The National Islamic Front/National Congress Party and International Terrorism: A long, grim history
Eric Reeves | December 24, 2017 | https://wp.me/p45rOG-2aW
All evidence suggests that the Trump administration State Department is in the process of removing Sudan from the Department’s annual list of “State Sponsors Terrorism.” Sudan was designated as such by the Clinton administration in 1993, and subsequent history reveals a long and deep involvement in terrorist activity by Khartoum’s National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime, which came to power by military coup in June 1989 and has remained essentially unchanged in character and ambition.
Pressure for removing Sudan from the list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism” has been building since the early years of the Obama administration, which in its last week began the process of lifting U.S. economic sanctions from the regime, a process the was completed by the Trump administration in October 2017, under heavy pressure from the U.S. intelligence community, which wants to establish a strong counter-terrorism relationship with the regime and utilize the vast new U.S. embassy in Khartoum as a listening post for northern Africa.
Past evidence of the Khartoum regime’s strong support for international terrorism, however, particularly Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, argues for a delay in any decision about removing Sudan from the list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism”: the history is too long, too deep, and reflects the decisions and actions of ruthless men who continue to wage genocidal counter-insurgencies in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile. The present overview of that history—with an extensive accompanying COMPENDIUM of documents, dispatches, reports, and other relevant evidence (see | https://wp.me/p45rOG-2aU/)—makes clear just how premature it is to certify that Khartoum is no longer a “State Sponsor of Terrorism.”
Sometime before May 2018 the U.S. State Department will decide whether to keep Sudan on the very short list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism” (the others are Syria, Iran, and North Korea). Given the evidence provided by the actions and statements of the Obama administration, and the Trump administration to date, this decision has essentially been made. The most recent State Department report on international terrorism (July 2017) under its “Sudan” heading has no criticisms of Sudan’s performance according to the relevant standards and criteria. Given the long history of the current National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime supporting terrorism and radical Islam, it requires a leap of extraordinary faith to believe that the men who have controlled this regime for 28 years have completely reformed themselves and their priorities. Indeed, the expedient changes that were made in order to secure a lifting of U.S. economic sanctions (finalized in October 2017) have been partial and already reneged upon in significant ways, especially with respect to humanitarian access issues in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile.
The U.S. decision concerning Sudan’s place on the State Department list must be understood as driven not by State Department thoughts about the most effectively balanced policy toward the Khartoum regime, but rather by the U.S. intelligence community, whose thinking has long been defined almost entirely by highly problematic assumptions about the value of “cooperation” in counter-terrorism efforts by the NIF/NCP regime. The Los Angeles Times (2005) and The Washington Post (2010) have reported compellingly on this dishonest tendency (see “Year 2005” in the COMPENDIUM | https://wp.me/p45rOG-2aU/). The regime has been heavily involved in terrorist activities since June 1989, when it came to power by military coup and whose leadership is essentially unchanged. The National Islamic Front, an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, was and is dominated by the same cabal of military and security officials that ascended when Lt.-General (later Field Marshal) Omar al-Bashir emerged as “president” of the regime.
To be sure, there has been an ebb and flow in the power and fates of various men within the regime (and only men have power in the regime): currently there is a distinctly more militaristic quality to the regime than at times when non-military officials exercised considerable power (e.g., Ghazi Salah el-Din and Nafie Ali Nafie). The second most powerful man in the regime currently is Vice-President (and Prime Minister as of March 2017) Lt.-General Bakri Hassan Saleh, who formerly led the regime’s notorious security services.
There are good reasons to doubt the wisdom of lifting the State Department designation of Sudan as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism,” and not only for historical reasons, although these are many. The regime remains deeply committed to Islamizing and Arabizing projects in Sudan, the region, and internationally; support for radical, militant Islam is longstanding and retains strong ideological commitment from many in the regime. The Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen were originally backed by Khartoum until economic realities compelled an orientation away from Iran and toward arch-rival Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.
