Thursday, March 26, 2009

Who did Israel(?)/US(?) attack? Sudan(?)/Iran(?)/Hamas(?)

Several outlets are reporting that Sudanese officials said foreign warplanes launched two separate airstrikes in January on Sudan near its border with Egypt, targeting convoys packed with light weapons and African migrants trying to sneak across the frontier. However who was behind the strikes remains a mystery, since conflicting reports are suggesting that it was both Israel and the US.

Mubarak Mabrook Saleem, Sudan's State Minister for Transportation, said he believed American planes were behind the bombings about a week apart in early February and claimed hundreds were killed. A Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed his account but said there were discrepancies on casualties. The U.S. denied any airstrike on Sudan.

But even stranger following the highways minister's statements, even further conflicting reports have emerged from within Sudan. Namely, according to Al Jazeera English, the Sudanese foreign minister Deng Alor said Wednesday, "we have no information about such an attack."

Moreoever, the Al Jazeera report mentions claims of two bombings -- the original January incident plus one in February as well. From Al Jazeera English:

Mabrouk Mubarak Salim, the state minister for highways, said on Thursday that Sudanese, Somalis, Ethiopians, and Eritreans were killed in the attacks in January and February.

CBS said that the jets were targeting weapons convoys heading through Sudan on their way to Egypt, where they would have been taken across the Sinai into the Gaza Strip.

"Sudan used to provide Hamas with weapons but that is not the case any more," Alor said.

Salim said that the air raids hit human traffickers travelling through the desert area and the only weapons in the convoys were small arms being carried by guards.

But it gets even more bizarre - who was the intended target of the air strikes?

As CBS reports:

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin has been told that Israeli aircraft carried out the attack. Israeli intelligence is said to have discovered that weapons were being trucked through Sudan, heading north toward Egypt, whereupon they would cross the Sinai Desert and be smuggled into Hamas-held territory in Gaza.

In January, the U.S. signed an agreement with Israel that calls for an international effort to stop arms smuggling into Gaza. Hamas was showering rockets on Israeli towns, and Israel had responded by invading Gaza. More than 1,000 Palestinians were reportedly killed in the December-January war, and 13 Israelis lost their lives.

Sudan is known to be a way station for weapons smuggled into Gaza via a vast network of tunnels under the strip's border with Egypt. The route begins in Iran, which supports the Hamas in Gaza. It is said to pass through Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Egypt - going from the Persian Gulf around the Arabian Peninsula to the city of Port Sudan on the Red Sea, some 400 kilometres south of Egypt.

So he intended target was Hamas right? Not so fast.

However, the involvement of Sudan in the Iranian-Hamas war effort would fit with the larger pattern of Sudan's regional alliances and activity. The close connections between Teheran, Khartoum and Hamas are a matter of public record.

The regime of Brigadier Omar al-Bashir in Sudan is, with the exception of the Hamas enclave in Gaza, the only overtly Islamist and pro-Iranian government in the Arabic-speaking world. Sudan is an acknowledged member of the Iran-led regional alliance, which includes Syria, Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Sudan has maintained close relations with Iran since the 1989 coup which brought Omar al-Bashir to power. Bashir's coup was carried out in co-operation with the Islamist National Islamic Front. Members of the front went on to hold key positions in the new regime. Iranian supplies of weapons and oil began soon after. Hassan al-Turabi, a Muslim Brotherhood associated Sudanese Islamist activist, was the key figure in building the Iran-Sudan link in the early days of the regime.

The last time Israel took responsibility for carrying out a secret activity on Sudanese soil was when it airlifted Ethiopian Jews from Sudan in Operations Moses and Joshua in 1984 and 1985.

With such a completely convoluted and confusing geopolitical saga - is it any wonder that there is so much difficulty starting something as simple as peace talks?

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