The Sudanese army's announcement that two Iranian warships have docked in Sudan serves as a message to promote the “strong relationship” between the two countries. This announcement came after Khartoum denied any link between the Sudanese military manufacturers and Iran.
The visiting ships demonstrate a rapprochement between Tehran and Khartoum. It seems that the relationship between these two countries is based on shared interests and calamities.
Sudanese-Iranian relations have progressed at a steady pace since Sudan’s independence 56 years ago. However, relations between the two countries faltered during the rule of late president Jaafar Nimeiri in the 1980s, when Sudan supported Iraq in its war against Iran.
Nevertheless, when Sudanese political leader Sadiq al-Mahdi came to power and visited Tehran, Tehran and Khartoum repaired their diplomatic relations. This relationship continued to improve and became even closer during the era of President Omar al-Bashir, who exchanged visits with former Iranian presidents Hashemi Rafsanjani and later Mohammad Khatami and current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Iran sought to solidify its relations with Sudan in order to find a foothold in Africa.
Meanwhile, Arab countries that have political and cultural influence on parts of the African continent have been preoccupied with alleviating the repercussions of the Second Gulf War and later the implications of the Arab Spring revolutions.
Since then, some changes have made Sudan even more appealing to Iran. Under the blockade imposed by the West, the Islamic state is seeking to forge closer ties with foreign countries and break its isolation. It is possible that Tehran looks its relations with Khartoum from this perspective.
Khartoum, on the other hand, seeks to forge closer ties with Iran in order to escape the regional and international isolation faced by the government of President Omar al-Bashir. This is not to mention Sudan’s wish to embark on a path of economic cooperation with Tehran in order to alleviate the severity of its economic crisis at home.
Sudan is regarded as the country that harmonizes the best with the Iranian policy in terms of the state’s religious dimension, despite their doctrinal differences.
Iran has been accused of seeking to export its Shiite principles to Sudan, which despite being rife with different sects does not suffer from sectarian rivalry, and therefore is likely to accommodate followers of the Shiite sect. Proof of this is the prevalence of Shiite mosques and public religious displays across Khartoum.
Concerns grew in Khartoum following an attack allegedly launched by Israel on the Yarmouk industrial complex on Oct. 24, given that Israel has previously carried out three attacks in the east of the country during the past three years. Israel justified these attacks with the allegations that Iranian and Libyan weapons have been smuggled through Sudanese territory to the Gaza Strip.
A large segment of the Sudanese people and some influential elites fear that the two warships that arrived on Monday [Oc.t 29] in Port Sudan, on the Red Sea coast in east Sudan, were part of a broader Iranian response to the alleged Israeli attacks.
This would place Khartoum under Iran’s axis in the region and therefore threaten its position as a removed and unbiased county, which would cause acute embarrassment before its Arab neighbors.
Many pundits believe that Sudanese-Iranian relations are a cause for concern for the region’s countries. The presence of a power such as Iran in the horn of Africa and on the shores of the Red Sea, which is the northern entrance to Africa and the southern frontier of Egypt and North African countries, could open the door to political and security implications in the Arab region and the African continent.
An Iranian state-owned English-language TV channel, Press TV, reported Monday that many Iranian warships docked in Port Sudan in order to carry out “Iran's message of peace to the regional countries and maintain the security of shipping corridors against maritime terrorism.”
The next day, SUNA, the official Sudanese news agency, quoted Sudanese army spokesman Col. Savarmi Khaled Saad as saying, “Two Iranian warships docked in Port Sudan and are staying from Oct. 28 to Oct. 31.”
He added, “The presence of the ships shows the solid support of political, security diplomatic relations between the two countries.”
The military spokesman confirmed that the visit of the warships “will serve as an opportunity for Sudanese naval officers and marine -studies students to observe the advanced weapons and equipment of the vessels, which will be open to general public.”
According to Press TV, the Iranian flotilla included a helicopter carrier, “Kharj,” and a destroyer, “Nakdi,” which docked in Port Sudan on the Red Sea on Monday. Press TV added that the two warships also docked in Djibouti in September.
There have been suggestions of a link between the Sudanese weapons factory and Iran after Khartoum blamed Israel for the assaults on the Yarmouk Industrial Complex on Oct. 23. The missiles were fired by four warplanes.
On Monday, the Sudanese Foreign Ministry denied any link between the Yarmouk factory and Iran. Meanwhile, Israel declined to comment on Khartoum’s accusations.
Khartoum accused Israel of responsibility for the blast in the weapons factory that killed two people. Sudan threatened to retaliate “at the right time and in the right place.”
The Jewish state declined to comment on the accusations. However, Israeli officials accused Sudan of serving as a crossing for Iranian weapons that are being smuggled to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.