Khartoum, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Sudanese Army has revealed it is conducting joint maneuvers with Saudi naval forces in an attempt to promote collaborative action, combat maritime smuggling, and unify the common language between the two states, given Saudi Arabia’s geographical proximity to Sudan.
Colonel Alsawarmi Khalid Saad, a spokesman for the Sudanese army, told Asharq Al-Awsat that two Saudi warships, along with members of the Saudi infantry and Marine Corps, are taking part in the exercises that began on Friday and will continue until next Thursday. The spokesman described the operation so far as a “success,” and revealed that preparations began last October with the arrival of a Saudi delegation, and the subsequent visit of a Sudanese delegation to Saudi Arabia last January.
Local newspapers quoted Admiral Majdi Sayid Umar, commander of the Sudanese naval forces at the Port Sudan base, as saying that the current exercises come within the framework of consolidating naval diplomacy and strengthening the security of the Red Sea.
He added that the Sudanese navy has close relations with other international and regional maritime forces, including the Saudi Royal Navy, and maintains extended and continuous cooperation in the fields of training, coordination, and the exchange of expertise. He emphasized that the current maneuvers are the first of their kind, and will be the beginning of greater efforts to safeguard the Red Sea basin and consolidate relations between the Republic of Sudan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The docking of Iranian warships at Port Sudan on two separate occasions last November caused significant clamor and sparked rumors of a Sudanese-Iranian military alliance targeting regional countries. At the time, the Sudanese army claimed it was a “routine” visit, and that it was eager to maintain relations with all countries of the region. The Iranian warships docked at Port Sudan following the destruction of the Yarmouk military complex in the south of Khartoum, which the Sudanese blamed on Israeli warplanes.
Despite the fact that the Israeli government refused to comment on the Sudanese accusations, reports in the Israeli media claimed the military complex was being used to manufacture and stockpile Iranian weapons. These were then smuggled through the Sinai desert to the Palestinian resistance, particularly Hamas militants, thus establishing a Sudanese-Iranian military alliance targeting Israeli and US interests in the region.
Political analysts then suggested that military relations with Iran would undermine Sudan’s relations with other countries in the region, particularly the Red Sea littoral states. The Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti also revealed—in a statement carried by domestic and international media—that his ministry was not aware of the Iranian ships’ visit, and described the docking act as detrimental to Sudanese interests.