Sudan and its capital Khartoum is Arab and Muslim, South Sudan and its capital Juba are African and largely Christian. And while Khartoum’s official language is Arabic, Juba’s is English. The British rulers sought to bring the southern Sudanese (African and Christian) provinces under Uganda but that failed. The subsequent struggle between the Arab-Muslim north and the African-Christian south has been ongoing since Sudan’s independence in 1955.
The current strategic ties between Israel and South Sudan are part of a long existing relationship that precedes their independence. Chaim Koren, Israel’s ambassador to South Sudan, had this to say about the relationship between the two states, “They see in us a kind of a role model in how a small country surrounded by enemies can survive and prosper, and they would lie to imitate that.”
Contact between the Southern Sudanese rebels and the Israeli government began in 1967, when the leader of the Anyana movement wrote a letter to then Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and explained to him that his group was fighting Israel’s enemies and keeping them bogged down. Eventually, SPLA leaders traveled to Israel and received military training.
James Mulla, director of the Voices of Sudan, based in the U.S. was quoted in the Times of Israel (6/28/12) as saying that, “Israel’s support proved pivotal to the Anyana’s success during the Sudanese civil war, which ended in 1972.” Mulla added, “Israel was the only country that helped the rebels in South Sudan, they provided advisors to the Anyana, which is one reason why the government of Sudan wanted to sign a peace agreement. They wanted to finish the Anyana movement just shortly before they got training and advice.”
As part of Arab Muslim Sudan, South Sudan was a member of the Arab League. With independence, however, South Sudan has openly resumed its relationship with Israel. Moreover, the push by Numeiri and Bashir to implement Sharia Islamic law in the South will now stop. The Khartoum government on the other hand, can find solidarity in the words of Mahmud Ahmadinejad that both countries are “facing international sanctions, and are victims of arrogant powers and enemies of mankind.”
Sudan is now a battleground not merely for military confrontation over oil resources between the Arab-Muslim North and the African-Christian independent South, which the UNSC has decried, but also a battleground between Iran and Israel as to which model will prevail: a theocratic Arab-Islamic Sudan, which seeks to impose its ideology on others much like the Islamic Republic of Iran; or a democratic, open society that tries to build itself from within and prosper, much like Israel.
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