Sudan’s Role in the War for Africa

Omar al-Bashir is a Sunni Muslim, an Arab, and Sudan’s president. The International Criminal Court has issued a warrant for al Bashir’s arrest, because he is the man responsible for the genocide of Darfur. More than 300 thousands of the non Arab population have been killed in Darfur.

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Africa Sudan

Until 2011 Sudan and South Sudan were one country, but due to the civil war Sudan was separated to Sudan and South Sudan. Even after the separation of the country the relations between the Arabs of Sudan with the non Arabs of South Sudan did not improve. The country’s oil is located in South Sudan, but this oil can only be exported to Asia through the pipeline network that runs through Sudan and ends in Port Sudan and the Red Sea (purple line). It is very difficult for Sudan and South Sudan to find a way of sharing oil profits.

During the last two decades Omar al-Bashir had very close relations with Iran, but he also had very good relations with Turkey and Qatar. Sudan has been Iran’s most significant base in Africa. Iran needed Sudan in order to support through the Central African Republic (CAR) the terrorist organizations that cooperate with the Iranians in West Africa. Nigeria is located in West Africa, and she is a country very rich in oil and natural gas reserves, and one of Iran’s competitors.

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Africa Sudan

Moreover Nigeria has agreed with Niger and Algeria on the construction of the Trans-Saharan natural gas pipeline, which will send Nigeria’s natural gas to Europe through Algeria. Algeria is another natural gas producer, and she is already connected to Europe through a pipeline network. The Trans-Saharan Pipeline will hurt Russia’s economic interests in Europe, since Russia is Europe’s largest natural gas supplier. The Trans-Saharan would also hurt Iran, because Iran wants to supply Europe with natural gas, as soon as an agreement is reached between Iran and the West, about Iran’s nuclear program.

Finally the Trans-Saharan would hurt Turkey, because Turkey wants to provide Europe with an alternative to the Russian natural gas and oil. Turkey is very poor in oil and natural gas reserves, but the oil of the Middle East and the Caspian Sea can reach Europe through Turkey. That way Turkey could generate huge transit fees, and she would also see a dramatic rise in her geopolitical importance.

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Africa Sudan

As a result the USA and the EU are hunting Omar al-Bashir, while Russia, Turkey and Iran have an excellent cooperation with him. At the following article from Sudan Tribune, titled “Erdogan invites Sudan’s Bashir to visit Turkey”, August 2014, you can read about the smooth cooperation between Turkey’s leader Tayip Erdogan and Omar al Bashir, and Erdgogan’s invitation to Omar al Bashir, in order for the latter to visit Turkey. Please note that Omar al Bashir is not allowed to travel to Europe and the US.

At the following Guardian article, titled “Sudan president Omar al-Bashir leaves South Africa as court considers arrest”, June 2015, you can read that Omar al Bashir had to suddenly abandon South Africa during a visit in  2015, because the US and the EU tried to issue a warrant for his arrest.

China is one more country that has very good relations with Omar al Bashir. You can read about China’s very warm welcome to Omar al-Bashir at the following Guardian article, titled “China welcomes Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir”, June 2011.

Moreover, as you can read at the following article of Sudan Tribune, titled “Russian FM says Moscow plans to boost military ties with Sudan”, December 2014, Russia wishes to strengthen her military cooperation with Sudan and Omar al Bashir. Normally Omar al Bashir should be seen by Russia as an enemy, because Omar al Bashir has been a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is mainly backed by Turkey and Qatar, two countries that are a big problem for Russia’s energy policy. See “Russia vs Turkey: The Geopolitics of the South & the Turk Stream Pipelines”.

However Sudan is not an important country for Russia’s energy policy. On the contrary the attacks carried out in West Africa by the Islamist organizations that are supported by Iran, Turkey, Qatar and Sudan, they are very useful for Russia. Also note that Russia had attempted to take part in the Trans-Saharan pipeline but her efforts did not bear fruits.

At the following Wall Street Journal article, titled “African Nations Sign Deal for Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline”, July 2009, you can read about the agreement for the Trans-Saharan Pipeline between Nigeria, Niger and Algeria (red line on the map).

Also note that the Islamists that are supported by Iran and Sudan in Africa can sometimes be useful for China too. China has very strong ties with both Iran and Sudan, and at the same time China does not have military forces in Africa. On the contrary France has military bases in Africa, as you can read at the following article of the Business Insider, titled “France’s Military Is All Over Africa”, January 2015. See also the following map. As you can read in the article France has military bases in Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.

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Currently, France has over 3,000 troops spread across five countries in Africa — Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad — as part of Operation Burkhane. Based in Chad, the operation aims at disrupting potential militants threat across the Sahel region of the continent.

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French Army in Africa

China and Iran are challenging France in Niger. Niger is one of the largest producers of uranium, and for the last decades Areva, the French state owned nuclear energy producer, has been the only producer of uranium in Niger. France covers most of her energy needs with nuclear energy, and therefore Niger is of vital importance for France’s interests. For the competition between China and France for the uranium of Niger you can read the following Financial Times article, titled “China to expand Niger operations”, May 2010.

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Africa Sudan

France is carrying out many military operations against the Islamists that are supported by Iran, Turkey, Sudan and Qatar. As you can read at the following article of the state owned France24, titled “Is Qatar fuelling the crisis in north Mali?”, January 2013, Marin Le Pen accused Qatar for the terrorist attacks against France in Mali. And keep in mind that Qatar is one of the largest investors in France. But every geographical location is different, and economic interests can coincide in one place but diverge in another.

In order to reach West Africa, Iran and Sudan use Libya and the Central African Republic (CAR). France had intervened militarily in CAR in order to combat the Islamists, as you can read at the following article of the Spiegel, titled “Central African Republic: French Intervention Risky for Hollande”, December 2013. Moreover the French are helping the Egyptian President al Sisi to combat the Islamists in Libya.

It must be mentioned that the war between France and the Islamists in Africa led to the terrorist attack in Charlie Hebdo, and many other terrorist attacks in France.

Sudan is important for Turkey, Qatar and Iran for one more reason. All these countries want to overturn the Egyptian President al Sisi, a Saudi ally, in order to bring back to power the Muslim Brotherhood. These three countries attack Egypt from Libya, Sudan, and Gaza, with the use of the Islamists groups that are backed by them.

Obviously the Saudis have been very unhappy with the cooperation between Sudan and Iran. In 2013 the Saudis forbid al Bashir from even flying above Saudi Arabia during one of his trips. You can read about it at the following article of the state owned Qatari news network Al Jazeera, titled “Sudan’s Bashir barred from Saudi airspace”, August 2013.

However after two decades of close cooperation with Iran, Sudan has moved closer to Saudi Arabia, as you can read at the following article of the US News, titled “Al-Bashir starts new term in office as Sudan shifts away from Iran, inching closer to Saudi”, June 2015. In the article you can read that after two decades of close cooperation with Iran and of problematic relations with Saudi Arabia, Omar al Bashir recently moved closer to the Saudis.

In the article you can also read that in the war that broke out between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Yemen, Omar al Bashir supported diplomatically Saudi Arabia, even though he did not offer any military assistance. However that does not mean that Sudan and Iran will stop cooperating in Africa. In international relations it is very common for two countries to fight each other in one geographical location and cooperate in another.

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