Nov 3, 2021 - Politics & Policy

U.S. wants Israel to convince Sudan's generals to end coup

Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Photo: Ashraf Shazly/AFP via Getty

The Biden administration has asked the Israeli government to use its close relations with Sudan’s coup leader and de facto president, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, to urge the military to restore the civilian government.

Why it matters: Burhan has been central to the Israel-Sudan normalization process over the last two years. He and other Sudanese generals have been coordinating with contacts in the Israeli national security council and Mossad intelligence agency.

  • While all Western governments condemned the military takeover, Israel has been silent so far — strengthening the perception in Sudan and in Washington that the Israelis are backing Burhan and the military.

Driving the news: Last week, Blinken raised the situation in Sudan in a call with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

  • According to Israeli and U.S. officials, Blinken asked that Israel encourage the Sudanese military to end the coup.
  • Gantz doesn't hold the Sudan file, but the Biden administration's message was also passed to officials in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign Ministry.

Behind the scenes: Two weeks before the coup, a Sudanese military delegation visited Israel and held talks with officials at the Prime Minister’s Office and the Mossad.

  • The Sudanese officers gave a briefing about the political crisis in the country but offered no indication they were planning a coup, Israeli officials say.
  • Earlier this week, a Mossad delegation visited Khartoum and met Sudanese military officials. Israeli officials say it was just a fact-finding mission and that the meetings were not with Burhan but with lower-level officials.

What they're saying: U.S. envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman said in a briefing with reporters on Tuesday that Burhan and his supporters in the military “hijacked and betrayed” the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people.

  • Feltman called on Burhan to release Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok from house arrest and restore the civilian government.
  • “The world is watching. The military can’t choose its civilian partners in the transitional government. They need to work together," Feltman said.

What’s next: The Biden administration made it clear to the Israelis that the normalization process with Sudan won’t be able to continue amid the current instability in the country, a senior U.S. official told me.

  • Feltman is expected to visit Israel for talks on Sudan on Sunday and Monday. He will also travel to Sudan again in the coming days.
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