Egypt Vs. Sudan?

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Talks are stalled over how to deal with the impact of a $5 billion dam that could threaten Egypt’s lifeblood.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, currently under construction, on May 15, 2016. (DigitalGlobe via Getty Images)

A diplomatic spat between Egypt and Sudan is spilling over into the long-running dispute over a dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile River, which Cairo sees as an existential threat.

On Thursday, Sudan officially warned of threats to its eastern border from massing Egyptian and Eritrean troops, while Egypt has also moved into a disputed triangle of territory claimed by both Cairo and Khartoum. Late last week, Sudan abruptly recalled its ambassador to Egypt, the latest chapter in a fight that started last summer with trade boycotts and that has only intensified in recent weeks.

At heart, the bad blood is part of a broader regional conflict pitting Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other countries against what they see as Turkey’s meddling in the region. Ankara has supported Qatar in its diplomatic battle with other Gulf States, and it is now jumping squarely into the Red Sea, making Egypt increasingly nervous. Cairo was particularly incensed when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Sudan in December 2017 and won rights to Suakin Island, a port city on the Red Sea, raising concerns that Ankara could build a military base there.

That diplomatic dustup is making it much harder to deal with another potentially explosive problem in the relationship: Sudan’s support for Ethiopia’s construction of a massive $5 billion dam on the Nile River that could choke off vital supplies of water downstream. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called the dam a matter of “life or death.”

All the regional rivalries around the Red Sea are intertwined, said Kelsey Lilley, associate director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, “but the dam itself is a big irritant among the three countries.”

And while the three countries have butted heads over the dam for years, the feud between Egypt and Sudan is escalating quickly.

“The tensions are significant and real and higher than they’ve been,” said Steven Cook, a North Africa and Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Things are starting to come to a head.”

The broader dispute has cemented a freeze in talks between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia on how to manage the impact of the dam, even as the clock is ticking. The dam is more than 60 percent complete, and Ethiopia could start to fill the reservoir as soon as this summer, leaving little time to find workable solutions.

“This should act as a political wake-up call for immediate action for joint decision-making on the filling issue, because 2019 will be a critical year,” said Dr. Ana Cascão, an expert on Nile hydropolitics, who has written extensively about the dam.

A dam at the head of the Blue Nile in the Ethiopian highlands has been a dream since the 1960s. But it was only in 2011 — when Egypt was rocked by the Arab Spring and facing domestic upheaval — that Ethiopia unilaterally decided to start work on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the biggest hydroelectric project in Africa.

Ever since, Egypt has been terrified of the potential impacts. The dam, a huge power project at the head of the Blue Nile meant to meet fast-growing Ethiopia’s need for more electricity, will hold a year’s worth of river flow behind its concrete walls. Depending on how quickly Ethiopia fills the dam, downstream flows to Egypt could be restricted — a potentially fatal threat for a country dependent on agriculture that is already facing severe water shortages.

Sudan’s president accompanies UAE’s rulers to defense show

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Fighter jets screaming overhead and theatrical explosions marked the opening of an arms show Sunday in Abu Dhabi, as a bullet-scarred Emirati armored personnel carrier served as a reminder of the country’s ongoing military campaign in Yemen.

The Emirates announced over $1.2 billion in arms deals at the opening of the biennial International Defense Exhibition and Conference, known by the acronym IDEX. It and other Gulf nations, buoyed by rising oil prices and suspicious of nearby Iran, are likely to spend even more in the weeks and months ahead.

“The need for new equipment for modernized systems is still there and it is increasing,” said Charles Forrester, a senior defense industry analyst at IHS Jane’s. “Countries are beginning to deploy their own operations in … Iraq and Yemen and so they need to find ways to deploy and protect their people, as well as achieve their missions.”

Two of the UAE’s most-powerful rulers, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, attended the event Sunday. During the military demonstration, they flanked Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the world’s the only sitting head of state facing genocide charges at the International Criminal Court.

Al-Bashir attended the 2015 IDEX arms show, but this year’s trip comes after U.S. President Barack Obama issued an executive order in the waning days of his administration to permanently revoke a broad range of American sanctions on Sudan after a six-month waiting period.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who was also in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, was not seen at the demonstration. Brig. Gen. Rashid al-Shamsi, an IDEX spokesman, said he didn’t know if Mattis attended.

Al-Shamsi announced over $1.2 billion in deals, the lion’s share coming from the $544 million purchase of 400 armored personnel carriers from a local manufacturer. Raytheon Co., based in Waltham, Massachusetts, announced a deal with the UAE navy for missiles to arm its Baynunah-class corvettes.

Many of the other contracts dealt with resupplying ammunition for the UAE, which is taking part in the Saudi-led campaign against Shiite rebels and their allies in Yemen. The war, which has killed over 10,000 civilians, began in September 2014, and the Gulf Arab nations entered the conflict in March 2015. It shows no signs of ending soon.

