Baramah to Asharq Al-Awsat: Sudan War Lacks Clear Purpose or Justification

Sudan’s National Umma Party Chairperson Fadlallah Baramah (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Sudan’s National Umma Party Chairperson Fadlallah Baramah (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Baramah to Asharq Al-Awsat: Sudan War Lacks Clear Purpose or Justification

Sudan’s National Umma Party Chairperson Fadlallah Baramah (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Sudan’s National Umma Party Chairperson Fadlallah Baramah (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The leader of Sudan’s National Umma Party, Fadlallah Baramah, described the signing of the “Addis Ababa Declaration” between the Civil Democratic Forces Alliance (Tagaddum) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) as a “preliminary step on the right path towards peace.”

He deemed it a “political and military opportunity to reach a final resolution for the Sudanese crisis.”

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, Baramah characterized the conflict that erupted in Sudan on April 15, 2023, as distinct from previous wars in the country.

He emphasized, in the remarks published Friday, that this war lacks a clear objective and has surpassed both in human and material losses all preceding conflicts.

Baramah leads one of Sudan’s largest political parties, the National Umma Party, and is a military veteran who previously served as the Northeast African country’s Minister of Defense.

Drawing on his military expertise, Baramah drew comparisons between the current war involving the Sudanese army and the RSF and previous wars.

He pointed out that the South Sudan War, known as the “Torit mutiny” from August 1955 to 1962, concluded with the Addis Ababa Agreement in 1973 led by General Joseph Lagu.

Baramah recalled the history of conflict witnessed by Sudan, including the war led by John Garang de Mabior (1983-2005), the Nuba Mountains War led by Yousif Kuwa and Telfal Kokor (1985), and the Darfur War (2003-2020).

All these conflicts did not result in the same level of loss of life and infrastructure damage as the current war, noted Baramah.

“This war must come to a halt, as it has inflicted unprecedented harm on lives, people, and infrastructure over nine months, unlike any of the previous wars that lasted 51 years,” he asserted.

“Thousands have lost their lives, millions have been displaced and uprooted, and there has been unparalleled destruction to infrastructure – destruction that is challenging to repair.”

“For instance, the destroyed Jili Petroleum Refinery (north of Bahri city in the capital Khartoum) requires five billion dollars for reconstruction (its initial construction cost was two billion dollars), and the Shambat Bridge needs millions, in addition to other private and public facilities,” clarified Baramah.

Baramah observed that the current Sudanese war is “without cause,” unlike the preceding conflicts in Sudan.

“All previous wars had their reasons and justifications, but this war is unjustifiable,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“The South Sudan War, for instance, stemmed from the Southerners’ rightful demand for federal governance and later independence, a legitimate demand. The rest of the wars were about citizens’ rights to wealth and power," explained Baramah.

Expressing concern, Baramah warned about the catastrophic consequences of this war, describing them as perilous.

“This war has brought us to a dangerous stage, marked by the proliferation of hate speech, which is more destructive than the destruction of infrastructure because it leads to the destruction of Sudan,” he cautioned.

Fakhri Karim: I Conveyed Talabani’s Advice to Assad on Terrorists

Fakhri Karim (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Fakhri Karim (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Fakhri Karim: I Conveyed Talabani’s Advice to Assad on Terrorists

Fakhri Karim (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Fakhri Karim (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The late Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, excelled at delivering messages subtly. In private meetings, he spoke more freely than in public statements or interviews. His chief advisor, Fakhri Karim, often joined these discussions.

Luncheons were lavish, showing Talabani's respect for different opinions, though he rarely followed doctors’ advice.

Talabani believed that Iranian leaders were smart and hoped they wouldn’t try to control Baghdad from Tehran, citing the failed attempt to manage Beirut from Damascus.

He noted that Iraq’s independent spirit makes it hard for the country to follow the US, Iran, or Türkiye. Talabani also admitted giving refuge to 80 Iraqi officers who had fought against Iran, after they were targeted by certain groups.

Talabani praised Syria’s late President Hafez al-Assad for his invaluable support, providing accommodation and passports.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Karim revealed he had warned President Bashar al-Assad, on behalf of Talabani, that militants allowed into Iraq to fight US forces might later turn against Syria.

This, Karim noted, did happen.

After the Israeli invasion of Beirut in 1982, Karim relocated to Damascus. There, he expanded his Al-Mada organization, focusing on publishing, translation, and organizing book fairs, alongside his political activities.

This allowed him to build relationships with top civilian and military officials.

In 2000, after Bashar al-Assad came to power, he met with Karim.

“I felt Assad was eager to listen, especially given my connections with many intellectuals,” recalled Karim.

“I told him dissenting voices exist but are mostly positive. You talk about modernization and renewal; this is a chance for some openness, even in elections,” Karim said he told Assad.

“Do you think anyone could really compete with you, given your position as the Baath Party's leader with all its resources?” Karim questioned.

Karim then discussed the situation of Syrian Kurds with Assad, noting that many lack identification papers, even basic travel documents. He also mentioned seeing historic Kurdish areas in the Khabur region with their names changed to Arabic, which causes sensitivities.

“I am not satisfied with this situation. Rest assured, this issue is on my agenda, and you will hear positive news about it,” Karim cited Assad as saying at the time.

In a later meeting, after the change in Iraq, Karim met Assad several times.

On one occasion, Karim recalls conveying Talabani’s greetings and concerns about armed fighters moving into Iraq and the dangers this posed to both Iraq and possibly Syria.

“We have deployed large forces to secure the borders, but what can we do? There are tribes and smugglers,” Assad complained about the situation.

“I told President Assad that as Fakhri Karim, I couldn’t share with the Americans what I know. I assured him that terrorists enter Iraq from a specific location I’m familiar with, not from all borders,” Karim recounted to Asharq Al-Awsat.

“I also noted that Syria tightly controls its airspace, shooting down any foreign aircraft,” he added.

Assad then responded to Karim and said: “We’re prepared, let us know what we can do.”

In reality, Damascus was worried because there were reports suggesting that Syria’s Baath regime could be the next target for the US army at its borders. Additionally, Damascus was concerned about the sectarian divisions—Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish—in dealing with Iraq and the potential impact on Syria.

Repairing Kurdish Relations

Karim has spent years working on repairing the relationship between Kurdish leaders Talabani and Masoud Barzani.

This history began with the split that gave rise to the ‘Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’ from the ‘Kurdistan Democratic Party.’

Despite bloody conflicts and external meddling, Karim believes Kurdish leaders unify in the face of danger to their people and region, a pattern he expects to continue.

Karim believes that the Kurdish leadership, symbolized by Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, made a big mistake at the beginning by focusing only on regional issues, ignoring Baghdad’s affairs.

He thinks they should have aimed for a federal democratic system that respects citizenship rights.

Karim pointed out that without a unified Iraq, the region’s rights would be uncertain. He also criticized the Shiite-Kurdish alliance, which he sees as odd.

Additionally, he mentioned mistakes in failing to unify regional institutions and increasing corruption, with party interests often trumping competence in appointments.

Asked about the personal bond between Talabani and Barzani, Karim said: “Both have moved past their tough history, but they haven’t done enough for the future.”

“I want to highlight an act by Barzani that shows his character. When Talabani was sick, Barzani made it clear to anyone thinking of harming Talabani or his family that there would be consequences,” he revealed.

“This isn’t hearsay, it’s firsthand,” affirmed Karim.

“Barzani also refused to discuss the presidency or a successor during Talabani’s illness. I personally organized a gathering for Talabani’s family, where Barzani reassured them, ‘I’m here for you, I’m family.’ His words moved everyone, showing a strong emotional connection,” he added.

When asked about Barzani’s character, Karim said: “He's been a long-time friend, and our relationship has been politically aligned and personally warm from the start.”

“I see him as a loyal friend, and he's shown that loyalty on multiple occasions. He’s smart, decisive, and listens carefully, often changing his mind after thorough consideration,” he noted.

“Once Barzani commits to something, he finds it hard to go back on his word. There was a moment during negotiations with Saddam Hussein when he stood firm despite my advice to reconsider,” recalled Karim.

Regarding the aftermath of the independence referendum, Karim believes that the negative turn in the political landscape began during Nouri al-Maliki’s tenure.

Al-Maliki’s attempts to shift alliances and his refusal to compromise exacerbated tensions.

The referendum itself wasn’t the problem; rather, it was exploited by some to punish the Kurdistan Region.

However, Karim emphasized that holding referendums is a citizen’s right, and the purpose of the Kurdistan referendum was to affirm this right, not to declare independence.