And I would just note here that the recent UN Panel of Experts report highlighted violations of the Darfur arms embargo. In addition, there are reports about resumed ties between Sudan and Iran that could, reportedly include Iranian materiel support to Saf, which is also very troubling and a source of great concern for us.”

Read: UN: Sudan warring sides committed violations

Ms Phee also met with Presidents Felix Tshisekedi of the DR Congo, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, and Zambia’s Hakainde Hichilema in an effort to defuse the situation.

Mr Hammer called for a meeting between the two warring factions to resolve the 10-month-old dispute.

“We have called on Saf and RSF to fulfil the commitments they both made to (regional bloc) Igad at the extraordinary summit on December 9 to meet face to face at the level of General Burhan and General Hemedti,” Hammer said at the briefing.

Ms Phee raised concerns that since April 2023, when the war broke out, there has been no humanitarian assistance flow in a rapid and unimpeded way that both sides have committed to.

“That you now have a situation where 17.7 million Sudanese are in a state of acute food insecurity, and 5 to 6 million of them may be in a situation of acute starvation by May,” Ms Phee said.

As part of the pressure to have the Sudan conflict resolved, African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat announced the appointment of three eminent African personalities, as members of the AU High-Level Panel on Sudan.

These are Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, AU High Representative for Silencing the Guns, Dr Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe, former vice-president of Uganda and Francisco Madeira, former head of Amisom/Atmis.

“The appointment, which takes effect immediately, is in line with the conclusion of the AU Peace and Security Council through communique and in furtherance of the AU’s mandate and determination to entrench peace and stability on the Continent,” Mr Faki said in January.

“We have also called for them to implement what they agreed to in principle there, which is an unconditional and immediate ceasefire.”

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