Sudan military council, opposition welcome power-sharing agreement

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A Sudanese man flashes the victory gesture as people gather outside al-Huda prison in the capital Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman on July 4, 2019, during a ceremony marking the release of 235 members of a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army. (AFP / ASHRAF SHAZLY)
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Abd al-Rahim Hamdan Dagalo (R, front), a commander of Sudan's Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitaries and the brother of their top commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo "Himediti", attends a ceremony marking the release of 235 members of a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army. (AFP / ASHRAF SHAZLY)
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General Jamal Omar (R), a member of Sudan's Transitional Military Council (TMC), attends a ceremony marking the release of 235 members of a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army on July 4, 2019. (AFP / ASHRAF SHAZLY)
Updated 05 July 2019

Sudan military council, opposition welcome power-sharing agreement

  • Saudi Arabia welcomed the power-sharing agreement that Sudan’s ruling military council and the Alliance for Freedom and Change reached on Friday
  • The UAE congratulated Sudan on its power-sharing agreement and said that it stands with Khartoum in “good times and bad times”

KHARTOUM: Sudan's ruling military council and its pro-democracy movement both welcomed a new power-sharing agreement reached Friday, raising hopes that the deal would end a three-month political crisis that has paralyzed the country and led to scores of deaths following a violent crackdown on peaceful protesters by authorities.
News of the deal touched off street celebrations in the capital of Khartoum with hundreds dancing and waving Sudan's flag as drivers honked their horns. The crisis has gripped Sudan ever since the military ousted longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir in April.

Saudi Arabia welcomed the power-sharing agreement that Sudan’s ruling military council and the Alliance for Freedom and Change reached on Friday.  

A statement issued by the foreign ministry said the Kingdom hopes that this step will be the beginning of a new phase of security and stability in Sudan, and reaffirmed its support for Sudan and its people.

The sides agreed to form a joint military and civilian sovereign council to lead the country during a transition period of three years and three months, said a statement by the Sudanese Professionals' Association, which has spearheaded the protests. The joint council had been a sticking point in the negotiations.
The council will include five civilians representing the protest movement and five military members. An 11th seat will go to a civilian chosen by both sides. A military member will preside over the council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian member after that, according to the statement.
That suggested a significant concession by pro-democracy forces, which had insisted that the sovereign council have only a civilian president. But the deal also secured a key demand by protest leaders: that they select the members of a technocratic Cabinet to be formed independently from the generals.
The creation of a legislative council will be postponed for three months, during which time the sovereign council will make the nation's laws.
"Today, our revolution has won and our victory shines," the SPA said in the statement, which was posted on its Facebook page.
The generals also hailed the deal, with the military-controlled Al-Sudan TV channel playing national songs and rerunning excerpts of the news conference by both sides announcing the agreement, with the caption: "Congratulations to the Sudanese people."

"This deal will be comprehensive and will not exclude anyone and will meet the ambitions of the Sudanese people and their victorious revolution," said Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy chief of the ruling military council, speaking at the news conference with protest leaders and African mediators.
The talks had collapsed when security forces razed a protest camp outside the military headquarters in Khartoum on June 3, and protest leaders said more than 100 people have been killed since then. In the ensuing weeks, protesters stayed in the streets, demanding that the generals hand power to civilian leadership.
Omer El-Digair, a leader of the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, a coalition representing the protesters, said they hoped that forming the transitional institutions "marks the beginning of a new era."
"We hope it is an era where we can shut off the sound of pistols and destroy for good prisons of arbitrary detention," he said at the news conference.

“We would like to reassure all political forces, armed movements and all those who participated in the change from young men and women … that this agreement will be comprehensive and will not exclude anyone,” said General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of the Transitional Military Council.
“We thank the African and Ethiopian mediators for their efforts and patience. We also thank our brothers in the Forces for Freedom and Change for the good spirit,” said Dagalo, who heads the Rapid Support Forces accused by the FFC of crushing the sit-in.
Opposition medics say more than 100 people were killed in the dispersal and subsequent violence. The government put the death toll at 62.

The UAE congratulated Sudan on its power-sharing agreement and said that it stands with Khartoum in “good times and bad times.”

The UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash also wrote on Twitter  that he hopes the “next stage will witness the establishment of a solid constitutional system that will strengthen the role of institutions with broad national and popular support.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday he was encouraged by a power-sharing deal reached between Sudan's military rulers and protest leaders on a transition to civilian rule.
Guterres "encourages all stakeholders to ensure the timely, inclusive, and transparent implementation of the agreement and resolve any outstanding issues through dialogue," said a UN statement.

Egypt and the Arab League also welcomed the power-sharing agreement between the ruling military council and a coalition of opposition and protest groups.  

