Sudan: the new battlefield in Iran and Israel's covert conflict

Warships from Tehran dock in Port Sudan as tensions between the two Middle East powers escalate

Iranian warships have arrived in Port Sudan in an apparent show of support for the government in Khartoum, one week after it accused Israel of bombing an arms factory in the Sudanese capital.

Iran's state news agency confirmed yesterday that two vessels, a destroyer and a helicopter carrier have docked in Sudan's main port on the Red Sea and their commanders will be meeting Sudanese officials.

While Iran said the mission was related to anti-piracy efforts, the move represents a possible escalation of a proxy war between Iran and Israel that has been playing out in the conflict between the Sudans.

Israel has emerged as an influential military and commercial ally of South Sudan since its independence last year, while Iran has strengthened its links with the Khartoum regime.

A Sudanese military official said the naval visit was an "exchange of amicable relations" between the two nations. Meanwhile Iranian officials said the ships had been dispatched last month, prior to the arms factory explosion in which four people were killed.

Israel has been accused of sending eight fighter jets to destroy an arms factory in Khartoum last week, in a possible rehearsal for a strike on Iranian nuclear targets. The government in Israel has refused to confirm or deny the allegations, with Sudan saying it will report the country to the UN. Israel has previously referred to Sudan as a "dangerous terrorist state". Both Israel and the US have bombed targets inside Sudan.

Imagery released by the US monitoring group The Satellite Sentinel Project supported the Sudanese claims of an air strike. Pictures released by the group, which is traditionally critical of the regime in Khartoum, showed half a dozen large craters, measuring more than 50-feet across.

Images from the same site prior to the blast showed some 40 shipping containers prompting experts to speculate over what was being stored at the site.

An Israeli military expert told the Associated Press that it was likely that his country had identified an "imminent threat" at Yarmouk. Shlomo Brom, a retired Brigadier General said that the strike may have been aimed at destroying "a new category of weapons" due to be smuggled into Gaza. Such weapons could include short range missiles more advanced than rockets currently fired from the Strip or "something with air defence capability".

Security sources said the Yarmouk factory attack was a sophisticated operation aided by a Gulfstream Jet loaded with electronic warfare outside of Sudanese airspace which jammed the country's air defences. Fighter jets reportedly refuelled after flying south along the Red Sea to evade Egyptian air defences and then turned west to strike the factory.

Since Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, came to power in a coup backed by Islamists in 1989, the government in Tehran has seen the Arab-led government in Sudan as a useful ally in north-east Africa. According to Western security reports Iran has used Sudan's vast territory as a corridor for weapons to be smuggled into Egypt and on to Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group who govern the Gaza Strip.

Israel has previously bombed what it claimed were Iranian convoys in this area three years ago. Katherine Zimmerman, an analyst with Critical Threats, said the Yarmouk attack could be another strike against weapons smuggling networks but "alternatively, it might be an early indicator of increasing likelihood of conflict between Israel and Iran."

In this scenario last week's bombing may have been a pre-emptive strike to deny arms to Iran's allies such as Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Both of these groups would be expected to strike Israeli targets in the event of any future attack on Iran's nuclear programme.

The impact of the increasing confrontation between Iran and Israel over the former's nuclear ambitions could further destabilise the conflict between the Sudans. The former civil war foes returned to brink of an all-out war earlier this year and recently signed a peace deal that some observers regards as a temporary truce. No clear border has been demarcated between the two countries and both governments accuse the others of backing armed rebels inside their respective territories.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory