Results of a recent referendum vote on independence in Sudan are set to be announced next month.
Preliminary numbers show more than 98 percent of voters in southern Sudan want independence from the north.
But the country’s Arab Muslim government, which is based in the north, and its Iranian ally may not let the south break away without a fight.
For more than 20 years, the Sudanese government waged a ruthless jihad against the south, leading to some 2 million deaths — many of them Christians.
Now that the south is set to become an independent nation, Sudanese Dictator Omar al-Bashir is once again rallying his troops.
“The Islamist Salafist and jihadi forces who rule the elites of Khartoum are going to try to do everything they can,” explained Walid Phares, Middle East expert and author of ‘The Coming Revolution.’ “One — to undermine the viability of the young southern Sudan. Two — to make sure that no other spots in Sudan which are against the government, against the jihadi regime, will erupt as well.”
Stakes for Iran
Phares added that one of the most important of the potential hot spots lies in eastern Sudan.
“There, you have a population known as the Beja population. And they too are claiming that Khartoum is persecuting them, and they may be calling for self-determination,” he said.
The Beja live along the Red Sea in eastern Sudan — a vital waterway not only for Bashir’s government, but for Iran as well.
“The Iranian regime is now putting tremendous pressure on Khartoum and Bashir to make sure that this region will remain ‘under jihadi control,'” Phares explained. “Why? Because the iranians now are moving into the Red Sea.”
Phares said Iran wants a Red Sea port in Sudan where it can base ships and other assets to turn up the heat not only on Israel, but also its Arab rivals in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Bashir’s regime has lost the south, where much of Sudan’s oil is based.
The Sudanese leader is also under indictment by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide.
That and the potential to one day be under an Iranian nuclear umbrella makes a closer alliance with Iran even more attractive to Khartoum.