Twelve Critical Questions on US-Sudan Relations

Mekki ElMograbi – Khartoum

1.        Does coercive normalization with Israel help US-Sudan relations? Why did the Trump administration appear to be forcing Sudan to take the decision while it was already a marketable and popular step at the time? Since February 2020, several voices had supported the Burhan – Netanyahu meeting, but called for more time for direct talks. How can the Biden administration continue in the same process without using the same means?

2.        Do US banks need more steps to encourage US dollar direct transactions between themselves and Sudanese citizens sending to/from Sudan? At least for individuals, NGOs, small businesses, and not for big commercial deals? If the new generation still cannot purchase online software, and the Sudanese diaspora cannot send a little amount of money through banks rather than high-rate agencies or the black market, then they will not believe that USA really appreciates and supports the change. Is Biden’s administration aware of that? Will US thinkers pose again the question “why do they hate us?” when they discover that USA lost the new generation? 

3.        Will the new development in LGBTQ issues in US, such as the Equality Act 2021, make any changes in US international agenda or will it remain an internal US issue? The Democrats in US and the new activists in Sudan are in favor of social liberties, but still, the majority in Sudan does not want to confront the public opinion on these issues. Some might try to insert these issues within US agenda; what are the consequences – if so happens?

4.        Did the Russian military base on the Sudanese coast push the new US-Sudanese military cooperation? Is Sudan able to manage dual military relations with both USA and Russia or does it need to sacrifice one of the relations?

5.        Does secularism work for Sudan? Did Sudanese people overestimate the power of secularism advocates and liberal activists – who came to power after the change – in gaining more attention and support from USA and the international community? Why did the West abandon them? Does this make secularism unpopular and give the radicals more power?

6.        The contradictory position of USA on ICC was justifiable during Bashir’s regime because it helps the opposition to change the regime. The US gave support to ICC against Sudan while it is always against ICC’s actions against Israel. Could Biden’s administration maintain the same contradictory position without criticism from activists and Africans?

7.        Free economy supporters in Sudan are divided; some want Sudan to be run by free economy in order to open the Sudanese market to US and other western companies, thus integrating the Sudanese economy with western capitalism.

Others want free economy measures to put Sudan under the control of World Bank, IMF and UN agencies but with a strong existence of socialists and Marxists, who are still not in favor of capitalism. It seems that there are two plans for the free economy on both sides of the same paper. Which one works better for the USA?

8.        Friends of Sudan do not agree over the best future scenario for the country, as explained in the article “Egyptian scenario, Iraqi quotas system, or African democracy, the Kenyan model”.  EU, UK, Egypt, UAE, KSA, Qatar, and Turkey; all of them are looking to Sudan from different angles. The question: Is it better for the USA to be closer to a specific scenario or to invest in all these scenarios at the same time? 

9.        Trump’s administration had chosen to side with Egypt against the Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed on the GERD and tried to force Sudan to stand with Egypt. Will Biden’s administration do the same or will it choose a neutral approach and mediation? 

10. Even before the change, Iran was completely deprived of any direct role in Sudan. This was confirmed again with the Sudanese step towards normalization with Israel. The civilian side of the transitional government is in disagreement over choosing one side in world conflicts. Might resuming the negotiations between Iran and the Biden administration give Iran new access to the world, including Sudan? Even if not necessarily through government, but political parties? In other words, will Iran supporters appear again in Sudan?

11.  Sudan was out of the terror list in December 2020. In reality, Sudan has been in full cooperation with USA against terrorism a decade ago. Still, the matter of ensuring that Sudan will not join the “blacklist club” again or even the grey one still lingers.

Are the newcomers to the power in Sudan able to secure that? Some suggest a bigger role for the ideologies of the extreme opposite to political Islam in order to kill the roots of terrorism. Yet, the latest experience with “Al-Garay” from the Republican Brotherhood, who was supported by Communists and Leftists, had proven negative results; Islamists and radicals woke up and gained more popularity; the PM Hamadok had no option, he held meetings with Salafists and Muslim Brotherhood to calm it down. Is it better for USA and US-based organizations to have anti-Islamists as allies, or to work with a wider range of different schools and streams, including moderates, to reform Islamists?

12.  With UAE support, South Sudan played a big role in the peace negotiations that culminated in the Juba Peace Agreement in August 2020. What is the possible Sudanese role in South Sudan? Sudan still offers safe havens for South Sudanese refugees, but what else? What are the USA’s priorities in South Sudan? Will the Biden administration support a pragmatic realistic settlement like Juba Agreement or do they still want to remove old guards from power?

Mekki ElMograbi is a press writer on African affairs. He can be reached through his email (elmograbi@gmail.com) or his contact number +249912139350 (Whatsapp and Telegram)

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