The regime has boasted (if unwittingly) of its recent support for the radical Islamic forces of Libya Dawn in that fractured country. From 1992 – 1996 the regime hosted Osama bin Laden, critical years in the formation of al-Qaeda. U.S. federal courts have found the Khartoum regime complicit in the deadly 1998 embassy bombings in Nairobi (Kenya) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden Harbor, Yemen. For many years, Khartoum actively supported the manically brutal Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda as a way of preventing President Museveni from assisting the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in its long war with Khartoum over self-determination (1983 – 2005). The regime was deeply complicit in, if not directly responsible for the 1995 assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The list goes on and on; the COMPENDIUM [ https://wp.me/p45rOG-2aU ] to this analysis provides a lengthy overview of documents and materials relevant to understanding fully the extent of this regime’s support for international terrorism. But given the value the U.S. intelligence community places on the NIF/NCP regime’s cooperation in providing counter-terrorism intelligence, we may be sure that once removed from the State Department’s list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” it will not be placed back.
The regime is essentiually unchanged in character: those with power are largely the same, and their determination to exert that power in support of radical Islam is conspicuous, most especially in minutes leaked from an extraordinary meeting of the most senior military and security officials on August 31, 2014 (see below). Sudan has deserved its place on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism for many, many years; it would be nothing if not precipitous to remove the Khartoum regime from the list given past and recent history, and after such a relatively short period of putative “good behavior.” If we want a measure of how barbarically indifferent to human destruction and suffering this regime is, we have only to look at its ongoing genocidal campaign in Darfur and its brutal, also finally genocidal assault on the people of the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan, as well as large African populations in Blue Nile.
Sudan and Terrorism, a Brief History:
June 1989: The National Islamic Front, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, came to power in Sudan during a military coup; Lt.-General Omar al-Bashir emerged as president, but depended on a powerful cohort of radical Islamists and Arabists.
1992 – 1996: Most notoriously, in a move orchestrated by immensely powerful Islamic ideologue Hassan al-Turabi, Khartoum hosted Osama bin Laden from 1992 – 1996, the formative years for al-Qaeda. While the circumstances of bin Laden’s decamping from Sudan to Afghanistan remain controversial, what is not controversial are the very substantial ties he maintained with the Khartoum regime, and the regime’s active support for al-Qaeda, including fund-raising and providing diplomatic cover to al-Qaeda operatives (see the detailed COMPENDIUM of historical data and report | https://wp.me/p45rOG-2aU/).
A host of serious terrorists attacks can be traced back to Khartoum in one way or another:
1993: attack on the World Trade Center in New York City was carried out by a number of men, led by mastermind Ramzi Yousef, who received training from the rapidly growing and well-financed al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
1993: The Clinton administration designated Sudan as a “state sponsor of terrorism.”
1995: Khartoum regime officials were behind the assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) (again, see the detailed account early in the COMPENDIUM of historical data and reports | https://wp.me/p45rOG-2aU/).
1997: The Clinton administration imposes comprehensive trade and economic sanctions on the Khartoum regime (still at this point the National Islamic Front regime) because of support for international terrorism and gross domestic human rights abuses—abuses that continue to this day.
1998: al-Qaeda carried out bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi (Kenya) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania); in December 2011 a U.S. federal district judge ruled that the governments of Sudan and Iran should be held liable for monetary damages to victims of the embassy bombings.
1998: the Clinton administration ordered an attack on the al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory as the site of chemical weapons manufacture and because of Khartoum’s ongoing support for international terrorism; although al-Shifa proved not to be the site of chemical weapons manufacture, the Khartoum regime has innfact used chemical weapons on a number of occasions, most recently during the Jebel Marra (Central Darfur) offensive of 2016.
2000 – 2016: Chemical weapons use by Khartoum’s forces during the 2016 Jebel Marra offensive was authoritatively established by Amnesty International (September 2016). Early authoritative reports on chemical weapons use by the regime include Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)/Switzerland (2000): (See below and also the COMPENDIUM [ https://wp.me/p45rOG-2aU / ] for more evidence of the Khartoum regime’s use and distribution of chemical weapons, including from a [leaked] U.S. State Department cable, December 2006).
The use of chemical weapons, particularly against civilians (as has been the case in Sudan), inevitably constitutes war crimes and/or crimes against humanity under the Rome Treaty that is the statutory basis for the International Criminal Court. Notably, several senior members of the Khartoum regime have been served arrest warrants; in the case of President Omar al-Bashir, these warrants include multiple charges of genocide and massive crimes against humanity.
