Yesterday, it was reported that a “huge fire” had broken out at a weapons factory in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan (for all of us who rely on presidential debates for geography, that’s two countries over from Mali). The Sudanese government, after some consideration, claimed that it was a bombing by “four planes” coming in “from the east,” and blamed Israel.
While that might seem like the form-letter response for something going wrong in an Arab country, it actually seems to be what happened; AFP reports that the Sudanese government will lodge a formal complaint against Israel with the U.N. Security Council. This wouldn’t be the first time Israel’s performed such a strike: In 2010, Israel bombed a convoy of trucks with weapons likely being used to supply Hamas that was traveling through northeastern Sudan.
AEI has a blog post on the attack as well — the factory struck seems to have been an Iranian Revolutionary Guard facility, and they mention the relationship between Khartoum and Tehran, which they explained “spans decades.”
That relationship has flourished under Omar Bashir’s rule; he rose to power in the late 1980s and early 1990s thanks to an Islamist-backed military coup, giving him an ideological tie to Iran that’s been cemented since then with financial and military deals. While Bashir had some serious rivals in the 1990s who tended to attract Islamist support, pushing him toward the West, there’s no doubt that his relationship to them will be solidified by its having severed the country’s Christian south. Thus, it’s hardly surprising that Sudan would be willing to host a factory operated by Iran for the purposes of spreading Islamist terror. The location would allow the Revolutionary Guard to produce and export weapons to forces across Africa, especially North Africa, and even Asia and the rest of the world — Tehran has never liked the optics of sending these grand-jihad goodie bags from Iran itself, and now probably struggled against various shipping embargoes, too.
As to the factory itself, Foreign Policy magazine commented in 2010 on a news story from a Sudanese opposition newspaper that the Revolutionary Guard had opened a factory in Khartoum, and this may well have been it. The newspaper which reported that story was promptly shut down by the government.