The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged Sudan
Sudan claims to have foiled coup, but arrests expose growing Islamist dissent

Last week, Sudanese security forces arrested the country’s ex-spymaster Salah Ghosh and at least a dozen other people, including high-ranking military officers, on charges of attempting a coup against President Omar al-Bashir. Little information has been made available regarding the alleged plotters, but according to AFP, state media also announced that “[t]his plot is led by some opposition party leaders.” 

The arrests came a few days after President Bashir returned from a “minor” operation in Saudi Arabia — one of the few places he can travel with fear of being turned over to the ICC to stand trial for war crimes — and oversaw the appointment of one of his main parliamentary boosters as secretary-general of the nation’s Islamic Movement organization, which Bashir and his cohorts created in 1999 after falling out with the cleric Hassan al-Turabi, who in the 1980s and 1990s led the Islamist organization that helped the current regime seize power. The new appointment was strongly criticized by al-Turabi, who is now the leader of the opposition calling for Bashir to step down, and has been described in Sudanese press commentaries as a defeat for “reformists,” since it further weds the organization to the president’s own political party, the NCP. Alex Thurston notes that the political battle at the Islamists’ national conference may not have been a precipitant for the arrest of the accused plotters and other individuals, According to Thurston, “[t]he combination of military defections and Islamist dissent (and of course there is overlap between military and Islamist ranks) poses a major problem for a regime that has relied on these constituencies as pillars of its support.”

If this was a coup by dissatisfied elements of Bashir’s military/intelligence inner circle, it bears out the worst-case scenario(s) alluded to in Reuters’ and the ICG’s November special reports on Khartoum’s precarious control over the factions the regime feels it must placate to avoid being deposed by an increasingly disappointed and impoverished populace. When students and state employees have come out into the streets this this past year to protest government austerity measures, Bashir has dismissed them as “elbow-lickers,” and his security forces have cracked down on them, reportedly spiriting dozens away to be tortured in “ghost houses.” 

As an (optimistic) accounting of the “coup” in Al Quds Al-Arabi opines that “regardless of the validity of the charge against the officers of the detainees, this confrontation may have brought the internal crisis in the system to the point of no return” because “there are even signs that the important components in the security sector in turn has withdrawn its support for the regime and sided with the reform camp.”

This would be extremely dangerous to Bashir’s rule because a significant part of the criticism leveled at Bashir from his fellow Islamists stems from the 2005 ceasefire and 2011 independence of South Sudan from the north.  Since then, although Sudan and South Sudan “signed several agreements paving the way for resuming vital oil exports and creating a demilitarized zone along their contested, oil-rich border” in September 2012, South Sudan says Khartoum is delaying the implementation of the agreements because it now has “additional demands on security issues that go far beyond the scope of the 27th September agreements.”

Those “issues” are, according to the Sudan Tribune, Khartoum demanding that South Sudan oversee the disarmament of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – Army North (SPLM/A-N), which is fighting an insurgency against the Sudanese Army in several provinces bordering the new South Sudanese state, provinces which have been absolutely devastated by the ongoing conflict, in which thousands of civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands more made refugees.

Sudan denies there is a humanitarian crisis, of course, yet still does its best to bar aid and outsiders from entering the region as it carries out military operations. Bashir’s government is not going through with the mich-needed September agreement because it claims that the SPLM/A-N gets its marching orders from Juba, and there is some truth in this charge.

South Sudan says it has no control over the SPLM/A-N, and this is also partly true because even if it is a kind of “stay-behind” organization, as Khartoum charges, like all “stay-behind” organization the SPLM/A-N has its own parochial interests to consider – Khartoum having been quite clear it is willing to pay a high price in civilian lives to secure this region, one of its few remaining oil sources. Moreover, Juba has enough problems trying to disarm militias within its own borders.

Leaving the military matters aside for now, though, there are still sufficient non-South Sudan-related grievances to hound Bashir. According to Reuters:

Perhaps the biggest threat facing Bashir comes from inside his party. The movement that seized power in 1989 in a burst of religious fervor has atrophied. Younger and mid-level officials are angry that the same people have been running the country for more than two decades. Many educated officials are unhappy because Sudan’s isolation curbs their career prospects.

And, from the ICG:

The NCP is in a state of confusion, extensively fractured and with no coherent strategy for addressing multiple security, political and economic challenges. Members are deeply unhappy with the leadership, its policies and massive corruption. Discontent is rising, and local chapters are increasingly challenging decisions, as well as the party’s  general orientation. Internal divisions are spilling into the  open in the form of critical memorandums and calls for reform. Different parts of the NCP – right-wing factions in the youth movement, the parliamentary bloc, the army and the student movement – have independently sent written protests to the leadership. Both enters and the ICG also note that Bashir is earning a reputation as a less-than-sincere Islamist among hardliners in the clerical establishment, such as those who helped organize the anti-Western protests this fall that saw the German embassy in Khartoum assaulted and gutted by fire over the film “Innocence of Muslims.” 

Bashir may believe he can dismiss the “elbow-lickers” – his security services moved quickly to cow them of stating any repeat mass demonstrations – and rely on old men like his Islamic Movement secretary-general appointee to hold the Young Turks in line, but given how he rose to power, he cannot be so dismissive of such dissenters as his former spymaster Ghosh and ex-special forces men known as the “Al Sa’ihun” who had been deployed in the conflict with the SPLA up until 2005.

And unfortunately for the two Sudans, if there is one undertaking Bashir can score points on despite the fuel shortages, “ghost houses” and arrests, it is upping the ante on the southern border.

Arrests, demonstrations in Sudan will coincide with coup anniversary

Amnesty International reports that ahead of a new round of protests against the government in Khartoum, activist Magdi Aqasha, the head of Sharara (Youth for Change), was arrested on the pretext of causing a traffic accident. Sudanese security agents, who used the accident as a pretext to take him in before Friday’s demonstrations begun, were reportedly tailing Aqasha.

Additionally, internet users in Sudan reported that Zain Mobile, one of Sudan’s largest cell phone provides, went down for two hours early on Friday morning, though state-owned media and other private outlets were apparently not affected. Though Zain Sudan’s services are now functioning, the blackout – and the censure of the Arabic-language news outlet Hurriyat Sudan plus three independent dailies – unnerved Sudanese activists and reporters, who expect the next few days to see further crackdowns on demonstrators protesting government austerity measures. There are also rumors that classes at the University of Khartoum and other schools will again be suspended, as they were last winter, as a result of the protests.

