Under Fire From the West, Iran and Sudan Cozy Up

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - As the U.N. Security Council deadline looms for Iran to suspend its nuclear activities, Tehran found common cause this week with another regime that is at loggerheads with the international community, Sudan.

Iran also gave notice that it was ready to spread its newly announced nuclear energy technology to other countries.

Although Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, was not quoted as saying who might be a recipient of the nuclear know-how, he made the comment during a meeting with Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, who last month said his country would look into the possibility of nuclear power.

Sudan may not be the only nation interested. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa told a meeting of the 22-nation bloc in Khartoum in March that the Arab world should vigorously pursue "peaceful" nuclear programs.

In Tehran, Bashir told Khamenei that Iran's achievement in enriching uranium was a "great success for the world of Islam."

"Iran's capability and progress is, in fact, an increase in the power of the Islamic world," state-run television quoted him as saying.

Tehran's announcement to that effect earlier this month exacerbated a long-running standoff between Iran and the Security Council, which is awaiting a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Friday on whether Iran has complied with demands to stop enrichment.

Although China and Russia continue to oppose any punitive steps against Iran, the standoff appears to be edging closer to Security Council action of some type. U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said Tuesday he expected the five permanent members this week to discuss "the next step."

Speaking to reporters in New York, Bolton also said Iran's statement of sharing nuclear technology was "irresponsible."

"This is exactly the kind of conduct that risks the spread of sensitive nuclear technology and ultimately the spread of nuclear weapons."

The U.S. and others suspect that Iran's civilian nuclear program is a cover for an effort to acquire a weapons capability. Iran denies the charge.

Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani told a conference on nuclear issues in Tehran Tuesday the country would suspend ties with the IAEA and accelerate its nuclear activities if targeted by sanctions.

'Arrogant powers'

Sudan also has been exercising the Security Council, which Tuesday imposed sanctions on four individuals linked to the fighting in Darfur - the first such step taken in response to the three-year-old conflict. China and Russia abstained.

The U.S. is leading calls for an African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur to be replaced later this year by a larger, more robust U.N. force, a move strongly opposed by Bashir.

Iranian and Sudanese leaders alike sought to portray their countries as victims of foreign bullying.

The Tehran Times quoted Bashir as saying Western media had launched an anti-Sudan propaganda campaign because of Khartoum's Islamic policies and the country's oil wealth.

Khamenei told Bashir that Islamic nations must foster solidarity and avoid discord to foil the "conspiracies" against them and to force the U.S. to retreat.

Allah had promised that the "arrogant powers" would face destruction.

The capabilities and resources of the Islamic world were sufficient to enable Muslims to overcome their problems, Khamenei said.

Earlier, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also spoke about Iran and Sudan having a joint enemy which was constantly impeding their progress and plotting against them, Iran Daily reported.

"The Iranian and Sudanese governments and nations are friends and brothers, and will maintain support for one another," Ahmadinejad said at a press conference with Bashir.

Hassan Hanizadeh, an editorialist for the Tehran Times, wrote Tuesday that Iran could play a significant role in "resolving the Darfur crisis and preventing Western interference."

Sudan's civil strife had been "mostly due to the interference of foreign powers" whose main objective was to gain control over its natural resources.

"Although the United States and Britain have attempted to exaggerate the Darfur crisis, the problem can be managed through humanitarian efforts, without the interference of Western powers," Hanizadeh said.

With some 200,000 people dead and two million displaced, the U.N. has declared Darfur the world's most serious humanitarian disaster.

'Strategic outpost'

Iran is OPEC's second-largest oil producer. Sudan also has significant oil reserves and, with the end of a two decade-long north-south civil war is becoming an increasingly important source.

Bashir seized control in a 1989 military coup and under him Sudan followed Iran's 1979 example by declaring itself an Islamic regime.

Bashir's Sunni Muslim regime soon established good relations with Iran's Shi'ite government. Researchers say the link-up in late 1991 resulted in members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard training fundamentalist militias set up by Khartoum.

"In early 1992 Sudan emerged as a strategic outpost and key part of the infrastructure for Iran's export of the Islamic Revolution throughout the Near East and Africa," according to counter-terrorism expert and author Yossef Bodansky.

Relations between the two later cooled, in part because of theological differences.

Under President Mohammed Khatami (1997-2005), Iran pursued less openly extremist policies, while Sudan in the second half of the 1990s sought to ease tensions with the West, for instance negotiating the departure of al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, who was based in Sudan from 1991 to 1996.

Now, with both governments under fire in the international community, they appear to be moving closer together again.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki during a meeting with Bashir this week praised what he called positive trends in bilateral relations.

He said the two countries could also contribute to ensuring greater effectiveness of the two blocs to which both belong - the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement.

See also:
Arab States Encouraged to Go Nuclear (Mar. 29, 2006)

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow