Oct 21, 2020 - World

Sudan's government fears collapse as it strikes a deal with Trump

Protesting normalization in Khartoum. Photo: Abbas M. Idris/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Khartoum —Sudan's transitional government is on the verge of collapse, but Trump’s decision to remove Sudan from the U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism could prevent that grim scenario.

The big picture: The country is virtually bankrupt. There are long queues at petrol stations and bakeries as the country grapples with severe flour and gasoline shortages. Electricity outages are back as temperatures continue to hover around 100℉.

The state of play: The government is very concerned that the current frustration among the Sudanese people could lead to widespread demonstrations.

  • Protests brought down ex-president Omar al-Bashir’s regime last year. There is genuine fear among Sudanese officials that similar protests may lead to the downfall of the government that replaced him.

The backstory: Removal from the U.S. terror list had been expected ever since the former regime was toppled.

  • There is a sense of betrayal in Sudan that the U.S. kept dragging its feet on the issue, in particular by linking it to normalization with Israel, something that has long been considered a taboo in Sudan.
  • However, many Sudanese feel their situation is too dire to remain dogmatic about ties with the Jewish state, even if they remain wholly sympathetic with the plight of the Palestinians.
  • If the road toward lifting sanctions and economic prosperity is normalization, then so be it.

What's happening: There are forces in Sudan — particularly Islamists and remnants of the previous regime — who use normalization as a rallying cry in their attempts to topple the government.

  • The governing council's military faction, led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has been eager to seal the deal with Israel.
  • Fearing the domestic backlash, however, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was adamant that a sizable incentive was needed in order to sell normalization to the public.
  • More recently, he seems to have softened his stance and accepted a watered-down deal.

What’s next: The onus is now on the U.S. to move quickly to keep its end of the bargain and help keep the forces who seek to turn back the clock at bay.

Editor's note: This piece was written for the Axios from Tel Aviv newsletter. The author is the former deputy editor of the Sudan Tribune.

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