How Long Can Sudan Stay Neutral in the Qatar-Gulf Crisis?

Sudan is playing careful balancing act by adopting a neutral stance that seeks not to alienate any of the sides to the conflict. It remains to be seen whether it can maintain it given the internal and external pressure. [Photo: Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Royal Council]

The sacking of Gen. Taha Osman, Director of the President’s Office today and the circumstances of his detention at Khartoum International Airport present a dramatic picture of the extent to which differences over Sudan’s neutral stance in the Gulf crisis are beginning to emerge. His departure also puts into question how long Sudan can hope to remain neutral in the ongoing Gulf crisis.

The decision by Saudi Arabia on 5 June to cut ties with the State of Qatar days after the Arab-Islamic American conference attended by US President Donald Trump sent shock waves through the corridors of power in Khartoum as much as it did elsewhere in the world.

Over the past few months, the Sudanese president has paid a series of short shuttle visits to a number of the Gulf States including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain. To cap it all, the visit by the Qatari Princess Sheikha Moza to the Merowe pyramids in March was a highly publicised and successful visit that brought positive world interest in Sudan’s heritage even while eliciting negative media ridicule and condemnation from Sudan’s troubled neighbour, Egypt.

In sporting terms, Al-Bashir was playing a “blinder” by solidifying a new flourishing relationship with the Gulf States through political, economic and military cooperation agreements and repairing its relations with the United States whose outgoing President Barack Obama gifted Sudan with a temporary lifting of the 20 year-old economic sanctions imposed on Khartoum. Indeed, Sudan had even taken a bolder stance in its disputes with Egypt and stepped up its attempt to win back the disputed Halayeb border area by taking a more public approach to its diplomacy.

Arguably at the centre of that new found strengthening of diplomatic ties was the Director of the President’s Office, General Taha Osman Al-Hussein, who doubled up as state minister to the presidency. Al-Hussein, a former security intelligence officer, was made a personal envoy to Saudi Arabia and the UAE and at the height of the attempts to court American favour, Al-Hussein made an unannounced visit to Washington to talk to congressmen and former President, Jimmy Carter. He was viewed as someone who had the president’s ear and a man with the “Midas” golden touch.

Seemingly, Al-Hussein was not shy in reminding his colleagues in government of the role he was playing in the transformation of Sudan, from a rouge state to the darling of the Gulf and the stalwart unwavering partners to West in the war against terrorism and to the European Union in the fight against illegal human trafficking.

However, varying reports suggested that not all Al-Hussein’s colleagues were enamoured by his self-credited achievements. Reports say the First-Vice President, Hassan Bakri Salah, had major differences with Al-Hussein over policy and intelligence chiefs at Sudan National Intelligence Security Services (NISS) had also been at loggerheads with the office director.

There is also a suggestion that his presence and unilateral maverick style did not make him any friends at Sudan’s foreign ministry either. When Sudan cut ties with Iran in January 2016 and switched sides to join the Gulf States led by Saudi Arabia, Al-Hussein alerted the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, before the Sudanese foreign ministry were given the official news.

Although the exact nature of the dispute that led to his departure is not known, it appears that Sudan’s keenness to hold on to a neutral stance in the current Gulf crisis may have been the trigger to his dismissal. Sudan’s diplomatic statement following the outbreak of the crisis has been challenged by a number of opposition groups in the country including the Popular Congress Party (PCP) and the Justice for Peace Party (JFP), who are part of the coalition government but have stated in no uncertain terms that Sudan should voice its commitment to Qatar and condemn the siege on Doha.

In an open parliament session, speaker after speaker spoke in glowing terms about the Qatari government and dismissed the designation by the Gulf States that Qatar is sponsors terrorism because of its connection with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas. In a one size-fit all statement, Sudan’s Foreign Minister, Ibrahim Ghandour, said:

“We will not stand neutral and we will not take sides but we are at the heart of the issue.”

The sacking of Al-Hussein has shed some light on the careful balancing act that Khartoum is playing by adopting a stance that seeks not to alienate any of the sides to the conflict. On balance, despite the unwavering support that Qatar has given Sudan over the years – in particular in negotiating a peace deal with rebels in Darfur in July 2011, Sudan hopes that two major factors will allow it to maintain the position of neutrality for as long as the dispute remains unresolved.

