Report: Sudan Arming Syrian Rebels

Report threatens to put Sudan on a collision course with its Iranian allies, who back Assad.

Ari Soffer, | updated: 19:46

Syrian rebels patrol in the northwestern town
Syrian rebels patrol in the northwestern town
AFP photo

The Sudanese government has been supplying Syrian rebels with weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles and small arms, according to unnamed western and Syrian rebel sources, and cited by The Telegraph.

According to the report, Sudan - which is under an international arms embargo due to allegations of war crimes by its own government - has been selling weapons to the gulf state of Qatar, which is a major backer of the Syrian rebels and the leading sponsor of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. The Qatari government then passed on the weapons to Syrian rebels, the report alleges.

If true, the allegations are significant in that by supplying the mainly Sunni rebels with arms to fight the Assad regime, the Sudanese government is putting itself on the opposite side of the conflict to its Iranian allies, who support the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Sudanese officials, for their part, are denying the reports, alleging that it is part of a smear campaign against their government. But the regime of Omar el-Bashir has a long record of secretive arms deals which are then officially denied.

According to Jonah Leff, a Sudan analyst for the Small Arms Survey, Sudanese weapons or munitions have turned up in South Sudan, Somalia, Ivory Coast, Chad, Kenya, Guinea, Mali and Uganda, supporting a variety of regimes and rebel groups, including the Libyan rebels who fought Muammar Gaddafi, and the Lords Resistance Army in Africa.

Assuming this latest revelation is true, it may pose the latest example of the realignment of old alliances along sectarian lines as a result of the Syrian conflict.

Other examples of this phenomenon include the rapid decline in popularity of the Iranian-backed Shia terrorist group Hezbollah, which used to enjoy wide support even among Sunni Arabs but which has seen that popularity turn into vociferous hatred as a result of its decision to support the Assad regime. The souring of relations between Hamas - a Sunni Islamist organisation - and its former Syrian and Iranian patrons is another.

Other analysts suggest the motives of the Sudanese regime may be far less ideological, however, and that money was the primary motive for such deals.