Iran’s offer of an Iranian helicopter carrier is rejected by Sudan in exchange for a port construction deal

Sudan rejected Iran’s proposal for a permanent naval base on the African Red Sea coast, which would have allowed Tehran to monitor maritime traffic in the Suez Canal and Israel, according to a senior Sudanese official speaking to the Wall Street Journal.

Iran previously supplied Sudan’s military with UAVs for fighting a rebel warlord and now offered a helicopter carrier in exchange for the naval base, as reported by Sudanese policy advisor Ahmed Hassan Mohammed to the Wall Street Journal.

Shahid Rajaei Port in southern Iran near Bandar Abbas (credit: EMAD YEGANEHDOOST/FARS NEWS AGENCY/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Iranian and Sudanese relations

Iran and Sudan have strengthened ties after years of tension. Iran used to be a close ally of former Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir, assisting in weapon smuggling to Gaza. When Bashir was ousted in 2019, Sudan distanced itself from Iran to improve relations with the US and normalized relations with Israel under the Abraham Accords.

During the Israeli-Hamas conflict, Sudan purchased weapons from Iran to fight rebel forces. An Iranian naval base on the Red Sea would allow Iran to support Yemen’s Houthis in attacking ships, a critical trade route surrounded by regional rivals like Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Members of the Islamic Action Front protest against the meeting between top Israeli and Palestinian officials at the Red Sea port of Aqaba, in Amman, Jordan February 26, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/JEHAD SHELBAK)

Iran’s proposal for intelligence gathering and warship stationing at the base was rejected by Sudan to avoid US and Israeli reactions.

International response to Yemen civil war

The ongoing civil war in Yemen, started in 2014, has led to tens of thousands killed and millions displaced. Both sides are accused of war crimes, with rebels facing allegations of crimes against humanity like murder and rape in Darfur.

UN officials criticized Sudan for civilian air bombings and obstructing humanitarian aid, which Sudan denies. Egypt also plays a role in Yemen by supplying UAVs and training soldiers.

THE JOINT Arab Islamic Extraordinary Summit in Riyadh, in November: Morocco, together with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, Mauritania, Djibouti, Jordan, and Egypt, blocked a proposal to cut ties with Israel. (credit: Ahmed Yosri/Reuters)

UAE reportedly supports rebels with weapons, a claim they deny, while Egypt aims to end the conflict without taking sides.