Firstly, Sudan is hoping that the Gulf states will recognise and indeed respect its right to make its own foreign policy decisions understanding the careful balance it must pursue; and secondly, Khartoum is banking on the notion that the Gulf states would be unwilling to isolate Sudan for its neutrality for fear that the African nation would pack its bags and re-establish its ties with Tehran putting the military coalition in jeopardy and jettisoning lucrative agreements that would resolve the region’s dependency on importing food.

By all accounts, Al-Hussein, who is a Saudi citizen, was not permitted to leave Khartoum’s airport until internal and external mediation had taken place. Reports in the New Khaleej online news platform say that Sudan had deliberated for almost four days on the decision to fire Al-Hussein. The reports suggest that the government had monitored the calls between the office director and Saudi Arabia and the UAE and heard him confirm wrongly that Sudan would support the three Gulf state position. He was also reported to have handed over documents that allegedly show Qatar’s support for terrorism.

Al-Hussein had been in his job since 2008 and observers say his close relationship with the Gulf leaders allowed him to open doors on Sudan’s behalf. He was the reported instigator behind Sudan’s military cooperation in Yemen and the automatic choice to replace the president in Riyadh at the Arab-Islamic America conference after pressure was placed on the Sudanese president not to attend. The events leading to his dismissal may have been a combination of factors but the reported lengthy deliberation on whether he stayed or went was no doubt hinged on Sudan’s determination not to weaken its ties with any of the Gulf States and its determination to hang on to its neutrality policy.

It remains to be seen whether Sudan can maintain that stance in the next coming days and weeks given the internal pressure from those inside calling for Sudan to stand firmly behind Qatar; and in light of the external pressure from the Gulf states that might increase with the departure of Al-Hussein, Sudan’s Gulf envoy.

48 thoughts on “How Long Can Sudan Stay Neutral in the Qatar-Gulf Crisis?

  1. The Sudanese are more mature than the childish pfdj. They will take their time. But going back to pfdj, it treated Qatar really bad. As a reminder, one of Eritrea’s biggest projects, the Hirgigo power supply station was funded by the good hearted Qatar. That is just one among many development projects Qatar helped. In addition, Qatar played key role in stablization the border area with Djibouty. One way or another, Qatar has been helping Eritrea for the last 26 years. On the other hand, the savage Saudi Arabia had completely ignored Eritrea all these years. The new relation they have with Eritrea now is barely strategic to help their mission in Yemen. Once peace reigns and the mission is completed, Saudi will throw the pfdj away in favor of Ethiopia.
    Qatar didn’t deserve this from Eritrea.

    1. Your childish thinking suggests you are starved and low IQ animal from tiopia; do you think Eritrea gives a sh^t
      if Saudi sides with tiopia, ain’t the UN. AU, USA, UK…sided with you( tiopia) and you are still under state of emergency.

    2. Go fuck yourself idiot! You are not going to tell us as who helped us and for how long for you don’t have a clue what the Qataris did or did not.

      1. John “Doe” Doe · Edit

        Please stop, this backward thinking where you attack somebody because they have Another opinon then you have to stop.. Dissent needs to be allowed in every country and in Eritrea aswell. Thats why everybody is running away, the youth in Eritrea fears to say Isaias name in public let alone their opinon on certin matters. If dissent is not allowed and critical thinking how can Eritrea improve? How can we help Eritrea if we simply follow what ShabiaIsaias says or does.. And its sad that Isaias most powerful tool cant see that (The diaspora) Right now the only people who can talk badly about Isaias policies are veterans of the 61-91 war and 98-2000 war and old people.. Isaias needs to let the youth of Eritrea talk and have their say.. At the end if nothing is done Isaias will fall and be removed by Eritreas themselfs not now, but in 15-20 years and nothing improves (About the political scene in Eritrea) demands will be set and protest will begins.. Just look at Ethiopia their sick of the agame regim and they have more freedom their in Ethiopia than eritreans have in Eritrea.. Its only a matter of time, if somebody does not make Isaias see that every country needs a free media and allow dissent

        1. You are too naive. And it begins with your name. What you wrote is not politics at all. You are just running your mouth in support of the Chenawi Gov of Ethiopia.

