The residents of South Sudan have voted almost unanimously in favor of secession. President Omar Bashir has said that he would react to the new country’s creation by modifying Sudan’s constitution so that Sharia is the only law of the land and Arabic the only language. The U.S. has a potential new ally in South Sudan, but the Bashir regime is now more radicalized and will try to undermine its neighbors with the help of Islamist allies.
Faith McDonnell, the Director of Religious Liberty Programs and Church Alliance for a New Sudan at the Institute on Religion and Democracy, told FrontPage that South Sudan will be a pro-Western secular democracy with religious freedom.
“South Sudan’s independence means that a people who fought against jihad and forced Islamization/Arabization have won. They have rolled back the plan to impose Sharia, they have refused to be dhimmis, at great coast,” McDonnell said.
President Bashir says that his country will now be based strictly on Sharia law, a move intended to appease the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamic forces inside his country that have turned on him. His former ally, Hasan al-Turabi, was arrested shortly following the referendum after he said the government could be overthrown as has just happened in Tunisia. An estimated 300 supporters of al-Turabi protested his arrest and were dispersed by the security forces.
The internal opposition that the Bashir regime faces is forcing it to take an aggressive stance. A successful South Sudan will inspire the opposition that exists throughout the country, especially the youth who “hate the regime and want freedom and democracy,” McDonnell said. The Sudanese regime should be expected to undermine its new neighbor through the use of non-state actors and possibly direct confrontation.
Bashir has already said war would erupt if the tribes of the oil-rich Abyei Province declared they are joining the South. The province’s vote on whether to become part of the new country has been delayed because of disputes over voter eligibility and those disputes could result in fighting. The Bashir regime is also unlikely to allow the crucial province to leave. It has also warned of war if South Sudan harbors militants fighting in Darfur, setting up a possible pretext for confrontation.
Al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic terrorists should also be expected to attack South Sudan as its independence is seen as a theft of Muslim land by the West. It is not inconceivable that the Bashir regime will ally with these terrorists as it has done so in the past to undermine South Sudan and please al-Turabi and the like. In fact, an intelligence report from 2006 claimed that about 15 members of Al-Qaeda were training the regime-sponsored Janjaweed militia in Darfur.
Bashir’s Sudan will also become even closer to Iran, which is eager to extend its reach into East Africa. The Iranian regime opposed the referendum and said it would help Sudan ensure its territorial integrity. Bashir can count on Iran to help him undermine South Sudan as it stands in the way of the Islamic Revolution.
The Iranians have grown closer to Eritrea and an expanded presence in Sudan would allow Iran to threaten the Red Sea shipping lanes and the Arabian Peninsula from the west side. Egypt could also be pressured from the south. In April 2009, the Mubarak regime arrested about 50 Hezbollah operatives planning to attack an Israeli site in the country. The interrogations revealed that they planned to send other members to Sudan for training in suicide bombing and other terrorist tactics.
Sudan is also sponsoring Hamas. In January 2009, the regime admitted that a truck convoy that was bombed by the Israelis was transporting Iranian arms to Hamas. The Revolutionary Guards had been managing the supply line from Port Sudan. An opposition newspaper has reported that the Revolutionary Guards is running a factory in Khartoum that is making weapons for Hamas, the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, and unidentified militants in Somalia. The deputy-editor of the newspaper was arrested after the story broke.
The Bashir regime may also be trying to build nuclear weapons or at least assist Iran in doing so. Since at least 1998, it has been known that an Iranian-owned company in Khartoum was acquiring nuclear technology. It is no coincidence that Ayatollah Khamenei was in Sudan when he stated in 2006 that Iran would share nuclear technology with Islamic countries. Khartoum has since officially told the IAEA that it is beginning a nuclear energy program and would build its first reactor by 2020. Agents of the regime have reportedly tried to make contact with the remnants of the A.Q. Khan network over the past year. This is made all the more dangerous by Bashir’s decision to make Sudan a state based solely on Sharia law.
The new country of South Sudan offers the West an opportunity to have an ally to counter Iran’s bloc in East Africa. It will come under attack from a Bashir regime that must not allow it to succeed and terrorists that see its creation as part of a Zionist plot against Islam. The largely Christian and African state of South Sudan will need the West’s help in defending itself against the Islamists, but how far the U.S. is willing to go to provide it remains to be seen.