Iran remains a worry for Gulf Arab nations after world powers agreed to lift sanctions in return for Tehran curbing its nuclear program.

“In Yemen, … it’s a conventional war, of course, but it is one where you have to deal with armored vehicles and airpower as well,” Forrester said. “With the Iranian threat, it is the case of missile defense systems, radars to help track these situations.”


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United States to Lift Sudan Sanctions

United Nations peacekeepers at a refugee camp in Sudan on Monday. In exchange for the lifting of United States trade sanctions, Sudan has said it will improve access for aid groups, stop supporting rebels in neighboring South Sudan and cooperate with American intelligence agents.



LONDON — After nearly 20 years of hostile relations, the American government plans to reverse its position on Sudan and lift trade sanctions, Obama administration officials said late Thursday.

Sudan is one of the poorest, most isolated and most violent countries in Africa, and for years the United States has imposed punitive measures against it in a largely unsuccessful attempt to get the Sudanese government to stop killing its own people.

On Friday, the Obama administration will announce a new Sudan strategy. For the first time since the 1990s, the nation will be able to trade extensively with the United States, allowing it to buy goods like tractors and spare parts and attract much-needed investment in its collapsing economy.

In return, Sudan will improve access for aid groups, stop supporting rebels in neighboring South Sudan, cease the bombing of insurgent territory and cooperate with American intelligence agents.

American officials said Sudan had already shown important progress on a number of these fronts. But to make sure the progress continues, the executive order that President Obama plans to sign on Friday, days before leaving office, will have a six-month review period. If Sudan fails to live up to its commitments, the embargo can be reinstated.

Analysts said good relations with Sudan could strengthen moderate voices within the country and give the Sudanese government incentives to refrain from the brutal tactics that have defined it for decades.

In 1997, President Bill Clinton imposed a comprehensive trade embargo against Sudan and blocked the assets of the Sudanese government, which was suspected of sponsoring international terrorism. In the mid-1990s, Osama bin Laden lived in Khartoum, the capital, as a guest of Sudan’s government.

In 1998, Bin Laden’s agents blew up the United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing more than 200 people. In retaliation, Mr. Clinton ordered a cruise missile strike against a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum.

Since then, American-Sudanese relations have steadily soured. The conflict in Darfur, a vast desert region of western Sudan, was a low point. After rebels in Darfur staged an uprising in 2003, Sudanese security services and their militia allies slaughtered tens of thousands of civilians, leading to condemnation around the world, genocide charges at the International Criminal Court against Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, and a new round of American sanctions.

American officials said Thursday that the American demand that Mr. Bashir be held accountable had not changed. Neither has Sudan’s status as one of the few countries, along with Iran and Syria, that remain on the American government’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Sales of military equipment will still be prohibited, and some Sudanese militia and rebel leaders will still face sanctions.

But the Obama administration is clearly trying to open a door to Sudan. There is intense discontent across the country, and its economy is imploding. American officials have argued for years that it was time to help Sudan dig itself out of the hole it had created.

Officials divulged Thursday that the Sudanese government had allowed two visits by American operatives to a restricted border area near Libya, which they cited as evidence of a new spirit of cooperation on counterterrorism efforts.

In addition to continuing violence in Darfur, several other serious conflicts are raging in southern and central Sudan, along with a civil war in newly independent South Sudan, which Sudan has been suspected of inflaming with covert arms shipments.

Eric Reeves, one of the leading American academic voices on Sudan, said he was “appalled” that the American government was lifting sanctions.

He said that Sudan’s military-dominated government continued to commit grave human rights abuses and atrocities, and he noted that just last week Sudanese security services killed more than 10 civilians in Darfur.

“There is no reason to believe the guys in charge have changed their stripes,” said Mr. Reeves, a senior fellow at the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University. “These guys are the worst of the worst.”

Obama administration officials said that they had briefed President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition team, but that they did not know if Mr. Trump would stick with a policy of warmer relations with Sudan.

They said that Sudan had a long way to go in terms of respecting human rights, but that better relations could help increase American leverage.

Mr. Reeves said he thought that the American government was being manipulated and that the Obama administration had made a “deal with the devil.”

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Uganda troops begin South Sudan pull-out: official

Juba (AFP) – Uganda’s army has begun its pull-out from neighbouring South Sudan, in line with a peace deal aimed at ending nearly two years of civil war, an official said Tuesday. Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni deployed troops to South Sudan in support of President Salva Kiir, who is fighting rebels led by former deputy

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South Sudan Rebel Leader Says August’s Peace Accord at Risk

By William Davison , Bloomberg South Sudan President Salva Kiir’s move to dissolve the ruling party’s leadership and expand the number of regional administrations risks derailing a power-sharing deal aimed at ending almost two years of conflict, rebel leader Riek Machar said. African mediators need to meet both parties to discuss issues blocking the peace

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