The role of Gulf states in conflict in Sudan

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This article is featured in Orient IV/2023.

Sudanese engagement with the Arab Gulf states has seen various ups and downs since the country’s independence, yet the relationship encountered serious challenges when the General Omar Hassan al-Bashir-led Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation assumed power after a military coup in 1989, advancing a foreign policy based on the ideological contours developed by the Sudanese Islamist politician Hassan Al-Turabi. The steps taken by the regime soon created tensions with the Arab Gulf states, in particular Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. There were three main points of friction that impacted upon the country’s relationship with these Gulf states: Sudan’s support for Iraqi invasion of Kuwait; its close relationship with the revolutionary regime in Iran, Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival; and the hosting of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden. This article traces the development of the role of Gulf states in the security environment in Sudan since then and how the Sudanese ruling elites have attempted to develop extensive political, cultural and economic connections with different Arab Gulf states, before and after the security apparatus removed President al-Bashir on 11 April 2019, when he was replaced by the Transitional Military Council as the collective head of state of Sudan.

Umer Karim is a doctoral researcher at the Department of Political Science and International Studies of the University of Birmingham, focusing on Saudi foreign policy and decision-making, and its implications for the politics and security of the Middle East. His broad research interests also include Middle Eastern politics and international relations as well as peace and conflict studies. Additionally, Umer Karim is Associate Fellow at the King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies and Fellow at the Sectarianism, Proxies and De-sectarianisation (SEPAD) project, based at Lancaster University’s Richardson Institute.

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