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The Sunni-Shi'a War
Will We See a Sudanese Embassy in Jerusalem?

The Islamic, totalitarian government of Sudan is mulling opening diplomatic relations with Israel. The Jerusalem Post reports:

The Sudan News Agency reported that the committee for external relations of the National Dialogue Conference discussed the issue at a meeting on Monday. The report quoted one member of the committee, Ibrahim Suleiman, as saying that the majority of the committee called for the establishment of “normal and conditioned” relations with Israel [. . .]

Just three years ago, Bashir – following an attack on a military factory in Khartoum that Sudan blamed on Israel – vowed that his country would never normalize relations with the “Zionist enemy.”

At that time, Sudan was firmly in Iran’s camp, and was seen as a key link in smuggling arms to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

But since then, Sudan, which is majority Sunni, has shifted sharply towards Saudi Arabia, which leads the Sunni camp, as Sunni-Shi’a tensions have come to overshadow all other regional issues. And the Saudis have quietly been building significant intelligence, military, diplomatic, and even economic ties with Israel as both prepare to deal with an increasingly aggressive Iran.

Now, it looks like the Sudanese may be thinking, why not be more open about it? Official government sources followed up the news with a non-denial denial, with an FM spokesman saying that Sudanese backing for “[the] Palestinian cause . . . will remain unchanged” Depending on how one looks at it, support for the “Palestinian cause” is not, of course, incompatible with recognition of Israel. (Just ask Egypt.) And ironically, the Great Satan/Little Satan perception may actually be working to the U.S. and Israel’s advantage for once:

According to the report, Suleiman added that those who support the idea of normalizing ties with Israel believe it would help further Sudan’s interests. “The United States and Israel are two sides of the same coin and if the government underscores the importance to establish relation with America, why does it not establish ties with Israel?” he was quoted as saying.

We don’t want to overstate things; it is by no means guaranteed, or perhaps even more probable than not, that President Omar al-Bashir’s government will go all-in on full diplomatic recognition. But it would also not be nearly so shocking as it would have been twelve months ago. And the circumstance that officials of a hardline Islamic dictatorship are openly mulling this step is an indication of just how far regional dynamics have shifted.

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