The National Islamic Front/National Congress Party and International Terrorism: A long, grim history
All evidence suggests that the Trump administration State Department is in the process of removing Sudan from the Department’s annual list of “State Sponsors Terrorism.” Sudan was designated as such by the Clinton administration in 1993, and subsequent history reveals a long and deep involvement in terrorist activity by Khartoum’s National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime, which came to power by military coup in June 1989 and has remained essentially unchanged in character and ambition.
Pressure for removing Sudan from the list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism” has been building since the early years of the Obama administration, which in its last week began the process of lifting U.S. economic sanctions from the regime, a process the was completed by the Trump administration in October 2017, under heavy pressure from the U.S. intelligence community, which wants to establish a strong counter-terrorism relationship with the regime and utilize the vast new U.S. embassy in Khartoum as a listening post for northern Africa.
Past evidence of the Khartoum regime’s strong support for international terrorism, however, particularly Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, argues for a delay in any decision about removing Sudan from the list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism”: the history is too long, too deep, and reflects the decisions and actions of ruthless men who continue to wage genocidal counter-insurgencies in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile. The present overview of that history—with an extensive accompanying COMPENDIUM of documents, dispatches, reports, and other relevant evidence (see | https://wp.me/p45rOG-2aU/)—makes clear just how premature it is to certify that Khartoum is no longer a “State Sponsor of Terrorism.”
Sometime before May 2018 the U.S. State Department will decide whether to keep Sudan on the very short list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism” (the others are Syria, Iran, and North Korea). Given the evidence provided by the actions and statements of the Obama administration, and the Trump administration to date, this decision has essentially been made. The most recent State Department report on international terrorism (July 2017) under its “Sudan” heading has no criticisms of Sudan’s performance according to the relevant standards and criteria. Given the long history of the current National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime supporting terrorism and radical Islam, it requires a leap of extraordinary faith to believe that the men who have controlled this regime for 28 years have completely reformed themselves and their priorities. Indeed, the expedient changes that were made in order to secure a lifting of U.S. economic sanctions (finalized in October 2017) have been partial and already reneged upon in significant ways, especially with respect to humanitarian access issues in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile.
The U.S. decision concerning Sudan’s place on the State Department list must be understood as driven not by State Department thoughts about the most effectively balanced policy toward the Khartoum regime, but rather by the U.S. intelligence community, whose thinking has long been defined almost entirely by highly problematic assumptions about the value of “cooperation” in counter-terrorism efforts by the NIF/NCP regime. The Los Angeles Times (2005) and The Washington Post (2010) have reported compellingly on this dishonest tendency (see “Year 2005” in the COMPENDIUM | https://wp.me/p45rOG-2aU/). The regime has been heavily involved in terrorist activities since June 1989, when it came to power by military coup and whose leadership is essentially unchanged. The National Islamic Front, an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, was and is dominated by the same cabal of military and security officials that ascended when Lt.-General (later Field Marshal) Omar al-Bashir emerged as “president” of the regime.
To be sure, there has been an ebb and flow in the power and fates of various men within the regime (and only men have power in the regime): currently there is a distinctly more militaristic quality to the regime than at times when non-military officials exercised considerable power (e.g., Ghazi Salah el-Din and Nafie Ali Nafie). The second most powerful man in the regime currently is Vice-President (and Prime Minister as of March 2017) Lt.-General Bakri Hassan Saleh, who formerly led the regime’s notorious security services.
There are good reasons to doubt the wisdom of lifting the State Department designation of Sudan as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism,” and not only for historical reasons, although these are many. The regime remains deeply committed to Islamizing and Arabizing projects in Sudan, the region, and internationally; support for radical, militant Islam is longstanding and retains strong ideological commitment from many in the regime. The Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen were originally backed by Khartoum until economic realities compelled an orientation away from Iran and toward arch-rival Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.
The regime has boasted (if unwittingly) of its recent support for the radical Islamic forces of Libya Dawn in that fractured country. From 1992 – 1996 the regime hosted Osama bin Laden, critical years in the formation of al-Qaeda. U.S. federal courts have found the Khartoum regime complicit in the deadly 1998 embassy bombings in Nairobi (Kenya) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden Harbor, Yemen. For many years, Khartoum actively supported the manically brutal Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda as a way of preventing President Museveni from assisting the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in its long war with Khartoum over self-determination (1983 – 2005). The regime was deeply complicit in, if not directly responsible for the 1995 assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The list goes on and on; the COMPENDIUM [ https://wp.me/p45rOG-2aU ] to this analysis provides a lengthy overview of documents and materials relevant to understanding fully the extent of this regime’s support for international terrorism. But given the value the U.S. intelligence community places on the NIF/NCP regime’s cooperation in providing counter-terrorism intelligence, we may be sure that once removed from the State Department’s list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” it will not be placed back.
The regime is essentiually unchanged in character: those with power are largely the same, and their determination to exert that power in support of radical Islam is conspicuous, most especially in minutes leaked from an extraordinary meeting of the most senior military and security officials on August 31, 2014 (see below). Sudan has deserved its place on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism for many, many years; it would be nothing if not precipitous to remove the Khartoum regime from the list given past and recent history, and after such a relatively short period of putative “good behavior.” If we want a measure of how barbarically indifferent to human destruction and suffering this regime is, we have only to look at its ongoing genocidal campaign in Darfur and its brutal, also finally genocidal assault on the people of the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan, as well as large African populations in Blue Nile.
