Middle East’s power struggle moves to the Horn of Africa

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After troops launched a deadly night-time raid on Sudan’s pro-democracy protesters, blame immediately focused on the Rapid Support Forces. The notorious paramilitary unit, made up of remnants of a militia that wreaked havoc in war-torn Darfur in the 2000s, had led the June 3 assault, victims said. Demonstrators were beaten, shot and raped. The bodies of dozens of the 100 people killed — according to local estimates — were tossed into the Nile.

The crackdown suggested the country’s military leaders, who have ruled since the protests triggered a coup against Omar al-Bashir in April, were sending a deadly message that they would not bow to popular pressure and accept a transition to civilian rule. But it was not just the RSF and the generals who faced scrutiny: as the body count mounted, attention intensified on their regional backers — Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Many Sudanese activists even asked whether the powerful Gulf states gave the green light for the raid.

Two days after the attack, the US state department issued an unusually curt readout of a call between a senior US official and Prince Khaled bin Salman, the Saudi deputy defence minister and brother of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto leader. David Hale, undersecretary of state for political affairs, described the crackdown as “brutal” and told Prince Khaled of the “importance of a transition from the Transitional Military Council to a civilian-led government”.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE strongly deny prior knowledge of the raid, diplomats say. And both insist they are promoting stability in the region and have a long history of economic and political ties to Sudan, a country that bridges the African and Arab worlds and has a long coastline along the Red Sea.… Read More...