The recent developments following the Trump administration scrapping the Iran nuclear deal coupled with ongoing domestic political and economic problems are putting Sudan on its tiptoes.
According to a Washington Post story following a meeting last week, French President Emmanuel Macron HYPERLINK "https://www.timesofisrael.com/macron-if-trump-pulls-out-of-iran-deal-it-could-mean-war/" t "_blank" made two predictions: The United States would pull out of the Iran nuclear deal — and that decision would lead to war.
And it added that he could soon be proved right on both counts.
The quick Iranian reaction through rockets fired against Israel and the retaliatory reaction from Tel Aviv showed how a regional conflict could be ensued easily. It is no secret that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu detested Iran and its nuclear program. He went as far as trying to convince the Obama administration of joining hands to strike Iran, an approach that Obama resisted vehemently and opted instead for the negotiated deal.
Now with Trump in the White House aided with anti-Iran hawks like his newly appointed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his National Security Advisor John Bolton, the opportunity is there to strike and may be to be more ambitious and go for a regime change. Bolton is known for his close ties with the Iranian opposition. An added incentive is that the Gulf countries namely Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are of the same idea regarding Iran and they have expressed their support for the Trump decision. And a time frame for these development could be any time during the Trump term.
Clearly, things may not go as wished as Europe or the other part of the Iran deal is sticking to it and it remains to be seen how Europe is going to challenge Trump decision. But the chances of winds of change blowing throwing the whole region are increasing and the question is where Sudan in all this?
Unfortunately, the country is embroiled into deep economic crisis to the extent that it is hardly able to extend its vision beyond its day to day crisis. A newly released trade figures show that Sudan managed to net only little over $1 billion during the first quarter of this year, an 18.7 percent drop compared to exports generating revenue during the same period last year. That drop was alarming for two reasons: it undermines the drive to increase production and promote exports being the effective tool of improving the economic conditions and help in appreciating the national currency. More significant is that such a drop is not justifiable following the bumper production led by cotton and other crops. The private sector has worked with the government on a plan starting this year to triple the volume of exports value to close to $10 billion, which was seen as doable.
The inability to raise exports has direct impact on the domestic scene with national security implications. The inability of the government to provide $102 million requested by the Khartoum Refinery to enable carry on the needed maintenance program so as to be able to meet domestic needs shows the magnitude of the inefficiency and to what extent have things deteriorated. The long queues of cars before filling stations is a living example not only of a current crisis, but more on inefficiency. And this particular issue of providing oil products is points to this inefficiency in planning and taking precautionary measures to avoid falling into the trap.
This inefficiency reflecting weakness will have its impact on the image of Sudan and the way it is going to be affected by the developments and potential changes taking place in the region. One of the key challenges is that Sudan will find itself forced to choose between the two prevailing camps in the region: the one led by Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. Moreover, Sudan though keeping relations with the first camp, but is forging an ambitious strategic alliance with Turkey for development as well as with Qatar that has played a major role in negotiating settlement for Darfur problem. Both Turkey and Qatar represent the other camp.
This situation raises the challenge before Sudan and the question is not what side the country will take, but more important how Sudan can put its own house in order, be able to utilizes its natural resources for its own sake. And the way forward is a genuine national inclusive reconciliation.
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