The crackdowns have been going on since June 16th, when students from the University of Khartoum took to the streets, supported by opposition parliamentarians in the Sudanese legislature. Protests have now spread across the country. Any demonstrations held on June 30th are expected to draw a large security presence because it is the anniversary of the coup that overthrew the government of PM Sadiq al-Mahdi. Sudan’s leader, then-Brigadier General Omar al-Bashir, led the coup and then appointed himself President in 1993. He has threatened the protestors with draconian measures if they do not disperse, and the students who have led the protests have reportedly been attacked by pro-regime gangs as well. Human Rights Watch estimates that around 100 demonstrators are still being held without charge after hundreds were arrested over the course of the week and released. Student leaders and journalists[1] have been particularly suspect by the security forces. Sudanese journalist Moez Ali tweets that Ahmed Ibrahim Mohammed, Secretary-General of the UMST (University Of Medical Sciences and Technology) Graduates Union was recently arrested, as was “citizen journalist” Usamah Mohammed, who had been covering the demonstrations up until last Friday and compiling “a collection of tips and technical information about the best ways to demonstrate in Sudan and deal with the suppression of the police.”

Though a nationwide telecommunications shutdown has not occurred, the regime is still thought to be manipulated the Internet to quash protests. Lisa Goldman notes that activists have been using Facebook and other websites to organize protests, and Evgeny Morozov has written that in the past, the Sudanese government has “cleverly mixed provocation and intimidation, by publicizing fake protests online and then arresting those who show up.” Some activists fear that police informants are trying to incite people on Twitter.

But despite al-Bashir’s curt, dismissive remarks – he has called those chanting the Arab Spring slogan “the people want to overthrow the regime” pie-in-the-sky “elbow lickers” – his actions evidence a deep sense of unease over the protests (for their part, organizers have taken his words and are calling the planned marches “Elbow-Licking Friday”). The loss of three-quarters of the country’s oilfields to South Sudan in 2011 - and a stalemate in negotiations between Khartoum and Juba over affecting (among other issues) a possible pipeline agreement that could ameliorate the loss of oil revenue – has undercut government spending significantly as inflation, fuel prices and food costs have all risen dramatically. Around 40% of Khartoum’s revenue comes from its oil fields, and the recent clash between Sudan and South Sudan over disputed territory is thought to have cost Khartoum some US$741 million this year.

On top of this, an arm of the southern liberation movement now governing in Juba continues to fight in the Juma Mountains and Blue Nile Province of Sudan, as do other armed groups in Darfur and the southwestern border areas. Khartoum is on the verge of bankruptcy; militarily, economically and politically, opines Eric Reeves at

“… although the regime has vaguely promised to cushion the blow of inflation for food purchases, there are simply no means available to halt the effects of inflation, even for food. A typical food basket that today costs what is deemed an exorbitant 30 Sudanese pounds could very soon cost 60 pounds; and any stabilizing (i.e., subsidizing) of this price at previous price levels (in non-inflated pounds) will then be twice as expensive and will create an even greater budget gap—and more inflation.”

“The National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) are likely to remain loyal to the end, but the army is potentially another story, especially given the evident rift between the most senior generals now exercising greatest political power in the regime, and the mid-level officer corps The NIF/NCP ruthlessly purged the army on coming to power in 1989, and effectively destroyed it as an institution in the Egyptian mold. The army has never regained a true esprit de corps, and disaffected officers up to the rank of colonel may soon refuse to obey orders to use violence against protesting civilians.”

Sudan is not on the verge of state collapse, Reeves believes. But the economy shows little sign of improving absent an end to fuel subsidies (the governing party’s MPs already struck down attempts to do so) or a pipeline deal with South Sudan: Sudanese economist Yousif Elmahdi even goes to far as to call the country a failed state.

None of this month’s events this bodes well for the government, especially if violence escalates and it finds itself confronting major demonstrations all over the country.

  1. Foreign reporters are also being made to feel unwelcome: Egyptian Bloomberg correspondent Salma El-Wardany was interrogated and then deported from the country this week as a result of her coverage of the demonstrations.  ↩

The protests in Sudan

A friend in Khartoum writes:

In case you missed it in the Egypt fray, things are heating up in Khartoum as well. Rumor has it they may shut down the internet tomorrow. Enjoy the coup, they might follow suit here.

The basic story is one that's been the horizon for a while. Reductions in oil income are forcing the government to cut off subsidies, which the opposition is now using to agitate against the regime. In early 2011 I thought Sudan was very vulnerable to an uprising, but while there were some protests at the time the Bashir regime repressed them quickly. Now they're back.

From Reuters:

(Reuters) - Anti-government protests erupted across Khartoum as Sudanese took to the streets after Friday prayers in the most widespread demonstrations yet against spending cuts unveiled this week.

The demonstrations, now in their sixth day, expanded beyond the core of student activists and spread into several neighborhoods that had been quiet.

The smell of teargas hung in the air and broken rocks covered streets as riot police and demonstrators faced off throughout the city, witnesses said. Demonstrators burned tires and security forces used batons to disperse them.

Large demonstrations have been relatively rare in Sudan, which avoided the "Arab Spring" protest movements which swept through neighboring Egypt and Libya. Security forces usually quickly disperse protests.

But government measures to cut spending to plug a budget gap - including the highly unpopular move of scaling back fuel subsidies - unleashed the protests.

The country has faced soaring inflation since South Sudan seceded a year ago - taking with it about three quarters of the country's oil production - and activists have been trying to use public frustration to build a movement to topple the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Things are messy as ever down south too, which isn't helping.

The Two Sudans in Arbitration: Corruption, Militias, and China


Hergé’s caricatured arms dealer in The Broken Ear (1937) offers oil-hungry powers an unfortunate blueprint for influence building in the two Sudans. Credit: thinmanSouth Sudanese President Salva Kiir this week addressed a letterto dozens of “former and current senior government officials” pleading with them to return an estimated US$4b in “missing” government funds. The Globe and Mail reports that the US$4b reportedly stolen would add up to approximately 2 years’ worth of oil revenues for the country, which upon seceding from Sudan took about 75% of Khartoum’s oil reserves with it (amounting to some $5b worth of annual income, according to the Petroleum Economist trade publication). Some US$60m has reportedly been recovered, but continued mismanagement, graft and badly bid contracts (most notably, for food imports) means that additional funds still remain unaccounted for and may be unrecoverable.[1]

Despite the emotional plea from Kiir, in an unencouraging sign for transparency in South Sudan this past April, the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) Party that Kiir leads “voted against a bill seeking to make contracts and information about the young country’s oil industry more transparent by making it available to the public.”

From the Sudan Tribune:

The lawmakers’ decision has created some public criticism. As well voting against the Petroleum Bill, which would have required the government to provide justifications for oil contracts with individual companies, MPs also voted against publishing sales and production data.

During deliberations, George Bureng, an SPLM member of the National Assembly representing Central Equatoria State said he would prefer to see that oil related information be limited to only relevant institutions not the general public because information about oil could be used against the country by her enemies, referring to Khartoum.

“It is good to allow [the] public [to] access any information but sometimes there is sensitive information which cannot be made available to the general public”, Bureng told the house.

Tensions are high in both Khartoum and Juba as a result of a recent conflict over the disputed oil fields in Helig (which was occupied by South Sudan) and the border region of Abeyi (which was occupied by Sudan). Though the fighting has died down, talks on establishing a demilitarized zone have stalled, the AFP reports from Addis Ababa, where the African Union-brokered talks are taking place:

Peace talks to end weeks of fighting between Sudan and South Sudan were deadlocked Tuesday after failing to agree on where to set up a demilitarized zone along their contested border.

“The position of the parties is still rather far apart on these issues, ”South Sudan’s foreign minister Nhial Deng Nhial told reporters during a break in the week-long talks, which still continue despite the lack of progress.

“We have not yet been able to agree on the line from which the safe demilitarized border zone is going to be drawn,” Nhial said, but adding he remained optimistic a deal could yet be reached.

Further complicating these talks is the arrival of delegates from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – Army North (SPLM/A-N). This organization is the branch of the SPLA, whose leaders dominate South Sudanese government, still operating in Sudan (the SPLA was founded in 1983). Small Arms Survey notes that because “the political and military high command in the SPLM/A-N significantly overlaps,” “the political and military goals of the organization can be viewed as one since it is now an armed opposition movement in Sudan.”

As a result, though SPLM/A-N delegates were invited to the talks by the African Union, Khartoum has “excluded” them from the talks. Fighting in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains between the SPLM/A-N continues, and the continued iciness between Juba and Khartoum over the SPLM/A-N’s insurgency seems irresolvable. Khartoum’s armed forces are reportedly too worn down by years of attritional counterinsurgency operations in Darfur and the “Three Areas” provinces (including the Nuba Mountains) to launch a full-scale operation against South Sudan, but refuse to give up any more territory to the SPLM/A-N. Meanwhile, Juba simply does not wish to lose a force operating in the border provinces of the regime whose embrace it just escaped from. Plus, there is the question proposed by Philip Thon Aleu to a South Sudanese governor last summer that offers insight as to why Juba would be hard-pressed to accept any “compromise” initiated by Khartoum over the “Three Areas” region:

The SPLM was joined by people from South Kordofan, Blue Nile and people from other parts of the country who are not from South Sudan. How do you think about those people who are not part of south Sudan’s freedom today? And what is the way out?

Resistance to demobilization of secessionist militias and some SPLM units is already proving to be a challenge for South Sudan. And neither side is likely to make the first move towards a ceasefire with or recall of the SPLM/A-N – which has its own particular goals, of course – for fear of being perceived as “weak” in the eyes of the other.

No “great power” better understands (and plays off of) these clashes than the People’s Republic of China. Beijing is Khartoum’s primary arms dealer, but at the same time presents itself as a mediator to both countries and take’s the bulk of the two countries oil exports. Even though most of Sudan’s oil now lies in South Sudan, the extensive damage to facilities (and investor flight over the past several years) and continuing transit dispute between the two countries means that the Chinese have a long way to go in implementing a comprehensive plan for the country.

Though Beijing just reached an agreement to build up South Sudanese “infrastructure,” a pipeline agreement was conspicuously absent. South Sudan is landlocked, and has since 2005 depended on Sudanese facilities or trucks to deliver its crude to ports, paying Sudan transit fees. China does not wish to alienate Sudan, with which it has a much closer relationship, yet South Sudan has the most potential for growth – and as bad as Sudan’s economy is, South Sudan’s is much worse, and much more dependent on foreign aid with strings attached.

It’s about a lot more than the oil for Juba and Khartoum, but oil is the prism through which the two government’s “great power” backers will most likely see their conflict.

  1. An unknown percentage of the lost money is thought to have been pocketed by officials to buy property overseas. Interestingly, last year, the Oakland Institute reported that American speculators were buying up South Sudanese properties.  ↩

Sudan: SAS on Heglig & Abyei

If you're looking for info on Sudan, there's few better resources than the Small Arms Survey's Sudan Human Security Baseline Assessment reports. They have a new one on the conflict over Heglig, as well as a wider look at fighting in Abyei and the above map [PDF]. From the first one:

Most of the fighting has focused on Heglig, Sudan’s largest oil field, which produced 55,000 barrels a day; the income derived from this oil had become crucial to Sudan following South Sudan’s decision in January to suspend its oil production, depriving Sudan of fees from the oil’s transit through its territory. By many reckonings, Heglig is north of the 1956 historical border that is supposed to dictate the frontier between the two states. But many Southerners have long considered it part of the South. Heglig, which is known as Thou (or Panthou) in Dinka, was one of the territories depopulated by militias during the second civil war, when Sudan used paramilitary Popular Defence Forces (PDF) to clear southern residents from areas around oil-producing sites. For many Dinka at the border, accepting Sudan’s possession of these territories is tantamount to accepting the ethnic clearings of the 80s and 90s.

. . .

The prospects for negotiation are poor. SAF has said the Heglig attack nullifies Sudanese commitments made in Addis Ababa, and that there will be no further talks. Bashir has been even more bellicose, declaring that the current conflict will end either ‘in Juba or Khartoum’, i.e. with the destruction of one of the parties. Such statements are designed for internal consumption in Sudan, and do not reflect Sudan’s actual bargaining position. The fighting may in fact ease with the coming of the rainy season. The recent battles may be simply attempts by both sides to carve out positions on the ground before rains begin.

The Sudans on the brink of war and state collapse

While we've been fascinated with Egypt's bizarre presidential elections drama and other stories, I and many others have been oblivious to the serious worsening of the situation between the two Sudans. There are very few foreign reporters there — basically only the news agencies at most times — but considering the seriousness of the situation, the potential for many deaths, and the potential impact in East Africa and the Sahel this is worthy of attention. It's also surprising the issue is not getting more scrutiny at the UN.

Here's a quick rundown from published sources.

Omar al-Bashir is threatening to escale recent skirmishes with South Sudan into a full-scale war:

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir has said his main goal is now to "liberate" the people of South Sudan from its rulers following recent border clashes.

The former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement has ruled South Sudan since it seceded from Sudan in July 2011.

President Bashir was addressing a rally at his party's headquarters.
Fighting between the two countries has now spread to another area, further adding to fears of all-out war.

This follows an earlier statement by the North's parliament calling the south an "enemy":

(Reuters) - Sudan's parliament branded South Sudan an "enemy" on Monday and called for a swift recapture of a disputed oil-producing region, as rising border tensions pushed the old civil war foes closer to another full-blown conflict.

South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan last July, seized the contested Heglig oilfield last Tuesday, prompting its northern neighbor to vow to recapture the area by "all means".

The oilfield is vital to Sudan's economy, producing about half of the 115,000 barrel-per-day output that remained in its control after South Sudan's secession.

This McClatchy report minces no words:

HEGLIG, Disputed Sudan — Nine months after Sudan split into two nations in search of a peace brokered by the United States, it is now clear that the two sides are at war.

Diplomats discussing the armed conflict talk of skirmishes and dustups, but a visit to this border region shows that what is taking place here is no accidental exchange of fire by troops confused about where the border lies. Instead, what’s happening is a headlong mobilization involving not just thousands of Sudan’s and South Sudan’s best forces and heaviest equipment, but heavily armed rebels from the distant Darfur region fighting alongside the South Sudanese troops.

Whether an emergency peace plan could curb the escalation remains to be seen. But neither side is talking to the other, and the mood here is weighted with the sober intensity of wartime.

On Sunday evening in a looted Sudanese garrison in Heglig, South Sudanese generals drew military positions in the sand with a curtain rod. They were expecting an imminent counteroffensive by Sudanese troops. Soldiers stood by, twitching, on edge.

Suddenly, missiles rained in, and artillery pounded the earth behind.

"We are under attack," yelled South Sudan’s Maj. Gen. Mangar Buong, the commander. Troops scurried, trucks spun out.

The international community has condemned the fighting and has called on South Sudan to withdraw. But its leader, Salva Kiir, has publicly refused to do so.

Also AP, which has this graphic report from Heglig, where the fighting started two weeks ago:

The road to Heglig, an oil town that South Sudan and Sudan are fighting over, is lined with discarded furniture, destroyed buses and tanks, and clusters of dead Sudanese soldiers.

South Sudan's army, known as the SPLA, moved north into Heglig earlier this month, sparking the bloodiest fighting since South Sudan broke off from Sudan last July and became the world's newest nation. A top SPLA official said the south plans to keep moving north, taking territory the south believes it owns. The crisis threatens to widen into all-out war.

An Associated Press reporter was among the first foreign journalists to reach the disputed border since fighting began two weeks ago.

As 2nd Lt. Abram Manjil Kony sped north from the South Sudan military base at the Unity State oil field, he pointed out clusters of fallen Sudanese soldiers. Birds stalked the corpses.

"Jalaba, jalaba," Kony said, meaning "Arab" and, by extension, people from Sudan, which is predominantly Arab while the south is predominantly black.

This is just as South Sudan became the IMF's newest member — just as the North's economic forecast was revised by IMF to a decrease of 3.9% in GDP in  2012. The Sudanese pound, the north's currency, is at a historic low while in the South's capital, Juba, fuel is running out. This Reuters report by Alexander Dziadosz, who has been doing great work (see this report from a town where a dam is being dual-purposed for defense), says the economic prospects of both North and South are crucial to understanding the situation between the two:

(Reuters) - The outcome of the dramatically escalating border fighting between Sudan and South Sudan is more likely to be determined by which of the two faltering economies collapses first than by relative military prowess.

South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan in July, seized the disputed Heglig oilfield on Tuesday, edging the two former civil war foes closer to full-blown conflict than any time since the South gained independence.

But rather than sparking an all-out military confrontation, each side's aim may now be to target one another's oil facilities and wait for their opponent to crumble under armed insurgencies, popular unrest and fuel shortages.

"It is a question of which side can maintain the basic governance and military structures longer," a Sudan expert with government contacts said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The two countries have already driven their economies to the brink of implosion since the South split away, cleaving the vital oil industry in two.

Squabbling over oil payments and border fighting has withered combined crude output - previously the main source of foreign currency and state revenues for both countries - from around 500,000 barrels a day before partition to just over a tenth of that.

Food prices are soaring on both sides of the border and currencies reeling as officials scramble to make up for the sudden loss of revenues in countries already reeling from years of war, mismanagement and U.S. trade sanctions.But despite their weaknesses, both sides have consistently reckoned they have the upper hand on their foe, partly explaining why fighting has escalated despite the obvious fact that neither side can actually afford to fight a war.

"Khartoum is fighting for its survival," said Peter Bashir Gbandi, a deputy for the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the South's national assembly, during an emotional Juba panel debate packed with bellicose comments and broadcast live on radio.

"Khartoum is economically khallas, collapsing," he said, using the Arabic word for "finished".

Update: Do check out this excellent piece in The Economist too.

Meanwhile in the two Sudans

The post below, on the worsening relations between the two Sudans and the Northern regime's domestic worries, was contributed by Abdullah Ahmed. I had missed these alarming developments, which before the Arab uprisings would have been major news. 

While much attention is currently being focused on Egypt, there is much to learn from the current oil dispute between Sudan and its former territory, South Sudan. South Sudan’s oil shutoff reveals that it is not willing to bargain for permission to export oil.

With the other issues yet to be settled between the two governments, including final demarcation of the border, the SPLM-led South Sudanese government is taking the situation very seriously. The National Congress Party’s “take no prisoners” attitude in dealing with South Sudan’s government is strongly reflected in Omar al-Bashir’s actions and words. For example, the undersecretary of Sudan’s foreign ministry gave an interview just over a month ago in which he referred to the South Sudanese as “brothers” and the border issue between the two countries as a minor issue. Yet, Sudan’s actions have been much louder than the words of her paid employees, as the recent bombing of the Jau area on the border illustrates.

It is quite evident that Sudan’s government policies aren’t exactly encouraging. Bashir has taken the textbook Arab government approach to civil strife: distract and deny. Bashir knows he is in a difficult place, and losing 75% of Sudan’s oil reserves during South Sudan’s independence has definitely been on his mind. He’s followed in the footsteps of countless others; just as Qadhafi and Mubarak gave defiant speeches hoping to instill fear in their opponents before they were forced from office, Bashir has threatened war against South Sudan in a move that illustrates just how desperate things are at NCP headquarters. Bashir himself must understand that this is an empty threat; morale in his army hasn’t been this low since he came to power, and counting his allies will prove to be a sad effort (the article is from 2006, but one of few published writings on Sudan’s army).

From within, Sudan’s struggle to pay its employees on time is no secret. Even before South Sudan’s independence, a doctor’s strike over the government’s failure to pay their salaries resulted in empty promises of pay raises and better working conditions. Recent protests at Khartoum University went largely unnoticed by the international community, but it is important to note that December’s protest was the largest case of unrest in Khartoum since the 2007 attack by Darfurian rebels. Thus, the Sudanese people are watching Egypt’s events closely, and they are more interested in Egyptian events than the lack of media attention would suggest.

PostsGuestSudan, southsudan
What is really happening in Sudan's Nuba Mountains?

An early morning scene from Nuba Mountains, via Sudan Forum

The piece below, about the conflict brewing in Sudan's Nuba Mountains, had been contributed by Dan Morrison and Matthew LeRiche.

The ongoing fighting in the Nuba Mountains region of South Kordofan state is not just another chapter in Sudan’s seemingly-endless history of conflict. It is the most recent flashpoint for debate over a prevailing narrative that critics say reduces news from Sudan to a simplistic, even childish, contest of good versus evil. This conversation is made no less interesting by its clean predictability.

The dominant story line coming out of Southern Kordofan is, in its broad strokes, more than familiar. It goes like this: With the secession of South Sudan just weeks away, the Sudanese Armed Forces on June 5 went on the attack, seeking to crush both ethnic Nuba fighters of the southern-led Sudan People’s Liberation Army, a font of potential (and actual) armed opposition to the government in Khartoum, and supporters of the northern wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, who will form an important opposition party in Sudan now that the south has seceded.

If reports by actors including fleeing civilians, the United Nations, and foreign and local humanitarian workers are to be believed (and we think they are), Khartoum’s operation in Southern Kordofan has followed a well-worn pattern, including aerial bombardment of civilians, murder of citizens based political affiliation and race, and the ongoing denial of humanitarian aid to displaced persons. The Nuba Mountains in the 1990s were the scene of a bona-fide attempted genocide by the same government that today rules Sudan -- a true and actual attempt, driven by twisted financial and cultural imperatives on the part of Kharotum’s ruling class, to annihilate a people.

So it’s not surprising to see the G-word appear with frequency, even promiscuity, in the recent writings of journalists and advocates. Nor, given the history of Sudan’s north-south civil war and the conditions of access and advocacy during that 22-year conflict, should it be unexpected that a narrative of black African victimization and Arab predation quickly asserted itself. These narratives largely overlook the struggles of other groups in Sudan, indeed, of Arab Sudanese themselves, for a kinder, more pluralistic country.

Informed critics with less inclination (and less incentive – they’re not journalists or activists) to engage the news and opinion media have in private taken exception to the clichéd manner in which the fighting in Southern Kordofan has been framed. Part of their annoyance appears to be a carry-over from some of the rhetoric and activism of the Save Darfur movement and its young supporters, whom the critic Mahmood Mamdani notably likened to new Western breed of “child soldiers.”

The blogger Amir Ahmad, who is certainly no fan of the bloodstained government in Khartoum, sums up many complaints about the Save Darfur movement in this recent post. And the journalistic response to Darfur gets the academic treatment at the Africa Arguments blog.

Many complaints about Darfur’s portrayal in the news media are now being applied to coverage of South Kordofan, and Sudan in general. We hope in this post to articulate some of these points, so they might be heard by a wider audience, and to address them. We’ll also demonstrate – unintentionally – the depth of complexity in the Sudan and the many lenses through which any issue there can be viewed.

First, here are some of the stronger points that make up the Southern Kordofan counter-narrative (or corrective-narrative). We’ll follow with some general thoughts on these overlooked facts and where they may fit in the broader context.

* The SPLA started it: The fighting began with a series of provocations by Nuba SPLA fighters who were refusing to disarm. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement requires all armed actors to join either the Sudan Armed Forces in the north or the SPLA in the south. It would be insane for Khartoum to accept a standing rebel army in its territory: And Southern Kordofan is indisputably northern territory.

* Elections were certified by the Carter Center: Abdel-Aziz Al Hilu, the longtime commander of the Nuba fighters, has claimed he was cheated out of the May election for governor of the state. But observers from the Carter Center certified the election as “peaceful and credible.” Abdel-Aziz was defeated, by a margin of 6,500 votes (201,455 to 194,955), by Ahmed Haroun, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur. Despite the ruling National Congress Party’s past record of election fraud, the Carter Center’s endorsement indicates that, rather than being robbed, the SPLM was out-hustled by its opponents.

* Casualties are likely inflated: Advocates have claimed thousands of deaths in the recent fighting. But there is no evidence to substantiate that claim. The Guardian newspaper reported that half a million people have been made homeless. The UN says the number is 73,000 – a lot of people, but a less compelling headline.

* Nuba anger should be directed south, not north: Abdel-Aziz and the Nuba fought on the side of the south and the SPLA, and it was the leader of that movement, John Garang, who signed the treaty that left them high and dry in the north. It’s not Khartoum’s fault if Abdel-Aziz’s patrons sacrificed Nuba self-determination in the course of obtaining peace.

* * * *

All of the above is true. And yet, taken together, they give the impression that this violence is about clauses and sections of treaties, and the relative effectiveness of opposing parties’ grass roots political operations.

It really is not. The Nuba, as has been the case for more than 20 years, are fighting for their land and their cultural survival. The fact that their southern allies left them in the lurch by choosing to secede doesn’t change that.

Without Garang, the CPA was a lousy deal for the Nuba. No one knows what might have happened if the maximum leader had survived that windy day in the Inmatong Mountains nearly six years ago, but it’s surely possible, even probable, he would have been elected president of an intact Sudan, and that the south wouldn’t have seceded. Guessing how things would be different today makes a diverting parlor game for those of us who get to go home.


Meanwhile, the Nuba are left to what? Lament the bad deal struck by their compatriot, who died before he could make good on his promises?


There is a history in the Nuba Mountains that predates both the CPA and the second civil war. It is the air, water, and DNA of the current conflict. The Nuba who have taken up arms are not reacting against some fictional “boogie man,” but one that is real and will continue to be real. You can imagine the likes of Ahmed Haroun make the worst kind of enemy, one deeply embedded in the psyche of his opponents.


No one can, or should seek to, ignore the fact that all parties in Sudan’s civil war were complicit in atrocities, not least southern leaders. In 1991, forces under the command of the current southern vice president, Riek Machar, killed an estimated 3,000 southerners in what is known as the Bor Massacre. The late Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, one of the founders of the SPLA, was as responsible as any northerner for a 1998 famine that killed as many as 60,000. It is clear that Southern Sudan’s leaders, its people, and its nascent institutions will have to struggle mightily to prevent their new state from resembling the old Sudan in its approach to human rights, inclusivity, and rule of law.


Somewhere along the line, however, those framing and interpreting Sudan’s wars for a wider audience have to look beyond the political scrum of the Interim Period (the six years between the signing of the CPA and the south’s July 9 secession), and beyond individual incidents during the civil war, to the bigger questions that have motivated so many Sudanese, in almost every region of the country, to take up arms, at such great cost, against their government.


Whose land is the Nuba Mountains? Whose land is Abyei? The Nuba know where their home is. For centuries their ancestors have been buried there. How will the Nuba retain their homeland if they sit and accept the domination of a government that once declared them “enemies of God,” a government that put 173,000 Nuba into so-called “peace villages” where, in some cases, men and women were separated by barbed wire and many women were “married” off to Arab soldiers?


A media narrative has clearly been constructed along these old familiar lines. In this case, it’s because that larger narrative is true.


Elements of the narrative pushed by advocates inside and outside Sudan are clearly untrue. While chemical weapons were reportedly used against the Nuba in the 1990s, there is zero evidence that Khartoum has deployed them during the recent fighting. This didn’t prevent a steady stream of alerts and declarations, none backed by anything like corroboration, from filling the in-boxes of journalists and analysts.


It is still wrong -- despite a fatigued instinct towards realism, and despite the distaste with which many react to the morally compromised southern (or “African”) protagonist and its legion of uncritical fellow travelers -- to simply leave the Nuba and others in Sudan to their fate.


Should Omar al-Bashir get to control the Nuba? Does he get to invade the disputed territory of Abyei at the drop of a hat and do as he pleases along the border?


The south traded away its entirely-legal claims to much of Abyei in a failed quest for peace on the north-south border -- and was rewarded with a military rout there. Where does that fit into the realist analysis? President Bashir has proclaimed the identity of Sudan will be Arab and Islamic, and he sent an indicted war criminal to govern Southern Kordofan. What prominence do these facts deserve amid endorsements by foreign observers of an election that took place with low voter turnout and amid a backdrop of repression?


Sources say Abdel-Aziz’s people also cheated in the election. They were just out-cheated by the NCP. But that doesn’t mean the Nuba have any less of a right to defend their homeland -- and there is no disputing that this is their home.


During a recent meeting with foreign officials on the subject of border security, a community elder in an important front-line county gave a remarkable response to his visitors’ persistent advocacy of an open and fluid border between Sudan and the new Republic of South Sudan:

So this is my home. I have lived here for generations, and I have not gone north except when chased or forced due to famine and war. The nomads wander into my home and take what they want -- and it has always been movement from north to south. So I say, ‘OK, you can come, but I want to make some rules.’ But they say, ‘No, we have a right to come into your house, take what we want and leave.’


Are you telling me that I should allow that to continue? I think if it were your house and someone just started showing up and, because you were weak, you could not fight them off, you would call the police.


We have no police to call, so we must fight, and we did, in all kinds of ways. And now you say, “let’s have an open border,” which will give them the right to keep coming into my house as they please. I don’t think that makes sense and I think if you think about it in this way it will not make sense to you either.


And for those who talk about land being about resources and livelihoods alone, I feel bad that you have no land to call your home and to fight for. But that is why you are comfortable with the idea of an open border, because for you none of us 'primitive' Africans can own land. But we do, and I do not want wanderers coming into my home and taking what they want and leaving, whether Arab, European, or Chinese.

Dan Morrison is author of The Black Nile. Matthew LeRiche, a fellow at the London School of Economics, has been working in Sudan since 2004.

Remember Sudan?

Lest we forget, before Tunisia grabbed all the attention with its unprecedented uprising, Sudan was going through the first phase of an unprecedented partition. Here's a report by Dan Morrison (whose book The Black Nile I reviewed a few months ago) for Slate on what transpired:

South Sudan's leaders have been outplayed by their wily northern counterparts on almost every level in the six years since a peace agreement ended generations of civil war here. In the first years of peace, southerners lost control of important ministries they'd been promised in the postwar government, of the governorships of key states, and, it is widely believed, of hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen oil profits.

Tribal violence, some of it spurred by President Omar al-Bashir's Islamist regime in Khartoum, killed nearly 1,000 people in the south last year and displaced more than 200,000. Corruption has flowered, depriving the people of this deeply impoverished region of basic health and other services.

Yesterday, none of that mattered.

Dan highlights the South now taking steps against Arabs in in territory, a story I have heard little about elsewhere:

Efforts to secure the referendum have taken a nasty turn for some Arab residents of the south, however. More than 4 million people registered to vote, among them a farmer named Adam Ismail, but Ismail won't be placing his fingerprint on a paper ballot this week.

A resident of a disputed region called Fokhar on Sudan's north-south border in Upper Nile state, Ismail and more than 1,000 other Arabs have abandoned their homes and fields and fled to the north after a campaign of intimidation by southern soldiers.

The Arab tribes of Fokhar have long enjoyed good relations with their neighbors from the Dinka tribe, Ismail said, and the locality even includes a few mixed families, but the Arabs have been viewed with hostile suspicion by local commanders of the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

A campaign of intimidation, including arrests and interrogations, night visits by uniformed gunmen, and the shooting death of one member of the community, escalated last November, after local Arabs began registering to vote. Nearly 10 percent of the community has fled north to White Nile state, abandoning their fields and some livestock.

Natsios on Sudan, and Egypt

Andrew Natsios, a Bush administration Darfur envoy, gave a talk at Georgetown recently in which he approaches the referendum and its ramifications from a series of different angles, from Sudan's regionalism, to the factionalism in its security and military forces, and the possible collapse of the North if/when the South secede (or even worse, the return of Hassan al-Turabi). Among the many side claims he makes was picked up by this site:

Andrew Natsios, former US envoy to Sudan, disclosed that Egyptians pilots took part in attacks in Darfur during the war there. He made this remark at a symposium organized by Georgetown University in Washington, DC on Tuesday. Natsios was referring to the Sudanese government’s problems in getting some of its own forces to fight in the war that began in 2003.

Natsios said: “Four Darfuri officers would not man their planes during the bombing attacks. You know most of the bombing was not done by the Sudanese air force, by Sudanese officers -- did you know that in Darfur?  They were Egyptian officers and officers who were mercenaries from other Arab countries, they hired to bring them in.  Because the Sudanese officers, many of them were from Darfur who were aircraft pilots. And they wouldn’t fight. They would not man the planes.”

Before I started asking who trains Egyptian air force officers again, I thought it best to confirm the ambiguity in the statement: is it Egyptian nationals acting privately or actual Air Force pilots who took part in the bombing? I contacted Natsios and he assured me that mercenaries were involved, not the Egyptian government. And most of the pilots used in the 2003 operation that caused mass death and displacement of Darfuris were in fact Russian mercenaries.

Here is the bit of his lecture where Natsios talks about this, as an aside to the fragmentation inside the Sudanese military:

Natsios quote

At another point he also mentions a South African security firm was hired to devise security plans for Khartoum, including a network of tunnels and underground arms depot in case the SPLA tries to take the city, which he thinks is plausible because of low morale among the Sudanese army.

The whole thing is well worth listening to.

How Egypt sees Sudan's coming partition

From a new ICG report on Sudan and its neighbors:

Sudan is of utmost strategic importance for Egypt, which maintains a large presence in Khartoum, including a sizeable and active embassy that is often better informed about the host country’s dynamics than any other foreign presence. Cairo’s foreign ministry operates a department dedicated specifically to Sudan policy. It is one of only two such separate departments in the ministry and is reportedly a gateway to career advancement and prominent positions within the government. The intelligence bureau also plays a prominent role on Sudan policy and has the ear of the president.

