AU envoy: Sudan military, protesters to sign political deal

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African Union mediator Mohamed Al-Hacen Lebatt addresses a press conference in Khartoum on July 12, 2019. (AFP)
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African Union envoy to Sudan Mohamed al-Hacen Lebatt (L) and Sudan's leaders meet on July 5, 2019 after a press conference in Khartoum in which they announced ruling generals and protest leaders have reached an agreement on the disputed issue of a new governing body. (AFP / Ebrahim Hamid)
Updated 13 July 2019

AU envoy: Sudan military, protesters to sign political deal

  • A military leader is to head the council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18
  • Ethiopian mediator Mahmoud Dirir has been involved in mediating between the two sides

KHARTOUM, Sudan: A transition agreement between Sudan’s ruling military council and a pro-democracy coalition was scheduled to be signed Saturday, a top African Union diplomat said, just hours after the military claimed it thwarted an attempted coup by a group of officers.
The AU’s Mohammed el-Hassan Labat made the announcement Friday. The transition agreement sets up a joint Sovereign Council that will rule for a little over three years while elections are organized.
Ethiopian mediator Mahmoud Dirir, who has been involved in mediating between the two sides, told reporters that the political declaration will be “debated on, discussed and signed at the same time.”
The deal is meant to break the political deadlock that has gripped the country following the overthrow of autocratic President Omar Al-Bashir in April.
Lt. Gen. Gamal Omar, a member of Sudan’s military council, said the coup attempt took place late Thursday, just days after the military and the pro-democracy coalition had agreed to the joint sovereign council.
In a statement, Omar said at least 16 active and retired military officers were arrested. Security forces were pursuing the group’s leader and additional officers who took part in plotting the coup attempt, he said, but the council did not reveal the name of the attempted leader, his rank or other details.
“The attempted coup came in a critical time, ahead of the deal with the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change,” Omar said, referring to the coalition of political groups that speaks for the pro-democracy demonstrators.
Earlier this week, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan told the pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the ruling military council has thwarted several military coup attempts and that investigations were underway to determine who were behind them.
Tarek Abdel Meguid, an FDFC leader, voiced skepticism about the military’s announcement of a failed coup, calling it a hoax meant to pressure pro-democracy forces into signing the deal.
“They want to say that the situation in Sudan is very volatile, and that there is a deep state with people capable of staging a military coup, so we should hurry up and sign and leave any points of difference to be discussed later,” Abdel Meguid told the Associated Press.
Last week, the military and FDFC representatives announced that they had reached a power-sharing agreement amid robust African and international pressure.
A military leader is to head the council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18. They also agreed on an independent Sudanese investigation into the deadly crackdown by security forces on the protests last month — though it’s unclear if anyone will be held accountable. The military also agreed to restore the Internet after a weekslong blackout.
The political transition deal is meant to end the impasse between the military council and the protest movement since security forces razed a massive pro-democracy sit-in in Khartoum early last month, killing more than 100 people, according to protest organizers. A committee of legal experts was assigned to draft the details before it would be handed over for both parties to sign.
The signing ceremony was expected to take place earlier this week, but several delays were announced, raising suspicions the two parties might still be divided over the agreement’s details. Several pro-democracy activists and party leaders had said the transitional military council was seeking to alter some of the language to increase the mandate of the generals during the transitional period.
Rasha Awad, editor of the online Sudanese newspaper Altaghyeer, said the military council’s actions will determine what happens next.
“I believe that the FDFC had already made a lot of concessions in this deal, but it seems that the military still expects more from them. If the military insists on that, the signing will be delayed further,” she said.
Awad also concurred that the announcement of a failed coup might be a ruse to use against the pro-democracy movement. But she did not rule out the possibility that the remnants of Bashir’s regime within the state might be plotting a comeback through a military coup.
“Counterrevolutionary forces represented in the old Islamist regime are very active now,” she said.


Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

Updated 10 December 2019

Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

  • Former US vice president sounds warning during panel discussion on ‘The global order 2030’
  • Remarks seen as indirect criticism of President Trump’s pledge to pull forces out of Syria

DUBAI: Dick Cheney, one of the most influential vice presidents in US history, has warned that “American disengagement” from the Middle East would only benefit Iran and Russia.

The 78-year-old politician’s warning came during a speech at the Arab Strategy Forum (ASF) in Dubai, an annual event in which the world’s leading decision-makers address global challenges and opportunities in “a precise, balanced and politically scientific manner.”

Cheney’s remarks could be seen as indirect criticism of US President Donald Trump’s pledges to pull forces out of northern Syria.

Addressing conference delegates, he cited the withdrawal of US troops from Syria and the 2015 lifting of sanctions against Iran during Barack Obama’s presidency, as events that amplified instability in the region.

“Our allies were left abandoned, and no one wants to feel that way again,” said Cheney, who was chief executive of Halliburton between 1995 and 2000 and held high posts in several Republican administrations.

The former VP’s remarks came during the forum’s concluding session titled, “The global order 2030: The Unites States and China,” which was attended by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

Joined by Li Zhaoxing, a former Chinese foreign minister, in a candid panel discussion, Cheney offered his views on the world order in the next decade within the context of Iran’s regional ascendancy, China’s rise and Russian ambitions in the Middle East.

“I am not here to speak on behalf of the US government, or to speak to it,” Cheney said, adding that his talking points reflected concerns he suspected everyone shared.

“For decades, there’s been a consensus of America’s influence in the world and how to use it,” he said, citing instances where US disengagement had caused the political situation in the Middle East to implode.

“Humanity has benefited from America’s protectionism of the world and its relationship with its allies in the region.”

According to him, the upcoming decade would be bleak should the US adopt a disengagement policy, with the pressures most felt by supporters and partners in the Middle East.

Turning to the role that the US and China would play in the global status quo by 2030, Cheney said there were still concerns over China’s reputation.

“We had hoped that there would be a political evolution in China, but that hasn’t happened yet,” he added.

Li said: “China will never learn from a world superpower and will never try to be hegemonic,” citing as examples China’s strong relations with the UAE and the wider Arab world, and the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative (a global development strategy) on Chinese foreign policy.

“History is the best teacher, but the US has forgotten its own history. You don’t keep your promises,” added Li, directing his statement at Cheney.

Cheney said that since the end of the Cold War, the US had expected that its policy toward China would have had a beneficial effect on its behavior and helped to deepen bilateral relations.

“It was disappointing to see that these expectations were not borne out – China has only grown richer, the regime has become more oppressive, and instead of evolving, it became more assertive,” he said.

In a separate ASF meeting at the Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Center, Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, discussed Iran’s policies in a session titled, “The race for relevance and influence in the region: GCC, Iran, Turkey and Russia.”

Sadjadpour said he expected in the next 10 years to see the arrival of “an Iranian Putin” with a military background as the country’s next leader.

“After 40 years of a clerical regime and a military autocracy, there is now a rise of Persian nationalism. This is a shift from the sheer revolution ideology,” he said.

Sadjadpour said there had been an evolution of “Shiite Arab” identity during the past two decades, with the focus more on religion than nationality.

Under the circumstances, he noted that Sunni Arab powers had an important role to play in welcoming Shiite Arabs into their fold “and luring them away from Iran.”

The analyst added that the future of the Arab world could not be explored and forecast without considering a growing mental health crisis. “Today, hundreds of millions of people in the region suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and the effects of this will be with us for decades to come, resulting in issues like radicalism.”

He said there was a need for training thousands of counselors in the field of mental health in order to reach out to those whose lives had been robbed by extreme violence and conflicts.