Sudan and Terrorism, a Brief History:
June 1989: The National Islamic Front, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, came to power in Sudan during a military coup; Lt.-General Omar al-Bashir emerged as president, but depended on a powerful cohort of radical Islamists and Arabists.
1992 – 1996: Most notoriously, in a move orchestrated by immensely powerful Islamic ideologue Hassan al-Turabi, Khartoum hosted Osama bin Laden from 1992 – 1996, the formative years for al-Qaeda. While the circumstances of bin Laden’s decamping from Sudan to Afghanistan remain controversial, what is not controversial are the very substantial ties he maintained with the Khartoum regime, and the regime’s active support for al-Qaeda, including fund-raising and providing diplomatic cover to al-Qaeda operatives (see the detailed COMPENDIUM of historical data and report | https://wp.me/p45rOG-2aU/).
A host of serious terrorists attacks can be traced back to Khartoum in one way or another:
1993: attack on the World Trade Center in New York City was carried out by a number of men, led by mastermind Ramzi Yousef, who received training from the rapidly growing and well-financed al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
1993: The Clinton administration designated Sudan as a “state sponsor of terrorism.”
1995: Khartoum regime officials were behind the assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) (again, see the detailed account early in the COMPENDIUM of historical data and reports | https://wp.me/p45rOG-2aU/).
1997: The Clinton administration imposes comprehensive trade and economic sanctions on the Khartoum regime (still at this point the National Islamic Front regime) because of support for international terrorism and gross domestic human rights abuses—abuses that continue to this day.
1998: al-Qaeda carried out bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi (Kenya) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania); in December 2011 a U.S. federal district judge ruled that the governments of Sudan and Iran should be held liable for monetary damages to victims of the embassy bombings.
1998: the Clinton administration ordered an attack on the al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory as the site of chemical weapons manufacture and because of Khartoum’s ongoing support for international terrorism; although al-Shifa proved not to be the site of chemical weapons manufacture, the Khartoum regime has innfact used chemical weapons on a number of occasions, most recently during the Jebel Marra (Central Darfur) offensive of 2016.
2000 – 2016: Chemical weapons use by Khartoum’s forces during the 2016 Jebel Marra offensive was authoritatively established by Amnesty International (September 2016). Early authoritative reports on chemical weapons use by the regime include Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)/Switzerland (2000): (See below and also the COMPENDIUM [ https://wp.me/p45rOG-2aU / ] for more evidence of the Khartoum regime’s use and distribution of chemical weapons, including from a [leaked] U.S. State Department cable, December 2006).
The use of chemical weapons, particularly against civilians (as has been the case in Sudan), inevitably constitutes war crimes and/or crimes against humanity under the Rome Treaty that is the statutory basis for the International Criminal Court. Notably, several senior members of the Khartoum regime have been served arrest warrants; in the case of President Omar al-Bashir, these warrants include multiple charges of genocide and massive crimes against humanity.
October 2000: an al-Qaeda attack on the USS Cole in Aden Harbor (Yemen) killed 17 American sailors and wounded 39; in March 2007 a U.S federal district court judge held that, “There is substantial evidence in this case presented by the expert testimony that the government of Sudan induced the particular bombing of the Cole by virtue of prior actions of the government of Sudan.” (New York Times, March 15, 2007)
September 11, 2001: The horrific terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City put the Khartoum regime in a precarious situation, given its ongoing support for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Although condemning the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, the regime would simply move more quietly and secretly in its ongoing support for terrorism. Iran would become an increasingly important partner, particularly in attacks against Israel by means of support for Hamas and others (see below).
A wide range of reporting in the wake of 9/11 established extensive financial connections between al-Qaeda and the Khartoum regime, as well as fund-raising efforts and diplomatic assistance to al-Qaeda by the regime. (See COMPENDIUM | https://wp.me/p45rOG-2aU/.)
1990s – 2005: Khartoum offered substantial support to the terrorist organization the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) as a means of preventing President Museveni of Ugandafrom assisting more aggressively South Sudan’s Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army.
2006: A U.S. State Department cable of December 28, 2006 (leaked by “Wikileaks”) indicates that a number of Sudanese entities had engaged in activities with Syria and Iranthat violated the U.S. “Iran and Syria Nonproliferation Act,” which prohibits transfer to or acquisition from these two countries of:
“Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), and the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) or other items with the potential to make a material contribution to missile, WMD, or certain other weapons programs.” The cable notes that, “The U.S. Government has determined that [Sudan’s] Al Zarga Optical and Electronics Company, Giad Industrial Complex, and Yarmouk Industrial Complex have engaged in activities, as noted above, that warrant the imposition of measures pursuant to Section 3 of the ISNA.”
(All emphases in all quoted texts have been added—ER. Full text of the cable as well as a photographic scan contained in COMPENDIUM | https://wp.me/p45rOG-2aU/ ).
2007: The annual State Department report on “State Sponsors of Terrorism” (published April 2008) notes: