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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.

Go deeper

Nov 24, 2021 - World

Scoop: Saudis tried to stop UAE-Israel-Jordan solar energy deal

The crown princes of the UAE (left) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Saudi handout via Getty

The Saudi government pressured the United Arab Emirates to back off a major solar energy deal with Israel and Jordan, two senior Israeli officials with direct knowledge and another source briefed on the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: The agreement signed on Monday and helped across the finish line by U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is the biggest renewable energy project in the region. It will see the UAE build a massive solar farm in Jordan to supply electricity to Israel, and Israel in turn will build a desalination plant to provide water to Jordan.

Nov 24, 2021 - World

Israeli diplomat: New regional alliances "keep the Iranians up at night"

Photo: Mazen Mahdi AFP via Getty

MANAMA, Bahrain — The diplomat who transitioned Israel's secret relationship with Bahrain into a public one tells Axios that Israel's burgeoning partnerships in the region "keep the Iranians up at night."

What he's saying: "The Iranians opened a front against us in Syria and Lebanon, but now when they look across the Gulf, they see us there with our allies very close to them," says Itay Tagner, the outgoing head of mission at the new Israeli Embassy in Bahrain, who previously led the secret Israeli diplomatic mission in Manama.

Nov 24, 2021 - World

U.S. assurances on Iran met with skepticism in the region

Lloyd Austin addresses the Manama Dialogue. Photo: Mazen Mahdi/AFP via Getty

MANAMA, Bahrain — Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was among top U.S. officials who spoke at the Manama Dialogue last weekend about the U.S. commitment to stand up to Iran, but their words were met with skepticism.

Why it matters: In the public sessions and in private conversations, many of the Arab and Israeli participants discussed the perception that the U.S. is leaving the region and not projecting sufficient power to deter Iran.

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