Sudan’s military junta overthrew the democratic transitional government and arrested key civilian leaders, including the prime minister. It has shut down the internet and phone service, closed the airport, and declared itself the sole rulers.
However, a mass democratic movement overthrew the last dictator, Omar Bashir and ushered in an awkward coalition between the military and civilian forces. The democracy activists have called for a resistance movement, general strike and shutdown of the entire country. It declared:
We urge the masses to go out on the streets and occupy them, close all roads with barricades, stage a general labour strike, and not to cooperate with the putschists and use civil disobedience to confront them,” the group said in a statement on Facebook.
It remains to be seen whether the army will be brazen enough to massacre unarmed fellow Sudanese in the streets.
For our purposes, what’s most interesting is what role Israel may have played in the proceedings. It always favors doing business with Arab strongmen as it did with Mubarak and does now with al-Sisi. The same holds true for relations with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
An unnamed Israeli official offered fulsome praise for the coup plotters:
“The country [Sudan] is not democratic as it was ruled for 30 years by the authoritarian regime of Omar al-Bashir. While we understand why the US would like to see the democratization of Sudan, between the two Sudanese leaders, it is Burhan who is more inclined to bolster ties with the US and Israel,” the official said. The official further added that “in light of the fact that the military is the stronger force in the country, and since Burhan is its commander in chief, the events of Monday night increase the likelihood of stability in Sudan, which has critical importance in the region, and it increases the chances of stronger ties with the US, the West, and Israel in particular.”
Again, Israel typically sides with naked power and strongman rule over democracy and populism. Which should also put the lie to Israeli claims that it is a democracy.
Perhaps the most offensive passage concerns the Israeli official telling the US that military rule, not democracy, is not just in Israel’s interest, but America’s as well. In doing so he flagrantly contradicts Ambassador Feltman’”s clear statement of US policy: that we endorse democratic rule and threaten to cancel aid if it is not restored.
Sudan is important for Israel for one major and one minor reason. The major reason is that it has pledged to normalize relations with Israel. But the process has been stymied by the civilian opposition to the process. The military, on the other hand, strongly favors it. Earlier this month, Intelligence Online reported, the country’s number two military leader visited Israel and consulted with defense and intelligence figures. Publicly they spoke about the normalization process. But what discussions took place behind closed doors? Did Israel offer intelligence assistance in supporting the planned coup? Has it promised Israeli weapons, which the army would certainly covet?
On a related matter, incoming Mossad chief, David Barnea, has made cultivating intelligence relations with Africa one of his priorities. He personally visited Chad last summer and discussed the possibility of Israel maintaining a forward base there, from which to fly its surveillance drones. They could be helpful in monitoring the security situation in Libya and Algeria, which has opposed the Moroccan territorial claim in the Sahel. Morocco and Israel are now allies, as the former has become one of four Arab states to normalize relations. Israel would be only too happy to keep close tabs on the Polisario Front’s representatives who have found refuge in Algeria.
Barnea also sought to thank the Chadians for supporting Israel’s bid to become an observer at the African Union. This was a development strongly opposed by pro-Palestinian civil society groups in Africa and abroad. After Barnea’s visit, according to Intelligence Online, NSO Group solicited a contract for its services from the Chadian security services. But the Pegasus malware was deemed too expensive.
Barnea also plans a “summit” with the chiefs of Sudanese, Egyptian, and Chadian intelligence services. Among the issues on their agenda will be coordinating their respective battles against Islamist militancy within and outside their borders; ensuring the political and social disarray in Libya do not lead to an Islamist government hostile to Israel. He will also be concerned to prevent Iran from using Sudan as a transshipment point for arms trafficking to Hamas in Gaza. Israel likely feels the only Sudanese government that could seal off the country from such Iranian influence would be a strong military. Israel has never trusted democratic governments in the Middle East (or Africa).