Tehran’s tentacles reach out and touch someone else. “Hezbollah and Sudan’s Salafi Regime Converge,” by Walid Phares for the Middle East Times, September 15:
The convergence between Jihadi Khomeinists and Jihadi Salafists seems to be developing as strategists and terrorism analysts are debating the near future of the global jihadi movement.
Moving fast to reach out to the Islamist regime in Khartoum, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah organization openly declared its backing of Omar Bashir’s government as the latter in turn solidified its alliance with Hezbollah. This development, which surfaced as of the end of July, comes in parallel of an attempt by the Khomeinist-inspired organization to sign a collaboration agreement with Salafist factions in Beirut a few weeks ago. But the Hezbollah-Sudan exchange of declarations of support is by far the most significant convergence of Jihadi forces from the two branches of Islamism since Iran began funding Hamas and Islamic Jihad more than a decade ago.
On July 31, Lebanon Now reported that as he was welcoming the Sudanese presidential envoy Qutub al-Mahdi, Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary general, called the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment of President Bashir for genocide as “part of the international conspiracy to strike elements of force in the Arab and Islamic nations, and to destabilize internal stability.”
It is worth noting that the ICC had issued a warrant for the arrest of the head of the Sudanese regime for his responsibilities in the mass murder of Black African tribes in Darfur. As I wrote in an op-ed titled “Brotherhood against Democracy” last July, a surge in the region bringing together authoritarian forces and regimes, all of them opposed to international efforts, U.S.-led or not, to back democracy in the region. Within this expanding jihadi-authoritarian axis, Lebanon-based Khomeinists have been playing a significant role in the rapprochement with Salafist movements and regimes.
As reported in the independent Beirut daily an-Nahar on Aug. 1, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said “international meddling in Sudan’s affairs has reached dangerous levels.”
According to an-Nahar, Nasrallah declared he is backing the Sudanese regime and Bashir “in this fateful confrontation.”
The pro-Syrian daily al-Akhbar (Aug. 1) quoted Nasrallah as saying the “conspiracy (against Bashir) aims at striking the elements of strengths in the Arab and Islamic Umma.”
The leader of Hezbollah committed to fight back against “what is called international community with determination,” asserting that this conspiracy targets the Arab and Muslim states one after the other, especially those whom he called the “obstructionist forces” (al-qiwa al-mumania).
The pro-government daily al-Mustaqbal quoted Nasrallah accusing the United States and some groupings in America with links to Zionism of “working on dividing Africa and spread chaos on the continent.”
Responding to Hezbollah declarations of collaboration, Sudan’s regime declared its solidarity with the Iranian-funded militia, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and a number of Western countries. According to the Chinese News Service Xinhuanet (Aug. 12) Bashir expressed his “admiration for Lebanese (based) Hezbollah and for its secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah.”
His statement came during a visit by a Hezbollah delegation, led by Lebanese MP Hassan Hajj Hassan to Khartoum to express solidarity. Hassan said that his organization repudiate the demands of the prosecutor general of the ICC and “as a resistance in Lebanon we will be together with the Sudanese to confront the conspiracy of the ‘arrogant American’ against the interest of our Umma in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq and Sudan.”
The ties between Hezbollah — and regionally the Iranian regime — and the Islamist establishment in Sudan are neither new nor a surprise. For observers have long noted the back and forth movement between the Tehran Khomeinist networks and Khartoum’s Salafi Islamists. Already, in the early 1990s a delegation from the Pasdaran attended the all out Jihadi Conference in Sudan organized by Dr. Hassan Turabi, one of the main Islamist ideologues of the late 20th century. But in the past few years, especially as the Darfur crisis emerged in international relations, reports asserted that “Hezbollah has sent military trainers to Sudan to train elements of the militia movement there that Sudanese President Bashir has recently established to deal with the ‘American campaign’ against his regime,” according to Stratfor an intelligence newsletter (Aug. 28).
But reality may be even more critical. Sources in the region believe Hezbollah has already established permanent basis in Sudan around Khartoum, in the Darfur areas controlled by the Janjaweed militia and close to the southern Sudan districts managed by the SPLA. The Iranian regime has dispatched the Arabic speaking Hezbollah trainers to Bashir a while ago, in the framework of collaboration against the U.S., Europe and the Arab moderates. The direct mission of the Hezbollah “expeditionary corps” is more strategic than Western analysis has already absorbed. First, the “advisors” will be training Sudanese regime militias to strike at the forthcoming “international force” to be deployed in Darfur. Second, they will coach the Khartoum Islamist forces in a potential return of hostilities with the southerners. Hezbollah will practically help Bashir’s Jihadists to crush any move towards self determination in the south. Last but not least, a Hezbollah base in Sudan, will offer Tehran an ideal launching pad for potential terrorist operations against U.S. targets in the entire region including the Red Sea, the African Horn and provide a sea shore for Iranian activities south of the Suez Canal.
This tremendous geopolitical opportunity was not even considered by many experts and analysts advising Washington and Brussels as they refused even to consider the mere possibility of cooperation between Sunni Salafism and Shia Khomeinism. This is another troubling example of how academic apology can lead to future strategic catastrophe in the real world.