Sudan general confirms Red Sea base deal with Russia, strengthens ties with Iran

Chairman of Sudan's Transitional Sovereignty Council Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan meets the Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov in Khartoum, February 9, 2023 (Photo: Sudan's Transitional Sovereignty Council)

Lt Gen Yasir El Atta, deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), states in a recent interview with Al Hadath News last Saturday, that Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, Commander-in-Chief of SAF, signed agreements with Russia for a naval base. El Atta apologised to the Sudanese people for military delays in Khartoum. Sudan and Iran are also strengthening bilateral cooperation following resumed diplomatic relations.

El Atta says that El Burhan will sign agreements with Russia soon. He states that Russia asked for a “supply point” on the Red Sea in exchange for supplying SAF with weapons and ammunition. “It is not a shame to give a military base to any country on the Red Sea with which we have brought together economic partnerships.”

In the same interview, for the first time, El Atta apologised to the Sudanese people, saying, “We apologise to the Sudanese people for any failure and we bear what is happening with all responsibility.”

Acknowledging the army’s delay in recovering a number of areas in Khartoum, “We were late in recovering Bahri and Khartoum for further preparation, but we are currently ready… We have 12 battalions of popular resistance made up of various backgrounds of the political spectrum,” in reference to SAF and its many militias under it. He mentioned that the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) “wreaked havoc” in the areas left by the SAF. The SAF have been gaining victories in Omdurman since the start of the year, in part due to weapon and drone shipments from Iran.

Warm sea port 

The Russian government have been attempting to establish warm seaports globally and specifically the Red Sea. In February 2023, Sudan via El Burhan was ready to offer a Red Sea port to Russia in exchange for arms and other considerations. However, the war broke out in April between SAF and the RSF, putting the deal was put on hold indefinitely.

The previous 2021 deal, allowed Russia to keep up to four navy ships in the Red Sea, including nuclear powered ones. The agreement can be automatically extended for 10-year periods if none of the parties objected. Radio Dabanga cannot confirm whether these agreements still stand today.

Russian newspaper Pravda reports Russia may sign an agreement with the SAF for a weapons exchange to support a Russian logistics hub in Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

Growing geopolitical tensions 

Yesterday, the American magazine Newsweek warned the US of what it described as a new threat to its interests in the Red Sea, represented by Iran’s efforts to control the important waterway and the formation of a new ‘crescent’ that also threatens the interests of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. The article further states how Iran is seeking to take advantage of the ongoing civil war in order to expand its military presence. 

The article examines how El Burhan aimed to align Sudan more closely with the west and remained wary of the Iranian regime. However, due to a lack of western support, has turned to Tehran for the necessary security assistance to combat the RSF. Iran quickly offered military aid in exchange for establishing a naval base on Sudan’s Red Sea coast, which, alongside its Houthi proxy bases in Yemen, would grant Iran significant control over a crucial global waterway.

However, Iran has denied attempting to entice Sudan to allow it to establish a naval base on the strategic Red Sea coast, a day after Sudan’s foreign ministry issued a similar denial. According to the report, Sudan rejected Iran’s offer for fear of angering the USA and Israel. But it is not clear how long Khartoum will be able to withstand Iranian pressure.

Sudan and Iranian foreign diplomats

The Sudan News Agency reports how Sudanese ambassador Hussein Ali, Minister of Foreign Affairs-designate for Iran, met last Saturday, with Iranian acting FA Minister Ali Bagheri, in Tehran. Arriving to convey condolences on behalf of the Sudanese government on the death of Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, FA Minister Hossein Abdul Lahian, and their peers in a helicopter crash last week. 

Bagheri expressed their deep thanks for the support and assistance they found following this painful event from the Sudanese leadership. The two sides held a session of talks on ways to launch cooperation between the two countries in various fields. This comes after the recent resumption of diplomatic relations between Sudan and Iran, the ambassadors seek to contribute pushing relations between the two countries at a rapid pace.

Rent prices skyrocket

As previously reported, residential property rents in Port Sudan have surged to unprecedented levels, according to reports previous Thursday. The soaring rental prices are attributed to the renewed Iranian diplomatic presence in the city. The Iranian embassy has rented 17 apartments in Port Sudan for its staff, driving up demand and costs. Iran has supplied the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) with Mohajer-6 drones, which experts believe have bolstered SAF operations in Omdurman.