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Last Friday President Donald Trump announced that Sudan will begin normalizing ties with Israel. This development makes Sudan the third Arab state to do so as part of the US-brokered “Abraham Accords” in the run-up to Election Day. “The announcement came after the North African nation agreed to put $335 million in an escrow account to be used to compensate American victims of terror attacks,” Deb Riechmann and Matthew Lee write for the Associated Press. “The attacks include the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by the al-Qaida network while its leader, Osama bin Laden, was living in Sudan. In exchange, Trump notified Congress on Friday of his intent to remove Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.” Here’s what both sides are saying about the latest peace agreement:
On the Right: Fred Fleitz of Fox News says, “The Israeli-Sudanese agreement is an extraordinarily important one that is both highly symbolic and unexpected. It is the result of President Trump’s unconventional and successful approach to foreign policy and hard work by his national security team.” Fleitz writes: “To his credit, President Trump rejected the advice of the foreign policy establishment — especially State Department careerists — that the first step toward normalized relations between Israel and the Arab world had to be an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.” Fleitz adds: “In an earlier era, Trump’s moves would have outraged the Arab world and possibly led to war or terrorist attacks against Israeli and U.S. targets. Indeed, some foreign policy experts made such predictions. This didn’t happen for three reasons.” Fleitz says first of all, “President Trump forged a strong relationship with Arab states that included a historic summit with Arab heads of state in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in May 2017. Second, Trump withdrew from the deeply flawed nuclear deal with Iran in 2018. This move repudiated the destabilizing and incoherent policy of the Barack Obama-Joe Biden administration, which naively saw Iran as a major regional player and U.S. partner — instead of the persistent enemy of America and other Middle East states that it really is. And third, Trump correctly foresaw that most Arab states are fed up with Palestinian leaders for being an obstacle to peace and for their relationships with terrorists and Iran. As a result, growing numbers of Arab leaders are prepared to ignore the Palestinian leadership and seek peace agreements with Israel in response to security concerns regarding the danger they face from Iran.” In conclusion, Fleitz says: “Any way you look at it, the Israel-Sudan agreement is a huge win for Sudan, Israel, the United States, and Middle East peace. And it would not have happened without the successful leadership and unorthodox foreign policy of President Trump.”
On the Left: Nesrine Malik of The Guardian says, “Few countries in the world have been subjected to as many punitive sanctions as Sudan… But it was not Omar al-Bashir or his government that suffered, [it was] the Sudanese people.” Malik says ultimately last year, “an epic revolution overthrew Bashir at long last.” Meanwhile, “The United States, the Sudanese people’s alleged white knight, took one look at the success of the Sudanese revolution and decided to blackmail the country in return for taking it off the state sponsors of terror list, reintegrating it into the international financial and trade system, and providing aid. Last week Donald Trump made clear that the price tag would be $335m of compensation for terrorist attacks that took place under the old regime. Alongside this, the US is forcing the fragile new interim government, already struggling to maintain its mandate amid worsening economic conditions and the plotting of Bashir loyalists, to recognize Israel and normalize relations – a move that is hugely unpopular with the Sudanese people, and about which they weren’t consulted.” Malik says: “Even for those of us in Sudan who had given up expecting more, this naked exploitation of a country brought to its knees but still crawling to freedom is hard to stomach. The choice for the Sudanese government is to risk economic collapse and a resurgence of the old forces – essentially the overturning of the revolution – or to accept all of the US’s conditions. That is no choice at all. The agreement to normalize relations with Israel was announced last week, and has already triggered anger domestically. The condition seems to have been thrown in just because the US could, and amounts to bullying a country with which Israel is not likely to have many trade or diplomatic ties anyway.” Malik concludes: “It’s about building numbers and momentum in the Arab world so that more valuable regional assets, such as Saudi Arabia, can be convinced to normalize relations too.”
Flag This: As Riechmann and Lee from the Associated Press point out, “The new recognitions of Israel unify Arab nations around their common enemy, Iran. They also upend the traditional Arab strategy of refusing to normalize relations with Israel before an independent Palestinian state is created.” Riechmann and Lee note that there are mixed reactions to the agreement in Sudan. “I expect anger. I expect demonstrations,” said Mohammed El Hassan, one of the leaders of al-Bashir’s disbanded National Congress Party. “As Muslims, we stand with the Palestinians. It is not the transitional government’s role to take this kind of decision.” Conversely, others see normalization as a step in the right direction: “Because of the economy, Sudanese don’t see this as normalization with Israel but normalization with the international community,” said Osman Mirgany, a prominent Sudanese columnist and editor of the daily al-Tayar. “After years of isolation, we want normal relations.”