December 19, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – The United States has attempted to stop Sudan being used as a transit for Iranian arms en route to the Islamist Palestinian Hamas movement via Egypt, according to leaked documents from US embassies.
- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Sudan’s President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir (Isam Al-Haj/AFP/Getty Images)
US State department cables, released by the WikiLeaks whistle blowing website, show that in January 2009 Sudan was warned by the US not to allow the delivery of Iranian weapons that the US suspected were bound for the Gaza strip.
In another leaked US diplomatic cable in April 2009 the US embassy in Cairo said Egyptian Interior Minister Habib el-Adli was behind "steps to disrupt the flow of Iranian-supplied arms from Sudan through Egypt to Gaza."
The January 2009 cable sent by US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, asked the US embassy in Khartoum to stress to Sudan that ‘the United States considers this activity exceptionally concerning, particularly as our two countries are working together towards critical issues of UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) deployment, resolution of the situation in Darfur, and implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).’
Sent by on 22 January 2009, the diplomatic cable asked Sudan, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Yemen through US the embassies in the countries to region to implement measures to stop Iranian weapons passing through or over their territory by plane. It went on to say that the US had information that cargo flights were operating between Iran and Sudan.
Embassies potentially on the transit route were ‘requested to immediately approach host governments to inform them of the flights and request their assistance to stop the flights, in Sudan’s case, or deny overflight or require the planes to land for inspection.’
Further, US embassy’s, in the region were asked to emphasize to their host governments ‘that UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1747, paragraph 5, states Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly any arms of related materiel, whether or not originating in Iran.’
According to the leaked document Sudan’s foreign minister Deng Alor told US diplomats ‘that he strongly supported stopping these flights. Alor, is a member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement the coalition partner of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party as part of a 2005 peace deal.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement meant that the former southern rebels have shared power with the NCP for the last six years in a Government of National Unity before the south votes on secession in January 2011.
The cable said that US appreciated, ‘Alor’s concern regarding these flights’, who has been undermined by the NCP in the past. Comments he has made of the Darfur conflict were censored by security services in 2008 and the NCP threatened to investigate him after he spoke about the on the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Sudan’s President, and leader of the NCP Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, for alleged war crimes and genocide in Darfur.
Despite Alor’s statement that he supported stopping the flights the NCP has denied that any shipment of weapons is allowed to take place across its territory.
Citing UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1747, the US cable requested the Sudanese government as well as UAE, Yemen, Oman and Saudi Arabia to ‘deny overflight permission for these flights or request that the aircraft land for inspection as a condition for overflight permission.’
In January 2009 American officials said that Israel bombed a convoy of trucks in eastern Sudan in that was believed to be carrying Iranian arms to be smuggled into Gaza.
Israeli officials have refused to confirm or deny the attack but the New York Times reported ‘that American officials said the airstrike took place as Israel sought to stop the flow of weapons to Gaza during the weeks it was fighting a war with Hamas there.’
American intelligence reports said that ‘that an operative with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps had gone to Sudan to coordinate the effort’ the newspaper reported.
On Wednesday Reuters reported that arms from Sudan continue to arrive in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on their way to Hamas on the Gaza strip with a Bedouin tribesman showing Reuters 80 Kalashnikovs that had “just arrived from Sudan”.
‘Arms smuggling by Bedouin tribal networks, mainly by land along Egypt ’s southern border with Sudan , across the Sinai peninsula and into the Hamas-run Gaza Strip is on the uptick,’ an Egyptian official who did not want to be named told Reuters.
The weapons are taken across the Sinai desert and smuggled into Gaza through a network of tunnels according to a military analyst quoted by Reuters. Hamas have controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007. Israel has frequently complained about Egypt’s failure to stop the arms transfers.