. . .

Having long felt sidelined in peace initiatives concerning its own backyard, Egypt tried to re-assert its role in Sudan negotiations in early 2010. Intelligence Director Omar Sulieman invited NCP presidential advisor Nafie Ali Nafie and the SPLM’s Pagan Amum to Cairo in late February for a relatively quiet workshop on “the foundations and guarantees for unity in Sudan”. The SPLM participated, as it wanted to be seen giving unity a chance and realises the importance of engaging Egypt, but it also sought to use the forum to persuade Cairo to accept the South’s right to self-determination. The talks focused exclusively on unity but deadlocked after Nafie Ali Nafie refused to discuss Sharia (Islamic law), long a point of contention between the two parties. Soon afterwards, Suleiman and Aboul-Ghait went to Khartoum to invite Bashir and Kiir to Cairo, again to encourage agreement on unity. Egyptian officials said another invitation may be extended to the parties now that the April elections have been held. These efforts all signal an attempt to again assert their role in the resolution of Sudan’s problems.

While Egypt remains opposed to secession, a new prag- matism is evident, as it has simultaneously begun to position itself for the likely eventuality. A number of recent events illustrate a degree of evolution – albeit erratic – in its position. A consulate was opened in Juba in 2005, and President Mubarak visited in November 2008 to discuss cooperation with the GoSS and development support to the South. This was a major event, the first visit by a head of state in more than 40 years. Mubarak spent very little time in Khartoum before heading to Juba, a fact that reg- istered in the South, where his aforementioned public commitment to the referendum was also a welcome development.

A lot more there, including that on the crucial issue of Egypt guaranteeing its allocation of Nile water, South Sudan officials have said they will work within the current allocation for Sudan and pressures from the Egyptians to use Egyptian contractors in any hydroelectric projects developed in South Sudan. Of course, considering the South's relationship with Ethiopia and other upstream countries that are interested in renegotiating water allocation on the Nile, there is cause for worry in Cairo.

Sudan's elections

My friend Dan Morrison, spent some time reporting all across Sudan while researching his forthcoming book The Black Nile: One Man's Amazing Journey Through Peace and War on the World's Longest River. He offers this analysis of the elections taking place in Sudan. You can read more of his work at his personal site,

A Travesty, a Logistical Nightmare, Irrelevant, Democracy

Four ways of looking at Sudan’s  national elections

Sudan’s first multiparty elections in 24 years started yesterday in an atmosphere of anger, hope and confusion. The previous elections, in 1986, followed a people’s uprising that removed a military dictator. How times change. Today another military dictator – Field Marshal Omar Hassan al-Bashir, an indicted war criminal — is Sudan’s leading candidate for president.

Photo by Flickr user Fatma Naib

Befitting Africa’s biggest, and perhaps most complicated, country, there are several ways of looking at Sudan’s elections:

A Freaking Travesty

The fix is in.

Bashir’s National Congress Party, which took power in a 1989 military coup, has made campaigning all but impossible for opposition candidates in Sudan’s northern states. Political rallies have been squelched, activists jailed and Bashir’s party dominates the state-controlled airwaves. The vote in Darfur will be an electoral atrocity, according to the International Crisis Group; victims of the conflict have been ethnically cleansed from the voting rolls, while Arab tribes allied with Bashir have been over-counted. In light of this, all but one of Sudan’s major opposition parties has pulled out of the presidential and parliamentary elections, leaving the field to Bashir and his Islamist cadres (who, back in 1986, could only muster 10 percent of the vote).

But the rigged election isn’t solely the work of Bashir and his regime. The elections are a requirement of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the landmark treaty that ended the 22-year civil war between the Arab-led north and Sudan’s black south. After a conflict in which more than 2 million southerners died, the rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement won broad autonomy and a chance for the south to formally secede from Sudan after a referendum scheduled for January. Therein lies another part of the fix.

During my travels as a reporter in southern Sudan in 2006 and 2007, I couldn’t find a single southerner who didn’t favor secession. The SPLM is Sudan’s most powerful opposition party, but its leaders in Juba, the southern capital, are more than willing to sacrifice the democratic aspirations of northern Sudanese if that’s what it takes to ensure a smooth breakup of the country next year. (And why not? The top northern opposition leaders – former prime minister Sadig al-Mahdi and Hassan al-Turabi, the former parliament speaker and the evil genius behind the 1989 Islamist coup – each spent their time in government waging pitiless war against the south.)

So the SPLM has essentially made a deal to support the election results as legitimate in exchange for a promise that Bashir won’t try too hard to impede the 2011 southern referendum. This collusion became especially clear last week, when the SPLM’s candidates in the north decided they wouldn’t play a rigged game, and announced a boycott in all but two northern states. Instead of supporting the boycott, the SPLM’s southern-based leadership publicly chided its northern candidates and announced (despite all evidence) that they would in fact participate. They wanted an election that foreigners could endorse, and the SPLM’s northern pull-out hurt the chances of that.

Bashir is looking for these elections to lend him the international legitimacy he has long craved. But with the opposition on strike and reports of fraud already piling up, his  biggest and best hope is a clean chit from the election observers of the Carter Center and the European Union (no one takes the observers from the Arab League and the African Union very seriously). The Carter Center especially has a long and constructive history in Sudan, but it may be torn between its duty to call the election for what surely will be – a travesty – and a desire to smooth the south’s path to self-determination in 2011.

An endorsement from former U.S. president and 2002 Nobel peace laureate Jimmy Carter, no matter how qualified, will rehabilitate an international pariah and accused genocidaire. Bashir, through threats and insults, has all but dared the Carter Center to pull out of Sudan, but it hasn’t taken the bait, demonstrating clearly that the West needs the perception of a fair election just as much as the stick-waving field marshal does.

A Logistical Nightmare

A friend says: “You couldn’t run this election in Canada, much less in Sudan. That’s how complex it is.”

Every two years or so, I walk into one of New York City’s charmingly antiquated voting booths, flick a half-dozen mechanical switches, pull the big lever on the right — and then freak out: “Jesus! Did I just vote for the Socialist Workers Party?”

I wouldn’t stand a chance in Sudan.

In the north, voters are wrestling with separate paper ballots, denoting races for president, the national assembly, governor and state assembly. The state and national assembly votes will include candidates running to represent individual constituencies in a first-past-the-post race, party ballots for proportional representation, and ballots for seats reserved for women. Southerners, who are also voting for a regional president and other posts, have twelve separate ballots.

