How Saudi Arabia ‘Pulled a Proxy Out From Under Iran’s Wing’

Jonathan Schanzer
10th January 2016 - Quoted by Armin Rosen - Business Insider

The latest round of tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia is unsettling what little is left of the Middle East's regional order.

Saudi Arabia's execution of the country's most prominent Shi'ite cleric on January 2nd triggered the apparently state-sanctioned burning of Saudi diplomatic facilities in Tehran and Mershad, a breach of international order that in turn resulted in Saudi Arabia cutting ties with their Persian Gulf neighbor.

Luckily, in the past Saudi Arabia and Iran have demonstrated at least a limited ability to keep their animosity in check.

On January 4th, Sudan announced that it was also severing diplomatic ties with Iran. This move denied Iran of its sole Sunni Arab ally, undercutting the Tehran regime's argument that Iran's Islamic revolution is capable of transcending sectarianism and uniting the world's Muslims.

The Sudanese regime lost many of it its Islamist trappings. The Islamic Movement changed its name to the National Congress Party (NCP) in the late 1990s and began evolving into a somewhat more conventional dictatorship in hopes of improving the country's economy and relations with the west.

But Sudan maintained close ties with Iran. International isolation over the government's conduct in wars in Darfur and South Sudan gave Sudan the added incentive to deepen ties with a fellow sanctioned regime. Iran and Sudan completed a military cooperation agreement in 2008, while the Sudanese military has deployed Iranian-built drones in both Darfur and the south of the country. The two governments were allies through 2014.

That began to change as the NCP began to faced steep financial crisis — and as Saudi Arabia began mobilizing the Sunni Arab states against Tehran.

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As the Small Arms Survey recounts, Sudanese weapons factories produce a range of armaments, including light weaponry and small rocket launchers of Iranian design. Sudan has flown military drones of Iranian origin, and Patrick Megahan, a research associate for military affairs at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, noted in an email to Business Insider that Sudan's state weapons enterprises had exhibited "a copy of an Iranian remote weapons station" at an international defense exhibition in Abu Dhabi in early 2015.

"My sense is that we're going to see Sudan inch away from Iran but Iran will maintain lingering assets in the country whether Sudan likes it or not," says Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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Read the full article here.

Tags

iran, saudi-arabia, sudan