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Iran's Close Ally, Al-Bashir Imprisoned As Sudan's Army Seizes Power

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meeting with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Tehran, 26Jun2011

With a coup in Sudan, the Islamic republic lost one of its erstwhile allies in the Muslim world on Thursday, April 11.

Sudan's army announced it has seized power after months of protest demonstrations in that country. The army also broke the news of Omar al-Bashir's arrest on Thursday.

The Sudanese army also announced that it will hold political power in the country for two years.

In the meantime, Sudan's Defense Minister Awad Ibn Ouf said Thursday afternoon that Bashir "has been imprisoned at a safe place."

He added that Sudan's Constitutional Law has been suspended and a military junta will be in charge for two years, before an election will be held.

General Awad Ibn Ouf also announced that the Sudanese airspace will be closed to air traffic for 24 hours and all borders will be closed until further notice. Meanwhile, he called for an end to protests all over Sudan.

The developments occurred after Sudan's television this morning called on the people to wait for "an important announcement by the army."

Earlier AP had quoted two state officials in Sudan as saying that Bashir has stepped down under pressure from the army after 30 years in power. Other reports said a number of other officials were arrested.

Omar al-Bashir (R) meets with Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani in Khartoum, 06Mar2009
Omar al-Bashir (R) meets with Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani in Khartoum, 06Mar2009

Security officials say all political prisoners in Sudan have been freed and the people in the streets have been seen chanting slogans about their victory and Bashir's downfall. The people had staged a sit-in Khartoum for the sixth consecutive day on Thursday. In the meantime, at least 22 were killed in clashes between the police and demonstrators demanding Bashir's resignation.

Omar al-Bashir, who has been convicted for crimes against humanity at the international tribunals, was an ally of Iran and its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Bashir travelled to Iran on several occasions and was treated as a valued guest and ally by Khamenei and other Iranian officials.

Following his conviction in 2008, Iran's Majles (parliament) Speaker Ali Larijani went to Sudan and assured Bashir of "the Islamic Republic's wholehearted support" for him.

At the same time, Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki at the time expressed the Islamic Republic's official support for Bashir and his government.

Bashir and former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi were two of the Islamic Republic's closest allies in the past three decades.

In 1990s there were reports of military collaboration between the two countries, when Iran allegedly financed weapons for Sudan and dispatched Revolutionary Guards to support Sudan’s military. Sudan in return offered naval facilities to Iran.

But the war with South Sudan and its eventual independence in 2011 exhausted Sudan economically as it lost its oil wealth, located in territories that gained independence.

This put enormous pressure on Bashir at a time when Iran itself was in economic trouble by sanctions and the war in Syria, and in no shape to assist Khartoum.

The close Iranian-Sudanese ties were greatly affected in 2015 when Bashir, under economic pressure, was forced to turn to Saudi Arabia, turning his back on Iran and expelling all Iranian entities from his country. Sudan even joined the Saudi campaign in Yemen against Houthi rebels.

Sudan is yet another example of the Islamic Republic’s wrong foreign policy choices. Another example is Venezuela. Constantly perpetuating tensions and conflicts with the West and its neighbors, Tehran corners itself into friendships with dictators and strongmen.

Iranian officials have not reacted to the development as of late April 11.