October 2000: an al-Qaeda attack on the USS Cole in Aden Harbor (Yemen) killed 17 American sailors and wounded 39; in March 2007 a U.S federal district court judge held that, “There is substantial evidence in this case presented by the expert testimony that the government of Sudan induced the particular bombing of the Cole by virtue of prior actions of the government of Sudan.” (New York Times, March 15, 2007)
September 11, 2001: The horrific terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City put the Khartoum regime in a precarious situation, given its ongoing support for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Although condemning the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, the regime would simply move more quietly and secretly in its ongoing support for terrorism. Iran would become an increasingly important partner, particularly in attacks against Israel by means of support for Hamas and others (see below).
A wide range of reporting in the wake of 9/11 established extensive financial connections between al-Qaeda and the Khartoum regime, as well as fund-raising efforts and diplomatic assistance to al-Qaeda by the regime. (See COMPENDIUM | https://wp.me/p45rOG-2aU/.)
1990s – 2005: Khartoum offered substantial support to the terrorist organization the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) as a means of preventing President Museveni of Uganda from assisting more aggressively South Sudan’s Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army.
2006: A U.S. State Department cable of December 28, 2006 (leaked by “Wikileaks”) indicates that a number of Sudanese entities had engaged in activities with Syria and Iran that violated the U.S. “Iran and Syria Nonproliferation Act,” which prohibits transfer to or acquisition from these two countries of:
“Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), and the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) or other items with the potential to make a material contribution to missile, WMD, or certain other weapons programs.” The cable notes that, “The U.S. Government has determined that [Sudan’s] Al Zarga Optical and Electronics Company, Giad Industrial Complex, and Yarmouk Industrial Complex have engaged in activities, as noted above, that warrant the imposition of measures pursuant to Section 3 of the ISNA.”
(All emphases in all quoted texts have been added—ER. Full text of the cable as well as a photographic scan contained in COMPENDIUM | https://wp.me/p45rOG-2aU/ ).
2007: The annual State Department report on “State Sponsors of Terrorism” (published April 2008) notes:
Al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist elements, elements of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), HAMAS, and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), remained in Sudan. In light of the ongoing hybrid United Nations-African Union deployment to Darfur, various terrorist threats against these forces emerged, and Al-Qaeda leadership has called for jihad against UN forces in Darfur. Further, Sudanese authorities uncovered and largely dismantled a large-scale terrorist organization targeting western interests in Khartoum in summer and fall of the year. The terrorist threat level remained high in Khartoum and Darfur, and potentially other parts of Sudan.
2008: Beginning in late 2008, Khartoum agreed to serve as an intermediary for weapons shipments from Iran to Hamas in Gaza (see below).
The annual State Department report on “State Sponsors of Terrorism” (published April 2009) notes:
Al-Qa’ida (AQ)-inspired terrorist elements, and elements of both Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and HAMAS remained in Sudan. In light of the continuing hybrid UN-AU deployment to Darfur, various terrorist threats against this mission have emerged, and AQ leadership has called for “jihad” against UN forces in Darfur. In the early hours of January 1, 2008, attackers in Khartoum sympathetic to AQ shot and fatally wounded two U.S. Embassy staff members – an American and a Sudanese employee – both of whom worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Sudanese authorities cooperated closely with the USG in investigating this terrorist crime.
On February 1, five alleged conspirators were arrested and put on trial for murder on August 31. Their trial was ongoing at year’s end. Other extremist groups also have threatened attacks against Western interests in Sudan. The July 14 request by International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo for an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges related to atrocities committed in Darfur has further inflamed tensions. Therefore, the terrorist threat level remained critical in Khartoum and Darfur, and potentially other parts of Sudan.
Elements of designated terrorist groups remained in Sudan. With the exception of HAMAS, whose members the Sudanese government consider to be “freedom fighters” rather than terrorists, the government does not appear to openly support the presence of extremist elements. We note, however, that there have been open source reports that arms were purchased in Sudan’s black market and allegedly smuggled northward to HAMAS.
2009: Khartoum’s involvement in supporting terrorism is revealed in a series of additional”wiki-leaked” documents, as well as the State Department assessments from preceding years. In the document we find:
…al-Qa’ida-inspired terrorist elements as well as elements of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and HAMAS, remained in Sudan in 2009. (http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/2009/index.htm).
Moreover, U.S. intelligence knew that in March 2009 Sudan had played a role in supplying Iranian arms for Hamas in Gaza. The Guardian (UK) reported in late 2010 on “wiki-leaked” State Department cables from both January and March 2009:
State department cables released by WikiLeaks show that Sudan was warned by the U.S. in January 2009 not to allow the delivery of unspecified Iranian arms that were expected to be passed to Hamas in the Gaza Strip around the time of Israel’s Cast Lead offensive, in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed. (December 6, 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/06/wikileaks-sudan-iranian-arms-gaza/)
U.S. diplomats were instructed to express “exceptional concern” to Khartoum officials, but those warnings evidently went unheeded. The Guardian goes on to report:
In March 2009, Jordan and Egypt were informed by the U.S. of new Iranian plans to ship a cargo of “lethal military equipment” to Syria with onward transfer to Sudan and then to Hamas.
The cables don’t specify what the disposition of this “lethal military equipment” was. But Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Canada, the European Union, Japan—and the U.S., a fact confirmed repeatedly in the State Department reports on “State Sponsors of Terrorism.” Again, Khartoum’s role in the supply operation to Hamas in March 2009 is explicitly identified by U.S. intelligence.
Although this evidence was available to U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan Scott Gration during his July 2009 Senate testimony, he deliberately ignored it with his claim that,
“There’s no evidence in our intelligence community that supports [Sudan] being on the state sponsors of terrorism. It’s a political decision” (see below).
2010: The annual State Department report on “State Sponsors of Terrorism” (published August 2011) notes:
[E]lements of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, including al-Qa’ida-inspired terrorists, remained in Sudan, as gaps remained in the Sudanese government’s knowledge of and ability to identify and capture these individuals as well as prevent them from exploiting the territory for smuggling activities. Some evidence suggested that individuals who actively participated in the Iraqi insurgency have returned to Sudan, and may be in a position to use their expertise to conduct attacks within Sudan or to pass on their knowledge. Sudanese officials continued to view Hamas members as representatives of the Palestinian Authority. Hamas members conducted fundraising in Sudan, and Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) maintained a presence in Sudan.
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continued to operate in the region, though there was no reliable information that corroborated allegations that the Government of Sudan provided support to the LRA.
[In fact, a considerable about of intelligence, from a wide range of sources, confirmed Khartoum’s continuing support for the LRA—ER]
2011: The annual State Department report on “State Sponsors of Terrorism” (published July 2012) notes:
Elements of several designated terrorist groups including al-Qa’ida (AQ)-inspired terrorist groups remained in Sudan.
In addition, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hamas maintained a presence in Sudan and Hamas has increased its presence there since late 2011. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal visited Khartoum in November 2011, and Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh led a delegation of Hamas officials to Khartoum in late December during a regional tour. In addition, Haniyeh was President Bashir’s guest of honor at the Sudanese independence celebrations on December 31.
Khartoum also has maintained a relationship with Iran. In 2011, President Bashir and the Sudanese Ambassador to Iran both met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to discuss bolstering political and economic ties between Khartoum and Tehran.
In June of 2010, four Sudanese men sentenced to death for the January 1, 2008 killing of U.S. diplomat John Granville and his Sudanese driver, escaped from Khartoum’s maximum security Khobar Prison.
2011 – 2015: In the wake of the disintegration of Libya with the fall of Muamar Gadhafi, Khartoum made clear its support for radical Islam in the form of assistance to the powerful organization “Libya Dawn,” which controlled much of western Libya. Sudan Tribune reports in June 2014:
Sudanese planes carrying arms land in Libya: report | June 6, 2014 (KHARTOUM)
Libyan forces loyal to a renegade former general accused the Sudanese government of sending weapons via planes to Islamist militias. Colonel Mohamed al-Hejazi, spokesperson of Khalifa Heftar forces, told Cairo-based al-Youm al-Sabe’ newspaper that the latest shipment arrived on Friday morning at Meetiga military base airport. The military spokesperson asserted that Sudan sent planes carrying arms to these extremist groups at different times in the past without the knowledge of the Libyan government. He said these weapons have already been received by a militia loyal to Abdul Hakim Belhaj, adding that Qatar funds these deliveries.