          1. You just proved my point, thanks
            FYI My family fought with Shabia and I dont like Meles and Isaias has brainwashed you into thinking as soon as you dont agree with him I must be part of or for the tigray regim in Ethiopia.. Why cant I hate both? (I dont, I want Isaias to stay in power) Its really sad, Isaias claims that Ethiopia dont have rule of law? Really? They dont thats true but we surley dont aswell.. So when you old people in the diaspora who dont even need to feel the daily challanges the youth in Eritrea goes thru every day feel like growing up accept that the new generation of Eritreans wont simply fall flat down and let Isaias do as he whishes.. Because at the end its my cousin, my and ours family who will protect our homeland and not you or me. So why should they not have a say? Anyway no im not a supporter of the agame regim (Even tho I know you will label me as one because you are to immuture to have a disscussion with) And im in favor of Isaias staying in power because he talks about food security and the need for Eritrea to be independent.. Mark my words if he keeps the dissent illegal and no free media he will fall down just like Ghadaffi, Saddam and all the presidents before him who did not allow free media and dissent.. Plus its so much easier for the CIA, FSB, Mossad or what agency to stage a coup if you dont allow dissent or free media.. Because the popualtion needs an outlet, people need an outlet.. Look at Ethiopia the Oromos and Amhara can protest all they want but at the end the Agames are the one controlling the whole nation, So why dont Isaias accept or let people have their say.. Wont change anything he will still be president and Eritrea has never looked so bad in the eyes of the public (Begin called the North Korea of Africa which it is not) Anyways Im just glad people like you two are in the minority of the diaspora and things will change in about 5 years when the eritreans born in western countries take control of the diaspora.. This dosent mean regim change or that Isaias will leave as president this just means a independent judiciary must be set, dissent must be allowed and free media aswell.. Then in my personal opinon it would be wise for Isaias to make Eritrea a one state party which ShabiaPFDJ in power and after Isaias a commité of PFDJ puts out 5 candidates for you to vote on for president and you choose between those five.. Kinda like China has done and this will never work if dissent and free media is not allowed.. Plus this will be almost impossible for USA, Israel or the west in general to stage a coup.. But enjoy your glory days only few years left before the youth (The soldiers) take back their country if Isaias refuse to meet their demands but if he does this on his own he will secure his place (Rightfully so) as the eritrean president for as long he whises.. But sure continue to call me a follower of Meles.. Couldnt care less

        2. “Just look at Ethiopia their sick of the agame regim and they have more freedom their in Ethiopia than eritreans have in Eritrea”. Do their freedom include getting shot and murdered for protesting. I guess a state of emergency is your view of more freedom. Also you say people are leaving because they can not dissent? This whole time I thought people around the world migrated for green pastures ($money $) to send money back to family. John Does Doe, stick to your taxi job and stay out of conversations above your IQ.

          1. John “Doe” Doe · Edit

            Shabia Warriors bet you havent spent one hour in the battle field for Eritrea so I would change that name if I where you. Yes you are right they do get shot but would Isaias act any diffrent if the protest started in Massawa, Asmara or Keren? Last time we saw a type of protest in Eritrea some 2 teenagers was shot dead and one run over by a truck.. People in Eritrea leave in shock numbers, yes some are Ethiopians about 40 procent of them but that should still not happen in a country of 5-6 million and at a time of no war.. Money is a big part of what makes them leave Eritrea but not all of it and I know Deep down inside you all know it aswell.. When you go back home talk to your cousin, your Brothers the people that really live in Eritrea not the diaspora.. You go to the border to protect it which is well and good in theory but at the end if the Soldiers does not wanna fight he will not, and thats what happend with the Mengistu army their moral was shit, and they had no will so EPLF destoryed them in a matter of 15 years.. You all Think your doing Isaias a favor but your not.. Go to Eritrea talk to the people and you will se how low his support around the country has become.. And instead of trying to fix the problem you attack the one person that Thinks diffrently, call him a follower of the Meles regim honestly its shameful.. Was this not what Woldeab Woldemariam fought for?? Did he not fight to be able to talk about Eritrean independence when Haile Selassie did not want him to?? And now Isaias wants to shut down freedom of speech? Use your brain, not once have I spokewritten about the removal of Isaias or Shabia and still you say Im an Agame that is pretending to be a Eritrean.. You must be the dumbest diaspora in the World to not see what is happening inside Eritrea even Isaias is so why not you? You Think the salary raise was a coincidence when the migration problem was at its worse? You say stay out of conversations above your IQ but this one certinly is not, Eritrea is a mess where people like my cousin and yours aswell have no chance other than to be a Soldiers if they arent smart enough or score high Points enough.. Call me what you want delete my comments all you want but thats just proves my Point and there will come a time when the military itself (Mostly Young people ofcourse) will turn on Isaias
            You sit and complain about Badme, so what does the whole country stop because Ethiopia has occupied a eritrean Town illegaly.. Does the whole Ukrain force the majority of their youth to be Soldiers because Russia has occupied Crimea? No they havent so why should we? Maybe if Isaias stops putting people in prison for speaking their mind (The same thing Woldeab did and you all in here are so for it i would assume) Would allow free media then maybe Isaias would have more to pressure EU and the west in general to sanction Ethiopia until they leave Badme but you cant expect anybody to do anything if you dont litsen.. I can see this is to no use so when bullets fly in Asmara and the youth put forward their demands (Its already starting in Europé, what we saw in Holland and a matter of time until its starts in the streets of Asmara) maybe then you will stop begin so stubborn and litsen to the people of Eritrea instead of one man..
            Ps. Who are we to compare to Ethiopia, should we not strive to be better then them or any country in general.. Should we not strive to be the best nation in the World? You can now continue to kiss Isaias ass, but the youth wont.. Trust me on that

          1. John “Doe” Doe · Edit

            Again as I said Before, is Isaias any diffrent? Did not our military shoot 2 Young teenagers dead? Eritrea is a big jail where you either become a Soldier or go thru collage why is their no between? Ethiopia not feeding the majority of their people is well known and I never said that they do feed their people but you have more freedom in Ethiopia and more say about your future than in Eritrea and thats the truth.. Thats the biggest reason to escape to Ethiopia after using Ethiopia as a stepping stone to Europé.. That you keep removing my comments time and time again just proves me right and Deep down we all know Isaias is standing on his last leg but sure act as Everything is great in Eritrea and when shit hits the fan and we turn to a new Somalia or Libya then will all of you go down to fight for our country? Eritrea needs Isaias just as much Isaias needs Eritrea but if we turn a blind Eye to Everything he does and act as Isaias can do no wrong than we will only push the people of Eritrea (Mostly the youth) to the CIA or Mossad or whatever goverment that wants regim change in Eritrea.. To complain about his policy does not mean im for the agame regim in Ethiopia there a thousands of veterans who complain Daily about Isaias policies but does that mean there are a spy or followers of Meles? Ofcourse not, so again if you truly want Isaias to stay in Power then he needs to change.. The eritrean youth are not like you, they did not see what Mengistu or Haile did, they did not witness the bombing of Massawa so how do you expect them to understand? There is a new time and most kidsteenagers want to have fun, go out with friends go to bars not spend all of their time in the border.. And most importantly they need to WANT to protect our borders and not by force.. But whatever I see this as a lost cause maybe when you talk to your Brotherssisters kids and hear them out and what they want out of Life you will understand but until then you can cheer for Isaias all you want.. Wont make him stronger

          2. Ayte ” Ugumey”

            Do nor even try to, you are a Weyane crap with low self esteem, be courage enough and sat as it is rather than to entertain a childish comment as a concerned Eritrean. Eritrea belong only to Eritreans.

          3. It is not about Isaias ok!!! When you mention Eritrea I can tell you the truth ok!!! You were talking about freedom .For your information 0% freedom in Ethiopian!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ask the Amhara’s, Oromo’s Gambelas …etc they got killed almost every day !! Don’t even mention Ethiopia!! I know about Ethiopia maybe more than you do!!!

        3. Do you mean more freedom as no internet
          No festival
          No gathering
          No protesting
          No speaking
          No voting fairly
          No living inside your country
          Or is it kicking you from your lands considered democracy?

