Against the Weapon… Sudan: A New Proxy for Iran in Africa

Highlighting Iran and its relations with Al-Burhan and the Sudanese army, Sudan becomes its new proxy in Africa.

Iran pressed Sudan in vain to allow it to build a permanent naval base on the coast of the Red Sea for the African state, which would have allowed Tehran to monitor maritime traffic to and from the Suez Canal and Israel, according to a senior Sudanese intelligence official cited by the American newspaper, The Wall Street Journal.

Iranian attempts

Ahmed Hassan Mohamed, intelligence advisor to the Sudanese military leader, said Iran supplied the Sudanese army with explosive drones for use in its fight against one of the rebel warlords. They also offered to provide a warship carrying a helicopter if Sudan were to be granted permission to establish the base.

Mohamed said in an interview, “The Iranians said they wanted to use the base to gather intelligence. They also wanted to deploy warships there.” He added that Khartoum rejected the Iranian proposal to avoid retaliation from the United States and Israel.

The American newspaper emphasized that the presence of a naval base in the Red Sea would allow Tehran to tighten its grip on one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, aiding Houthi rebels based in Yemen in attacking merchant ships. Iran and the Houthis claim the attacks are aimed at punishing Israel and its allies for their fighting in Gaza. Iran’s regional rivals, Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, have direct access to the waterway.

Iranian influence

The newspaper also asserted that Iran was increasingly sending sophisticated weapons to its Houthi allies in Yemen, bolstering their ability to attack merchant ships and disrupt international trade, despite weeks of U.S.-led airstrikes. A multi-national force led by the United States has been deployed to protect maritime traffic.

Sudan had close relations with Iran and its Palestinian ally, Hamas, during the tenure of ousted President Omar al-Bashir, and after al-Bashir’s fall in the 2019 coup, the head of the country’s military council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, began to approach the United States in an attempt to end international sanctions. He also worked to normalize relations with Israel.

Iran’s request to build the base highlights how regional powers are seeking to capitalize on the ongoing civil war in Sudan for a foothold in the country, which is a “strategic crossroads” between the Middle East and the African Sahel with a 400-mile coastline.

The Sudanese army has been fighting semi-military Rapid Support Forces, led by former strongman al-Burhan, since mid-April. The conflict has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people, displacement of millions, and caused one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.

Mohamed said, “Sudan bought drones from Iran because we needed more precise weapons to reduce human losses and respect international humanitarian law.”

The explosive drones helped al-Burhan reverse losses suffered against the Rapid Support Forces, according to regional officials and analysts following the fighting, and in recent weeks, the government has regained control of important areas in Khartoum and Omdurman, its twin city across the Nile.

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