These allegations by Colonel al-Hejazi would be borne out by revelations in the minutes of an August 31, 2014 meeting of the Khartoum regime’s senior military and security officials (see below).
2012: The annual State Department report on “State Sponsors of Terrorism” (published May 2013) notes:
Elements of designated terrorist groups, including AQ-inspired terrorist groups, remained in Sudan. The Government of Sudan took steps to limit the activities of these organizations, and has worked to disrupt foreign fighters’ use of Sudan as a logistics base and transit point to Mali and Afghanistan.
With the exception of Hamas, the government does not appear to support the presence of violent extremist elements. In November, Hamas political chief Khaled Meshal visited Khartoum during a meeting of Sudan’s Islamic Movement, and Meshal met with several senior members of the Sudanese government during his visit.
The United States continued to monitor Sudan’s relationship with Iran, itself designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. In October 2012, two Iranian warships docked in Port Sudan, which Sudanese officials characterized as a solid show of political and diplomatic cooperation between the two nations.
2013: The annual report from the U.S. State Department (April 30, 2014, representing findings for 2013) continues to list Sudan as one of only four countries designated a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” (the others were Syria, Iran, and—now replaced by North Korea—Cuba). The report, with its expedient praise of the regime, seems designed to encourage Khartoum to get out of the terrorism business entirely, but such was not the case in 2013. The report notes:
• Elements of al-Qa’ida-inspired terrorist groups remained in Sudan. The Government of Sudan has taken steps to limit the activities of these elements, and has worked to disrupt foreign fighters’ use of Sudan as a logistics base and transit point for terrorists going to Mali, Syria, and Afghanistan.
• Groups continued to operate in Sudan in 2013 and there continued to be reports of Sudanese nationals participating in terrorist organizations. For example, regional media outlets alleged one Sudanese national was part of an al-Shabaab terrorist cell that attacked the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in September. There was also evidence that Sudanese violent extremists participated in terrorist activities in Somalia and Mali.
• In 2013, Sudan continued to allow members of Hamas to travel, fundraise, and live in Sudan.
• The UN and NGOs reported in 2013 that the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is likely operating in the disputed Kafia Kingi area, claimed by Sudan and South Sudan, in close proximity to Sudanese Armed Forces.
[The Kafia Kingi area is completely controlled by the Sudan Armed Forces SAF—ER]
At year’s end, the United States continued to engage the Government of Sudan, the AU, and the UN to evaluate these reports.
2014: Agence-France Presse reports (May 12, 2014 | Khartoum):
Evidence suggests Iran has played a key role in supporting war torn Sudan’s weapons production, while Tehran has also been Khartoum’s second biggest supplier of arms, a study said on Monday. Some of those imported arms, along with others from China, have reached rebel groups in Sudan as well as South Sudan, said the Small Arms Survey report based on more than two years of investigation.
It said that there is “emerging evidence that Iran has played a significant role in supporting Sudan’s weapons manufacturing sector.” China has also reportedly provided training and technical support for Sudanese weapons production, the report said. It cited data showing that most of Sudan’s imported small arms, light weapons, ammunition, rocket and grenade launchers have come from China in recent years. But the report also elaborates on the extent of Sudan’s military links with Iran, which have repeatedly been the subject of regional concern and speculation.
“Military ties between Iran and Sudan have grown strong over the years,” said the Small Arms Survey, a Swiss-based independent research group. In March, Israel intercepted in the Red Sea a ship, the Klos-C, which it said carried M-302 missiles and other weapons shipped from Iran. They were to have been offloaded at Port Sudan and then taken overland to Palestinian militants in Gaza.
[The full report from the Small Arms Survey (“Following the Thread: Arms and Ammunition Tracing in Sudan and South Sudan”), explains these military affiliations in detail | http://www.smallarmssurveysudan.org/fileadmin/docs/working-papers/HSBA-WP32-Arms-Tracing.pdf ]
2014: The Khartoum regime supported the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen’s bloody civil war. In September 2014, the Houthis took control of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. When, for urgent financial reasons, Khartoum abandoned Iran for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States in 2016, the regime began to fight against the Houthis as part of the Saudi-led coalition (now preventing desperately needed humanitarian assistance from reaching Yemeni civilians).