          Go visit eritrea and go vist ethiopia

          Then Compare them both

          1. John “Doe” Doe · Edit

            Hahaha please the internet was down for one week and it was for a good cause (The SAT) dont hijack that and try to make it out as they where blocking the internet to not get information out.. No need to lie and twist the truth thats what people like Seyoum Mesfin does and that Agame regim.. We Eritreans are better than that, all of what you just wrote is the same in Eritrea except the last one and the festival.. I been to Eritrea six times and the last time I saw the truth, there is nobody to challange Isaias on anything we simply litsen and follow as robots.. There´s no critical thinking but sure attack me, call me agame it just shows how weak you are and that more and more people like me in the YPFDJ are going to change a lot in Eritrea the coming 5-10 years if you like it or not..

    3. John “Doe” Doe · Edit

      True but at the end Qatar did not care for Eritrea aswell..
      Qatar never finished the hotel they had planed. + they supported terrorism in Eritrea and also helped staged a coup that would make Eritrea a islamic state (The 2013 failed coup) So at the end the better friend is Saudi Arabia.. Just because Qatar helped fund a non working Power plant does not make it Eritreas best friend

    4. LOL, in short – no logic in your thinking. There is no issue b/c Qatar and Eritrea. Period. Their diplomatic relations is still good. Qataris even handed over the Doumeira Islands to Eritrea.

      With regards to the current crisis, Eritrea position stated some of the issues raised by the Saudis (the key phrase here is, some of the issues raised) are valid. We know what those issues are, as they are now being debated publicly — such as bankrolling insidious groups and regime change elements throughout North/East Africa and Mid East. Now we learned that there were at least two coup attempts in Asmara funded by the Qataris. These are just facts we know about today. Anything else is speculation at best, TPLF propaganda at worst.

      1. Correction: apparently, the story I heard that Qatar has handed over the islands to Eritrea may not be true. MoF has issues a statement on this.

    5. LOL. Hirgigo was funded entirely by Kuwait including its four (?) year fuel supply.
      You better speak the truth else take the back seat and let the adults do the talking.

    6. Please the check the meaning of strategic and tactical then you can comment about the issue. But, you may defined the word strategic as the wey-anes understood it.

      1. Are you kidding me??Are you asking this kind of question to sentiko ?? Instead tell him to google the right google ok!!! He has IQ 63 bro!!!Sentiko/sheger addis/ Ethio/Balance/My thinking / is one person. You don’t have to waste your time to respond for this dam. Those nick name belongs to one person!

    7. I agree on that assessment but if you think about it, what does Isu has to lose at this point? He has to find ways to distract people or mobilize by creating an enemy that doesn’t exist. I’m sure, Yemane told him about UN breach clause if he does anything stupid on Djibouti. When you have people not questioning your motives, if you are following a smart policy or not, justification for all silly mistakes, you own them. GCC division has been a blessing the horn needed for a long time. God bless those in Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia for staying neutral, united in the face of GCC fighting. Let them eat each other slowly.

      1. How can you agree with his “assessment” mr woyane, when its all lies, there’s absolutely no facts in his statement.

        1. Sentiko/sheger addis/ Ethio/Balance/My thinking / is one person. You don’t have to waste your time to respond everyone. It is enough if you respond one of those nick name!

        2. You are a smart guy, at least call out a stupid foreign policy blunder when it’s done on your behalf. Qatar was there for Eritrea, fact 101. Qatar did pay to play on Eritrean land. Especially, when Arabs are aware of sanctions in place, it’s cheap buy for them and your leader will do anything to stay in power. If it’s not us, it’s Djibouti. Game well played.

          1. Please go and spew this trash to one of your countrymen like amanuel/meron/elsa or selam gual woyane. Why the hell do you even waste your time commenting here? no one wants to hear what you have to say. Go and comment 100 times a day on tegaruoffline your propaganda will pay more divined there. You will make your country men from woyane tigray to believe in their cause. Instead of coming here to talk to Eriteans who will never buy your garbage.

      2. Hello Miss Sentiko/sheger addis/ Ethio/Balance/My thinking / TPLF cadre/ I don’t know what kind of nick name you’ll get tomorrow .Anyways, Why are you here???????????/ The funny thing is ,you responding on your comment .Do you really think you going to hoax( trick) Eritreans stupid dam!!! This is for you! “የብዙዎቹ ምናልባትም የሁሉም በሽታዎቻችን መሠረቱ ድህነትና ማጣት ናቸው፡፡ የገንዘብ ድህነትን በማግኘት ይላቀቁታል፤ የአስተሳሰብን ድህነት ግን በምን ይገላገሉታል? ችግር ነው፡፡ First of all don’t google to much get fact ok!!! Before answer this question go and feed those kids dam…………………….