Many candidates remain confused by the system, unsure if they are running against specific opponents or running on a party list. For voters, the confusion is an order of magnitude greater. Two NGOs in the south recently ran mock elections, asking educated local staffers to fill out ballots as they would on election day. The average time required was 15 minutes. Literate southerners taken off the street for the experiment needed 25 minutes. Illiterate southerners (who make up 86 percent of the population), working with assistance, required an average 40 minutes each to complete their ballots. Indeed, Salva Kiir himself spent ten minutes completing his ballot.  

Hafiz Mohammed, the Sudan director for Justice Africa, has calculated that, with more than 16 million registered voters, 10,230 polling places and 33 hours of voting time stretched over three days, each Sudanese voter will have approximately one minute to cast his or her vote. After complaints of widespread chaos during the first day of voting, Sudan’s election commission on Monday afternoon announced it would extend the polling period by two days, to April 16. 

The bottom line, according to one political consultant in Sudan: “If you have something remotely like what happened in Afghanistan, it will be a great success.”


The most powerful players in Sudan – Bashir and his NCP; the SPLM and its leader Salva Kiir; and the United States – are looking to 2011 and beyond. Their war games predicted an election clusterfuck and they’ve all made peace with it. It’s called realism.

That’s why President Obama’s special envoy to Sudan, retired general Scott Gration, has been so active in promoting what he and every grain of sand in the Nubian desert knows will be an illegitimate election. When Bashir tells a campaign rally, “Even America is becoming an NCP member. No one is against our will,” as he did in Blue Nile state on April 3, he’s talking about Obama’s man.

And he’s talking about us.

The West is willing to avert its eyes from the coming ugliness if it will help to midwife the south’s peaceful secession next year. That seems to be all the juice we have right now – enough to help the south, black and somewhat Christian, get finally free of its historical oppressors.

As for the Muslims in the north and their democratic aspirations, well, maybe next time.

Southerners see the election, however flawed, as a stepping-stone to an independent state. The northern opposition – rightly, bitterly – sees a deck stacked in part by Uncle Sam. One year from now, Bashir will dominate a geographically diminished Sudan while Salva Kiir similarly dominates an independent south. South Sudan will be another nominal African democracy, rich in oil and poor in everything else; the rump northern Sudan will remain an Arab autocracy, one finally open for business with the West.

Photo by Flickr user Fatma Naib.


But and still.

You have to start somewhere and, at least in the south, things are starting. There is a genuine hunger among southerners to vote. They may not know exactly what (or, with the exception of bigwigs like Salva Kiir, who) they’re voting for, but they want to vote.

And in a genuine flicker of democracy, the SPLM leadership has been shaken by the emergence of strong independent candidates for governor in three states. At least one, and possibly even two, of those candidates are likely to defeat SPLM incumbents, providing a real lesson in nonviolent people power.

And that’s not a bad way to look at an election.

Dan Morrison is the author of The Black Nile, coming in August from Viking Penguin. 

Links for 10.08.09 to 10.09.09

‘Abuse’ of Islamic rule lands lawyer in court - The National Newspaper | About time someone stopped Nabih el Wahsh and his ridiculous hesba claims, but this needs to go further: a judicial ruling or new law should declare hesba unacceptable in courts.

Israel FM to tell U.S. envoy no peace deal possible | Lieberman always says what's on his mind.

Mideast sliding into 'darkness': Jordan king | Jordan's king does his Cassandra routine.

Sudan: SLM Warns US Envoy Not to Visit Darfur Areas Under Its Control Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | "The Sudan Liberation Army Movement [SLM] led by Abdul-Wahid Nur who resides in France has warned US Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration not to visit the areas in Darfur that are under its control and where he is expected to hold a conference in the "Darbat" area in Murrah Mountain on 20 October."

Unjustifiable To Lose ‘Goldstone’ Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | "It is not the time for point-scoring. Goldstone’s report marked the beginning of the international justice the Palestinian people need. The issue goes beyond political wrangling between Hamas and the PA, and also goes beyond the assumed price for slip ups. It is about responsibility for people’s lives."

‘The Times’ lets everyone off the hook on Goldstone | The NYT's continued hasbara on the Goldstone report.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | UN body to debate Gaza 'crimes' | Slated for 14 October.

Fatah seeks joint action with Hamas over Gaza report - Yahoo! News | About time.

ei: Abbas helps Israel bury its crimes in Gaza | Ali Abunimah: "Just when it seemed that the Ramallah Palestinian Authority (PA) and its leader Mahmoud Abbas could not sink any lower in their complicity with Israel's occupation of the West Bank and the murderous blockade of Gaza, Ramallah has dealt a further stunning blow to the Palestinian people."

“The Challenge of Moderation in Islam: Egypt’s Religious Institution Versus Extremism.” | POMED notes on speech by Egyptian Mufti Ali Gomaa.

Palestine on the brink: only a quick de-escalation can prevent an explosion | Israel Policy Forum | Hussein Ibish.

Abbas Cancels Israel War-Crimes Report, Boosting Hamas - Yahoo! News | It's over for Abbas, morally now and politically eventually.

Saudi, Syria agree to 'remove obstacles' to closer ties - Yahoo! News | They also called for a NUG to be formed in Lebanon.

Security Council to raise UN Gaza report next week - Yahoo! News | Libya move to push for discussion of Goldstone report moves ahead, despite Mahmoud Abbas's failure to push for it (and his subsequent reversal.)

All these Abdelazizes | New head of Western Sahara mission MINURSO is Egyptian.

Oren likens Goldstone to… Nazi threat | Israel Ambassador to US Michael Oren: Goldstone = Nazis = Nuclear Annihilation.

Agents arrest dozens for theft scheme in US, Egypt | Egyptian hackers engage in $2m phishing scam.

Pew Forum: Mapping the Global Muslim Population | Pew report says there are 1.57bn Muslims, analysis and breakdown through maps and more.

Links for 07.21.09 to 07.22.09
جريدة الراية -مجرد سؤال .. ماذا تريد القاهرة من دارفور
| Qatari columnist complains "what does Egypt want from Darfur?", says Egypt is trying to start a separate track for negotiations even though Qatar's track working well. The Egyptians certainly hate seeing Qatar getting busy in their near-abroad.
The List: The Middle East's Most Powerful Spooks | Foreign Policy | It's missing a few... will try to work on a complete list. Also not sure whether Assef Shakwat is still at the top of his game in Damascus.
Facebook | Protest Facebook's categorisation of Israeli settlements as "Israel" | Tell Facebook to correct itself.
From gods to garbage dwellers | GlobalPost | On Egypt's cats.
Israeli funding angers filmmaker | "ENGLISH filmmaker Ken Loach has withdrawn his film Looking for Eric from the Melbourne International Film Festival because the festival receives funding from the Israeli Government."