August 31, 2014: In an extremely high-level meeting of military and security officials in Khartoum, regime attitudes toward a host of terrorism-related issues are starkly revealed. Minutes of this extraordinary meeting were leaked and fully authenticated; as a result, and the world had a clear view of attitudes that the regime had done so much to conceal. In particular, the words of former Minister of the Interior and Minister of Defense Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein stand as supremely revealing of attitudes toward “cooperation” with the United States:
America is facing the crisis of the ISIS and the other Jihadist movements that are newly formed and can move freely outside the traditional surveillance networks. Currently, there are twenty thousand (20,000) Jihadists and fifteen (15) newly formed Jihadist Movements who are scattered all over, from Morocco to Egypt, Sinai, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, all the Gulf States, a wide presence in Africa and Europe and nobody owns a data-base on that as the one we have. We release only limited information to the Americans according to request, and the price is the armed movements file. The coming days carry a lot of surprises.
[The International Criminal Court has issued a warrant for the arrest of Hussein, charging him with massive crimes against humanity in Darfur—ER]
2015: An insightful analysis published in Sudan Tribune (February 14, 2015) suggests a concern widespread among regional analysts:
Insecurity in Darfur tempts African and Arab extremist movements | http://sudantribune.com/spip.php?article53986
By Amira Khair
The internal conflicts, extremist movements and turbulent militias in several African states that neighboring Sudan have stirred significant concern that some of these extremist groups may find suitable opportunities to infiltrate through the western borders into Darfur which suffer from lack of security and disorder since the beginning of the current conflict.
The 2015 U.S. State Department’s list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism” continues to include Sudan (along with Iran and Syria), noting:
In 2014, members of Hamas were allowed to raise funds, travel, and live in Sudan. However, in 2015 the use of Sudan by Palestinian designated terrorist groups appeared to have declined. The last known shipment was the Israeli-interdicted KLOS-C in 2014.
In June 2010, four Sudanese men sentenced to death for the killing of two U.S. Embassy staff members on January 1, 2008, escaped from Khartoum’s maximum security Kober prison. That same month of the escape, Sudanese authorities confirmed that they recaptured one of the four convicts, and a second escapee was reported killed in Somalia in May 2011. The recaptured murderer is being held in Kober Prison, and, as of December 2015, appeals of his pending death sentence were still ongoing. The whereabouts of the other two convicts were unknown at year’s end, although one is rumored to have been killed in Somalia in November 2015.
[It is a virtual certainty that those who assassinated American diplomat John Granville, a development expert, were soon known to and fully in the control of the regime’s extremely efficient National Intelligence and Security Services; those responsible for the assassination could not possibly have escaped from the highly secure Kober prison without NISS knowledge and assistance—ER]
2016 – 2017: There have been no reported terrorist incidents that directly involve the NIF/NCP regime; however, financial and even material support for terrorist groups and radical Islamists is extremely difficult to trace. Moreover, the investments Osama bin Laden made in Sudanese entities and banks, before and after his departure from Khartoum for Afghanistan in 1996, may well continue to fund al-Qaeda activities. Khartoum has never provided a complete accounting of bin Laden’s investments and has little incentive to do so.
Prospectively, it is important to ask whether a regime that has supported international terrorism for so many years has truly foregone such activities. Saudi Arabian financial, particularly private, support for terrorist groups has been well documented. And given the Khartoum’s deep financial indebtedness to Saudi Arabia—following the economically dictated abandonment of long-time strategic ally Iran—the regime may well be of use to the Saudis as a financial intermediary (Khartoum’s banks are almost completely opaque to outside observers, including the IMF).
The answer to the question of whether Sudan is truly out of the terrorism business, whether it should be removed from the U.S. State Department’s list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” simply cannot be answered, given the brutal past history of the men who retain a monopoly on Sudanese national wealth and power, and whose ruthless survivalism will trump any commitment made to the U.S. or any external power. Moreover, so long as genocidal counter-insurgency campaigns continue, mutatis mutandis, in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that this regime is engaged in massive domestic terrorism by means of its security and military forces, which continue to command well over half the domestic budget.