        Don’t for get !!! I’m After you !!!

          1. you”re better off praying for the boy above with the flies stuck to his face, for yourself as well as the 15 million Ethiopians still needing food assistance today in 2017…..btw, how’s that rocket/space program in agameland progressing ? Ready to shoot off to space yet ?

          2. hey phi Lax ,Are you kidding me??Are you asking this kind of question to sentiko ?? Sentiko/sheger addis/ Ethio/Balance/My thinking / He is a TPLF Agent with IQ 63!!! He is pathological liar. He lives in a fantasy world where everything said felt false or exaggerated.

          3. Kkkkkkkkkk Hello Miss Sentiko/sheger addis/ Ethio/Balance/ TPLF cadre/ I don’t know what kind of nick name you’ll get tomorrow. You are pathological liar. You live in a fantasy world where everything said felt false !!! ለዚህም ነው የምቀኝነትና መሰል የክፋት መድብሎች ዋሻ ሆነህ የቀረክው፡፡ “

    8. Where is your proof qatar funded our power plant? You should verify your information before shooting your mouth off woyane.

      1. This is one person he is commenting and then he replays his own comment!! He has many nick name so far those are his nick names!!!! Sentiko/sheger addis/ Ethio/Balance/My thinking / TPLF Agent!!! He is in TN website 24/7 more than the admin does.

    9. Why do you lie is it in your veins to keep lying

      Hirghigo power plant was funded by UAE,ksa not qatar

      2nd Uae developed port assab

      3rd UAE has a military base inside eritrea

      4th Qatar supported eritrean,egyptians,saudis,bahrain etc rebels during the last 7 years secretly it was found by the head of intelligence of Qatar he have this information to saudi newspaper

      5th Qatar has meditation in djibouti-eritrean dispute was worthless no progress just peace

      6th aljazeera Qatar tool as propoganda against eritrea

      So i hope to show you that qatar was only a double faced country

      Juss like you agame people double faced

      But anyhow eritrea didnt cut its ties with Qatar

      1. Sentiko/sheger addis/ Ethio/Balance/My thinking / He is a TPLF Agent with IQ 63!!! Because He is pathological liar. He lives in a fantasy world where everything said felt false or exaggerated.

    10. @My thinking,
      You said “But going back to pfdj, it treated Qatar really bad.”
      How did PFDJ treated Qatar really bad? Explain please.

      1. Really?? Are you kidding me?? Are you expecting any answer from sentiko ?? Sentiko/sheger addis/ Ethio/Balance/My thinking / He is a TPLF Agent with IQ 63!!! Because He is pathological liar. He lives in a fantasy world where everything said felt false !!!

        1. Hi

          Sentiko has officially degraded his IQ lately, he was eating three times a day donkey meat at Korshe, that has caused his IQ became only 60 thereby all Weyane zombies have qualified for this prestigious status.

      2. Brother
        Ayte ” my thinking” has no time to explain himself he is spending his time at Korshe, he promised the old Chiwawa that he will fulfill the age old promise “Three meal day”

    11. You talk which you do not know. Hirgigo did not funded by Qatar. Please, try to learn before you speaking none sense here.

  2. The problem I have with the Sudanese is that do they have a consistent policy? I love the Sudanese people, they are kind and amicable. But, if one examines the history of their regimes, sadly there is a lack of consistency and principle in their dealings with neighboring countries.

    1. Lol. Sure, Eritrea is consistent. It consistently find enemies in the Horn of Africa as well as Arab countries, oh I forgot, US, EU, UN is also after that tiny country. I’m surprised Isu didn’t pick a fight with God himself at this point. If you did have principle, Qatar, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Yemen, Sudan would have been by your side. Shameless people.

  3. AU is Useless!!! they are symbol. They never ever solv any single issue. Just sit in Ethiopia and get paid that is all they do. It is irrelevant organization.

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