In a stunning reversal, Israel and Sudan, once bitter enemies, have agreed to normalize relations and open economic ties.
The peace deal was brokered by the White House. This latest peace agreement follows similar agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain.
The transitional government of Sudan is trying to claw out of the country’s massive debt and crippling U.S. economic sanctions.
The sanctions had been put in place when Sudan was labeled a “state sponsor of terrorism” following its implicated in the bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had worked behind the scenes and offered to remove the terrorism designation if the Sudanese government paid $335 million to the victims of the bombings. This was agreed a few days ago. Now, the first agreement has been capped by the peace deal with Israel.
“This is an incredible deal for Israel and Sudan,” President Trump said in a released statement. “For decades, Sudan has been at a state of war with Israel. They have been in a state of war and boycotted Israeli goods. There was no relationship whatsoever.”
“They are choosing a future in which Arabs and Israelis, Muslims, Jews, and Christians can live together, pray together, and dream together, side by side, in harmony, community, and peace,” the president added.
Reporters were ushered into the Oval Office where the president conducted a three-way call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok.
Mr. Netanyahu said the agreement was a “dramatic breakthrough for peace” and the start of a “new era.”
President Hamdok thanked President Trump for removing his country from the U.S. terrorism list and said the Sudanese government was working “towards international relations that best serve our people.” Sudanese state TV reported that the “state of aggression” would end.
The current Sudanese government took over a year ago following a popular uprising against long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir.
Sudan, and in particular, al-Bashir had frequently denounced Israel as the root of all evil in the Middle East. There is expected to be some backlash from the opposition who want to retain the status quo.
Under Bashir’s regime, Osama bin Laden and members of al-Qaeda were given diplomatic passports in Sudan. The country also collaborated with the group in the bombings of the embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
Unsurprisingly, Iran denounced the peace deal between Sudan and Israel, likening it to paying “a ransom” to Washington. “Pay enough ransom, close your eyes to the crimes against Palestinians, then you’ll be taken off the so-called ‘terrorism’ blacklist,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry posted on Twitter. “Obviously, the list is as phony as the U.S. fight against terrorism. Shameful.”
The Times of Israel is reporting through U.S. sources that an unannounced part of the peace deal was Sudan committing to designating the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group as a terror organization. If that is the case, it would be a major turnaround and a bitter blow to Tehran which had enjoyed very close relations with Sudan until 2016.
The Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, blasted Sudan’s move toward normalization calling it a “political sin.” Another Palestinian official called it a “new stab in the back.”
President Trump clearly reveled in claiming another diplomatic feather in his cap, even if the event is getting only marginal mentions in the mainstream American press. The president mentioned that even Iran would “ultimately” join in the peace initiatives; if this was realized it would mean a major shift in Iranian policy if not a total regime change.
“I’d love to help Iran,” Trump said. “They’ve gone from a rich country to a poor country in a period of three years. And I’d love to get them back on track.”He added that Iran cannot have nuclear weapons and must stop wanting the destruction of Israel.
President Trump then took a shot at Joe Biden his Democratic opponent in the upcoming election. While on the phone with the two leaders of Israel and Sudan, Trump asked: “Do you think ‘Sleepy Joe’ could have made this deal? Somehow I don’t think so.”
With the election right around the corner, this was another foreign policy success for the Trump administration.