Public attitudes in ‘ally’ Qatar at odds with US Middle East priorities: poll

Updated 26 October 2020

Public attitudes in ‘ally’ Qatar at odds with US Middle East priorities: poll

  • Arab News/YouGov pan-Arab survey shows gulf between Qatar’s claim to being US ally and public opinion
  • Most respondents said Trump’s actions, notably the killing of General Soleimani, were negative for the region

DUBAI, ERBIL: For a country that advertises itself as a close ally of the US, hosting America’s biggest military contingent in the Middle East at Al-Udeid air base near Doha and spending billions of dollars on US military hardware, public attitudes in Qatar are conspicuously out of sync with the thinking in Washington on Middle East issues.
That is according to the findings of the Arab News/YouGov pan-Arab survey. From the killing on Jan. 3 of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani to US President Donald Trump’s role in the fight against extremism in the Middle East, respondents in Qatar belonged to that segment of Arab opinion most critical of Washington’s recent actions.
The question — to what extent has Trump has helped or hindered the fight against extremism — was put to 1,960 people in 18 Arab countries. Overall, 56 percent of the respondents felt he had hindered the fight. Among respondents from Qatar, this view soared to 79 percent.
Respondents in Qatar also disapproved of Trump’s May 2018 withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — better known as the Iran nuclear deal — and his reimposition of economic sanctions on Tehran, with 33 percent of the people polled in the Gulf country saying the move made the Middle East less safe.
Admittedly, a similar proportion of the full complement of 2,187 people — 35 percent — who were asked the same question for the pan-Arab survey agreed with the view that the US pullout and sanctions regime had made the region less safe.
“Despite the official relationship between Qatar and the US, every single Qatari media outlet, especially Al Jazeera, is bombarding Qatari public opinion and the Arab world with anti-Trump talk,” said Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, former chairman of the Arab Council for Social Sciences.
“They are the ones that shape public opinion and it seems that this is fine with the Qatari government, despite the fact that they have a vast relationship with the Trump administration. So, this shows a kind of contradiction at the official level with public opinion.”

READ: The methodology behind the Arab News/YouGov Pan-Arab Survey

Since the Arab boycott of Qatar began on June 5, 2017, the gas-rich Gulf state has taken a number of steps to strengthen its relations with the US in order to assuage the effects of diplomatic isolation. But it has also continued its manifold engagement with a country viewed by many in the US foreign-policy establishment as a “malign actor,” Iran. The two countries happen to share the world’s biggest natural-gas field, South Pars.
The upshot is that public opinion in Qatar is somewhat softer on Iran than elsewhere in the Arab region, if the Arab News/YouGov survey findings are any guide. The killing of Soleimani was viewed as “negative for the region” by 52 percent of respondents overall, but feelings were especially strong in Qatar, where 62 percent saw it that way.
By contrast, the strike was viewed as “positive for the region” in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iraq respectively by 68 percent, 71 percent and 57 percent of respondents. Soleimani, who headed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Al-Quds Force from 1998 until his death, was killed in a US drone strike near Baghdad Airport alongside the commander of Iran’s paramilitary proxies in Iraq, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis.
The disparity was also apparent when people in Qatar were asked what the next US president should do about relations with Iran. A substantial (55 percent) number called for the nuclear deal to be revived, while a smaller amount (16 percent) favored the continuation of sanctions and for Washington to maintain a war posture.

Again, by comparison, of 1,949 respondents in the wider MENA region, just 34 percent said they want to see the JCPOA revived and 33 percent said they want to see the sanctions continued and the US to maintain a war posture.
Given the apparent opposition in Qatar to the Trump agenda on Iran — and the expectation that his Democratic rival Joe Biden may revive the nuclear deal he helped draft in 2015 — it is perhaps unsurprising that just 6 percent of the respondents in Qatar said they would vote for Trump if given the opportunity, while 57 percent said they would vote for Biden.
Granted the wider region also appears to favor Biden over Trump — with 12 percent saying they would vote for the Republican incumbent and 40 percent signaling they would back the Democratic challenger — but the antipathy in Qatar seems particularly stark.
For Varsha Koduvayur, senior research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the results of the new Arab News/YouGov survey reflect public awareness of the sharp geopolitical tensions in the region since Soleimani’s death.
“This tit for tat we saw between Washington and Tehran was certainly a factor in how respondents viewed this question,” Koduvayur told Arab News.
She said Doha’s relationship with Tehran was one of the “straws that broke the camel’s back” when the GCC countries chose to impose their embargo. “Qatar has always been this outlier, not always in a positive sense, in the GCC,” she said.
The Arab News/YouGov survey results seem to confirm this difference of opinion. “This response underscores that notion to me,” Koduvayur told Arab News. “Qatar has its own independent policies at times but this doesn’t always gel well with what the rest of the GCC is thinking, nor is it always comfortable with what the US is thinking or with US interests in the region.”
Finally, for a country accused by three fellow GCC members and Egypt of supporting extremism through its backing of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Qatar data offered few surprises. “Containing Iran and Hezbollah,” “Weakening Islamist parties” and “Quashing radical Islamic terrorism” received respectively 17 percent, 6 percent and 6 percent support from respondents in Qatar to the question “What would you want the next US president to focus on in the coming years?”
Presumably for the same reasons, the perception of “radical Islamic terrorism,” “Iran” and “Islamist parties” as the “three biggest threats facing the Arab world” garnered respectively 22 percent, 11 percent and 7 percent from respondents in Qatar, in contrast with the relatively higher regionwide figures — 33 percent, 20 percent and 16 percent.

Twitter: @CalineMalek