The highly schematic account of Khartoum’s involvement in international terrorism that I offer in this overview essay should be read in light of a lengthy compendium of reports on terrorist activities, which may be found at the very substantial COMPENDIUM associated with this analysis (see | https://wp.me/p45rOG-2aU/).
Despite the fact that Khartoum has had such long and full involvement in supporting terrorism, terrorist organizations, and radical Islamic cadres, the Obama administration was determined to improve relations with Khartoum in order to secure counter-terrorism intelligence. The major push for this changed Sudan policy began during the Bush administration, but accelerated significantly during the first years of the Obama administration. At times, the push for a change in policy has been distinguished by ignorance and mendacity, as with the July 2009 Senate testimony of Obama’s first (and fantastically unqualified) Special Envoy for Sudan, Air Force Major-General (retired) Scott Gration:
“There’s no evidence in our intelligence community that supports [Sudan] being on the state sponsors of terrorism. It’s a political decision,” Gration said. He also said the sanctions are getting in the way of development work, particularly in southern Sudan, which is still recovering from a long civil war. (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=111422940/)
In a mark of the disingenuousness and outright prevarication that marked Gration’s enormously destructive tenure, in an interview with Radio Dabanga (September 15, 2009), Gration declared that, “‘he never said anything [about] lifting the sanctions and removing Sudan from the list of state-sponsored terrorism.” While he offered no explanation of the gross disparity between his Senate testimony and his Radio Dabanga interview, perhaps Gration was forced by facts to reassess his assessment of the Khartoum regime. He would certainly have had access to what was reported by The Guardian (UK) recently reported (December 6, 2010) concerning “Wikileaked” U.S. cables:
In March 2009, Jordan and Egypt were informed by the U.S. of new Iranian plans to ship a cargo of “lethal military equipment” to Syria with onward transfer to Sudan and then to Hamas. Host nations were requested to require that the flights land for inspection or deny them overflight rights. It is not known whether any deliveries went ahead. In April Egypt’s interior minister, General Habib al-Adly, was described in U.S. cables as being behind the dismantling of a Hezbollah cell in Sinai as well as “steps to disrupt the flow of Iranian-supplied arms from Sudan through Egypt to Gaza.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/06/wikileaks-sudan-iranian-arms-gaza/)
More diplomatically skilled, but pushing for the same radical transformation of U.S. Sudan policy, Obama’s second Special Envoy for the Sudans, Princeton Lyman, offered a deeply disingenuous characterization of what the Obama administration expected under a continuation of the NIF/NCP regime:
“We [the Obama administration] do not want to see the ouster of the [Khartoum] regime, nor regime change. We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.” (Interview with Asharq al-Awsat, December 3, 2011 | http://english.aawsat.com/2011/12/article55244147/asharq-al-awsat-talks-to-us-special-envoy-to-sudan-princeton-lyman )
The preposterous notion that men such as regime president and indicted génocidaire Omar al-Bashir could oversee in Sudan “reform via constitutional democratic measures” marked a breathtaking cynicism that betrayed every hope that U.S. policy might actually foster democratic change in Sudan, and gave the regime breathing room to continue its genocidal counter-insurgency in Darfur, and continue as well with its savage war on the people of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, regions that had been under a total humanitarian embargo, imposed by Khartoum, since summer 2009, more than two years earlier than Lyman’s December 3, 2011 with Asharq al-Awsat.
For extended accounts of the shift in U.S. Sudan policy during the Obama administration, clearly driven by the intelligence community, see my analyses of recent years |
• “Sudan, Terrorism, and the Obama Administration” | February 9, 2011 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-B9
• “What Really Animates the Obama Administration’s Sudan Policy?” 10 October 2011 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-GT
• “The Obama Administration, Terrorism, and Hypocrisy,” Sudan Tribune, 6 May 2014 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1i8
• “Sudan embraces genocide, terrorism—and now Iran,” The Washington Post (Sunday), November 30, 2014 | https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/sudan-embraces-genocide-terrorism–iran/2014/11/30/2ed603ae-75bb-11e4-a755-e32227229e7b_story.html?utm_term=.c644b4fe4c63
• “Yemen, Khartoum, and Obama Administration Priorities in the “War on Terrorism,” January 27, 2015 | https://wp.me/p45rOG-1zB
• “The Obama Administration, Counter-terrorism Intelligence, and Khartoum’s National Islamic Front/National Congress Party Regime: A retrospective glance,” May 14, 2016 | https://wp.me/p45rOG-1To
But above all, I would highlight what was early on and correctly emphasized by the person best positioned to render an assessment of these changed Sudan policies, Senator Russ Feingold, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and chair of the Africa subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In a statement of May 2009 Feingold declared:
“I take serious issue with the way the report [on international terrorism by the US State Department] overstates the level of cooperation in our counterterrorism relationship with Sudan, a nation which the US classifies as a state sponsor of terrorism. A more accurate assessment is important not only for effectively countering terrorism in the region, but as part of a review of our overall policy toward Sudan.” (Statement by Senator Russell Feingold, Chair of the Africa Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, May 1, 2009)
But despite the prescience of Feingold’s assessment, and despite the continuing presence of Sudan on the State Department’s list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism” (July 2017), this designation appears destined to disappear when the next “list” is promulgated in (or around) May of 2018. In addition to the permanent lifting of U.S. economic sanctions that occurred in October 2017, this following Obama’s provisional lifting of these sanctions in January 2017, the most recent State Department report gives Khartoum a clean bill of health on all terrorism issues.
Without access to classified information, I have no way to judge the extent of the politicization of this judgment by the State Department. But as the example of Scott Gration’s Senate testimony of July 2009 made fully clear, prevarication and disingenuousness are tools that the U.S. intelligence community is prepared to use in getting the Sudan policy it wants.
A primary motive—one that the NIF/NCP regime is well aware of—is the new U.S. embassy in Khartoum, an immense building that far exceeds any possible diplomatic purposes: it has already been filled with state-of-the-art listening, surveillance, and monitoring equipment and is (the intelligence community feels) ideally situated to be the primary U.S. listening post for northern Africa, a region of increasing concern in the struggle to contain terrorism. The U.S. is acutely aware that full access to the embassy—for all equipment and personnel—is contingent on a determination whether Sudan continues on the U.S. State Department list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism.” Notably, so long as Sudan remains on the list, it has no chance to secure debt relief for its more than $50 billion in external debt, almost all of it accrued during the 28 years the NIF/NCP regime has been in power. There are, of course, no limits to the expedient behavior in which Khartoum will engage to ensure access to debt relief.
What are we prepared to overlook in giving Khartoum what it wants? What leverage are we prepared to lose in securing a meaningful peace in Darfur? Or an end to the barbaric humanitarian blockade imposed on civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile? What domestic human rights abuses—abuses of the most brutal sort—are we prepared to count as part of the price for whatever it is that Khartoum may choose to give us? We would do well to recall the previously cited and thoroughly unguarded words of Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, speaking while Minister of Defense on August 31, 2014: cryptic in some respects, its tone is fully revealing of the contempt that runs to the core of the NIF/NCP regime:
Hussein: America is facing the crisis of the ISIS and the other Jihadist movements that are newly formed and can move freely outside the traditional surveillance networks. Currently, there are twenty thousand (20,000) Jihadists and fifteen (15) newly formed Jihadist Movements who are scattered all over, from Morocco to Egypt, Sinai, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, all the Gulf States, a wide presence in Africa and Europe and nobody owns a data-base on that as the one we have. We release only limited information to the Americans according to request, and the price is the armed movements file. The coming days carry a lot of surprises.
What are the surprises that General Hussein’s cronies have in store now? We may be sure that the support for Hamas, Libya Dawn, and other radical Islamic groups will be a good deal more circumspect, communications much more guarded in the wake of the catastrophic leak of such revealing minutes. But the same men who came to power 28 years ago rule Sudan, and continue to share a ruthless Islamizing and Arabizing agenda. How that will play out domestically is all too clear in the marginalized regions of Sudan; how it will play out regionally and internationally…we simply do not know.