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Israel Normalization Seen as Part of Deal to Remove Khartoum from US Terror List
People in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, are shown on September 25 protesting against the normalization deals that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain reached with Israel. Some of the banners say, "The religion of Allah and the provisions of Islam are our red line." (Abbas M. Idris/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Israel Normalization Seen as Part of Deal to Remove Khartoum from US Terror List

Domestic politics apparently at play as Trump desperately needs to show accomplishments before election, observers tell The Media Line

The US State Sponsors of Terrorism List could soon be down to just Iran, North Korea and Syria.

On Monday, President Donald Trump announced that the designation will no longer apply to Sudan in exchange for $335 million in compensation to the American victims and their families of attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and on the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.

The northeastern African country was added to the list in August 1993. It was a time when al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden resided in Khartoum as a guest of the government, and Lebanon’s Hizbullah and several Palestinian groups received refuge and logistical support.

Analysts tell The Media Line that the process of delisting Sudan pre-dates Trump, saying that in 2011, the Obama administration put in place a road map for removal after many years of Sudanese cooperation with the US on countering Sunni terrorism. It gained momentum after the April 2019 collapse of Omar al-Bashir’s regime.

The country’s mixed military and civilian transitional government, in power until possible elections in 2022, has since taken further steps against terrorism. Late last year, the government announced it would be shutting down the local offices of Hizbullah and Hamas.

“Sudan has earned this delisting,” says Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Sudan has earned this delisting

“After the toppling of Omar al-Bashir last year, Sudan is now free of all the baggage that earned it the State Sponsor of Terrorism designation in the 1990s,” he told The Media Line. “It was undoubtedly time to delist.”

Domestic politics play a pivotal role in the decision to announce the move now, according to analysts. The US is two weeks from a national election, with the Republican occupant of the White House seeking a second term but trailing his Democratic opponent, former vice president Joe Biden, in polls.

“The Trump Administration is trying to highlight good-news stories to keep attention off of the poor handling of the pandemic and to tout Trump’s accomplishments in the midst of the presidential election,” says Sarah Yerkes, senior fellow in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“Assuming that this leads to Sudanese normalization of relations with Israel, this will be another success that the Trump Administration can point to regarding Israel, which is something many in his base care about,” Yerkes told The Media Line.

Assuming that this leads to Sudanese normalization of relations with Israel, this will be another success that the Trump Administration can point to regarding Israel, which is something many in his base care about

The push by the administration to establish diplomatic ties between Sudan and Israel comes on the heels of peace agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, reached as part of the Abraham Accords, signed in Washington last month.

Dr. Yoel Guzansky, a senior fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, thinks the delisting of Sudan by the US will lead to normalization with the Jewish state.

Guzansky cites as examples of warming ties between the two traditionally hostile nations Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s February meeting in Uganda with Lt.-Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, chairman of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council; and Sudan in March having authorized direct commercial flights over its airspace between Israel and South America, significantly shortening flight times.

“You have progress already. You have talks. It’s out in public. So Sudan is signaling it wants [normalization with Israel] and is willing to pay in certain respects,” he told The Media Line.

Still, he cautions that anti-Israel sentiment remains pervasive in Sudan, which could prove to be a challenge.

“Sudan might pay a price internally. There is still sensitivity. The Palestinian issue is still strong in public opinion, in the Arab street,” Guzansky said.

Sudan might pay a price internally. There is still sensitivity. The Palestinian issue is still strong in public opinion, in the Arab street

Normalization with Israel was “certainly” a condition for Sudan’s removal from the US terror list, according to Yonatan Touval, a senior policy analyst at Mitvim−Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies.

“Although the UAE and Saudi Arabia have been supporting Sudan already, the extent of the financial and investment aid, said to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, can be seen in the framework of Sudan’s readiness to establish relations with Israel,” Touval told The Media Line.

While Guzansky and Touval are confident that a Sudan-Israel rapprochement is coming soon, will other Arab countries do the same by following the UAE and Bahrain, as promised by the president at the White House signing ceremony for the Abraham Accords last month?

“So far, no other country has rushed in to join the two Gulf states,” Touval said. “Some of them probably prefer to wait until after the US election to see which administration they will be dealing with.”

So far, no other country has rushed in to join the two Gulf states. Some of them probably prefer to wait until after the US election to see which administration they will be dealing with

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