Sudan-Iran Foreign Relations

January 17, 2010
Flag of Sudan (Available at Wikimedia Commons)

Sudan has repeatedly supported Iran’s nuclear program in its public rhetoric. Sudan has been a consistent and vocal supporter of Iran’s contentious nuclear program. In a rare private meeting with a foreign head of state in 2006, Ayatollah Khamanei told Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir that “the Islamic Republic is ready to transfer this experience and the technology and knowledge of its [nuclear] scientists” to other friendly countries. In return, Bashir called Iran’s enrichment of uranium a great victory for the Islamic world and supported Iran’s right to its peaceful nuclear program.[1] Again in March 2007 and March 2008, the Sudanese president reiterated his support for Iran’s nuclear program, despite growing international concern over possible proliferation activities.[2] Further Sudanese support for Iran’s nuclear program surfaced in December 2009 when Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki met with his Sudanese counterpart Deng Alor and Sudanese Presidential Adviser Mustafa Osman Ismail.[3] Minister Alor stated that, "our fundamental stance is to back Iran's nuclear issue and we always stand by Iran."[4]


Economic Relationship:

Bilateral trade between Iran and Sudan reached $43 million a year in 2006, though Iranian Ambassador to Khartoum Reza Amiri expressed hope that the number would increase it to $70 million.[5]   Iran is also engaged in several development projects in Sudan, including a water treatment project and an electrical production project, which Sudan claims value $30 million and $130 million dollars respectively.[6]  In October 2008, Sudanese Ambassador to Tehran Sulayman Abdut-Tawwab Az-Zain met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and called for an increase in bilateral trade.[7]


Diplomatic/Military Relationship:

Sudan has strengthened its relationship with the Islamic Republic since the end of the 1980s.[8] In recent years, Iran and Sudan have increased their bilateral cooperation to include economic, military, and nuclear issues. As Russia and China backed away from overtly cooperating with Sudan’s military in the midst of the crisis in Darfur, Iran stepped in to train, fund, and supply Sudan’s military.[9]

Tehran and Khartoum began to extend their cooperation in 1989, when Brigadier Omar al-Bashir took power in Sudan in an Islamist-inspired coup. Over the course of the revolution, the Shia Islamic Republic of Iran began sending weapons and oil supplies to Bashir’s Sunni revolutionaries.[10]  Iran also began sending Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps forces to train Bashir’s army shortly after the revolution, and in 1991, Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani pledged to augment assistance with $17 million in financial aid to Khartoum. He also added $300 million worth of Chinese weapons and pledged to sell Sudan 1 million tons of oil each year.[11] Iran followed up this deal four years later with a new assessment of Sudan’s military needs, which yielded Bashir more valuable military deals in the form of armored cars, heavy artillery, and radar equipment. One year later, the two countries signed an agreement to broaden the scope of their military and political cooperation.[12]

In recent years, Sudan has become central to Iranian foreign relations in the Horn of Africa. The International Herald Tribune reported in April 1997 that “the two countries have signed more than 30 agreements ranging from agro-business to joint ventures to training for Sudanese army and intelligence officers in Iran.”[13] In March 2008, the two countries signed a mutual defense agreement, providing for consolidated defense ties and joint efforts to strengthen peace and security in the Horn of Africa.[14]  In March 2008, Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said the two countries were expanding their military ties in “all fields, including the field of defense.”[15]

In February 2008 during the African Summit held in Ethiopia, Sudan and Chad accepted Iran’s offer to mediate an ongoing dispute over violence in Sudan’s Darfur region. In September 2008, Iran formally opposed the International Criminal Court arrest warrant issued for President Bashir for war crimes in Darfur.[16] In a March 2009 sermon, Iranian Ayatollah Khatami explicitly condemned the International Criminal Court saying that the warrant was issued because Sudan “has stood up to the extravagance of colonial powers” and has sought to implement Shari’ah law, actions that Iran supports.[17]  In March 2009, Iran attended a conference with other senior Middle East leaders in Khartoum, Sudan to protest the ICC’s decision.  Iranian Speaker of the Parliament Ali Larijani said the meeting “indicates a readiness, a will and a unified position to support Sudan, its government and its people.”[18]

Following a November 2009 meeting between Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Sudanese Presidential Adviser Mustafa Othman Ismail and Foreign Minister Deng Alor, Mottaki said that he expected the expansion of Iranian-Sudanese diplomatic relations: “New steps should be taken for expansion of relations and cooperation and finding new atmospheres and avenues for mutual cooperation.”[19] Minister Alor also called on Tehran to help the reconciliation of Sudanese internal conflict. Following the meeting, Advisor Ismail acknowledged Iran's supportive stances to Sudan at regional and international arenas and affirmed that the Sudanese-Iranian political, economic, and commercial ties are strategic and solid.[20] Minister Mottaki focused on bilateral relations and Iran’s desire to help rehabilitate the war-torn Darfur region.[21]

[1]“Iran ‘Could Share Nuclear Skills,’” BBC News, April 25, 2006.
[2]“Iran, Sudan ‘to Defend Islam,” Business Day (South Africa), March 2, 2007; “Sudan, Iran Vow to Defeat ‘Enemies of Islam,’” Agence France Presse, March 1, 2008.
[3]“Sudan Supports Iran’s Right to Get Access to Peaceful Nuclear Energy,” News.Az,  December 12, 2009, (January 5, 2010)
[4]“Sudan Supports Iran’s Right to Get Access to Peaceful Nuclear Energy,” News.Az,  December 12, 2009, (January 5, 2010)
[5]“Iranian President To Hold Talks With Sudanese Counterpart,” Sudan Tirbune, February 27, 2007, (April 29, 2009)
[6]“Iranian President To Hold Talks With Sudanese Counterpart,” Sudan Tirbune, February 27, 2007, (April 29, 2009)
[7]“Ahmadinejad: The Hague A Tool For Superpowers To Suppress Others,” Islamic Republic News Agency, October 5, 2008
[8]“A New Alliance for Terror: US Eyes Growing Ties Between Iran and Sudan,” Newsweek, February 24, 1992.
[10]“A Deadly Love Triangle: Why Iran and Hamas Adore Darfur’s Genocidal Dictator,” Weekly Standard Online, August 6, 2008.
[13]Amir Taheri Amir, “Sudan: An Expanding War with an Iran Connection,” International Herald Tribune, April 9, 1997.
[14]“Sudan, Iran Sign Military Cooperation Agreement,” Sudan Tribune, March 8, 2008.
[15]“Sudan the Pivot of Iran-Africa Relations: Defense Minister,” Tehran Times, March 6, 2008.
[16]“Tehran Opposes Al-Bashir Arrest,” Fars News Agency, September 8, 2008
[17]“Iran- Ayatollah Khatami Attacks Saudi Foreign Minister During Prayer Sermon”, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran Radio 1, March 9, 2009
[18]“Iran and Hamas Back Sudan’s Bashir,” Al Jazeera English, March 7, 2009, (April 29, 2009)
[19]“Mottaki Underlies Expansion of Iran-Sudan Ties,” Fars News Agency, November 12, 2009, (January 5, 2010)
[20]“Sudan Supports Iran’s Nuclear Right for Peaceful Purposes,”, December 10, 2009,, (January 5, 2010); “Sudan Supports Iran’s Right to Get Access to Peaceful Nuclear Energy,” News.Az,  December 12, 2009, (January 5, 2010)
[21]“Sudan Supports Iran’s Right to Get Access to Peaceful Nuclear Energy,” News.Az,  December 12, 2009, (January 5, 2010)