Analysis

US Announces Sudan’s removal from terrorism sponsors list

SudanBy Hannah Crumpton, Head, Africa Desk
Analytical Question: The Stability of the Sudanese Government

ON OCTOBER 19, 2020, the United States announced plans to remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, after a 27-year designation. The designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism dates to 1993 when Sudan was accused of having hosted members of terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah and al Qaeda, including its leader, Osama bin Laden. Sudan is one of four nations designated by the United States as a state sponsor of terrorism, along with Iran, North Korea, and Syria. This severely impedes Sudan from having access to loans, foreign investment, and debt relief.[1] We predict with low to moderate confidence that Sudan’s removal from the state sponsors of terrorism list will help Sudan revive its economy and bolster its transition to democratic rule.

In recent months, Sudan has faced new outbreaks of polio, record floods, and a food crisis that has left almost 10 million people hungry.[2] The country has reported 837 deaths in the COVID-19 pandemic. The deal would allow Sudan to access foreign aid, investment, and debt relief once again, as well as military aid. Officials report the latest offer to Sudan would include humanitarian aid, 400,000 metric tons of wheat to alleviate the country’s food shortage, and a promise that an American economic delegation would visit the country to consider potential investments in agriculture.2

Negotiations to remove Sudan from the State Department list had intensified over the past 18 months. President Trump announced on Monday that he will lift the terrorist designation as soon as Sudan deposits a payment of $335 million in compensation to victims (and their families) of attacks on U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and the US Navy destroyer Cole in Yemen in 2000.[3] In addition the mandatory compensation, the United States expects Sudan to take steps in the coming days to normalize relations with Israel, becoming the fifth Arab country to do so.2

The push by the Trump administration for official diplomatic ties between Israel and Sudan comes in the wake of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain normalizing ties with Israel, as part of the Abraham Accords.[4] The Sudanese interim government has been divided over possibly following along those lines. The top civilian official in the coalition, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, has argued that the transitional government does not have the mandate to decide on foreign policy issues of this magnitude.[5] The Sudanese government has been torn between a desire to get off the US terrorism list as quickly as possible, hoping to reignite its economy, and fears that recognition of Israel could prompt political instability and collapse of the country’s fragile democratic transition.2 Sources within the transitional Sudanese government reported fears that the incentives being offered could be withdrawn after the US election.[6] President Trump is seen as using this deal for a diplomatic win, to gain any last-minute voter support weeks before the US presidential election.

Recent developments in the removal of Sudan from the US state sponsors of terrorism list have pointed to an increased possibility of economic growth for Sudan, which is currently $60 billion in debt.[7] The push by the United States to have Sudan normalize its relations with Israel indicates the possibility of backlash from Sudanese citizens and Sudan’s previous outspoken statements of the continuous support for the establishment of the Palestinian State. Despite the possibility of backlash, we can assess that the removal of Sudan from the state sponsors of terrorism list will still occur in the near future. We predict with low to moderate confidence that Sudan’s removal from the state sponsor of terrorism will help Sudan revive its economy and bolster its transition to democratic rule.


[1] Staff, A., Borschel-Dan, A., Staff, T., Gross, J., AFP, T., Eric Baradat, S., . . . Hanau, S. (2020, October 22). Israeli, Sudanese officials confirm talks in Khartoum, say normalization near. Retrieved October 23, 2020.

[2] Dahir, A. (2020, October 20). ‘It’s a New Day’: Sudan Exults in Move to Take It Off List of Terror States. Retrieved October 23, 2020.

[3] Guillen, M. (2020, October 19). U.S. to remove Sudan from state terrorism sponsors list after payment to victims -Trump. Retrieved October 23, 2020.

[4] Tobin, J., Kahana, A., Solomon, A., Richman, J., Menachem, Y., Phillips, M., . . . Bandler, A. (2020, October 19). US to delist Sudan as state sponsor of terror, paving way for normalization with Israel. Retrieved October 23, 2020.

[5] Magdy, S. (2020, October 04). US push for Arab-Israel ties divides Sudanese leaders. Retrieved October 23, 2020.

[6] Magdy, S. (2020, October 04). US push for Arab-Israel ties divides Sudanese leaders. Retrieved October 23, 2020.

[7] Sudan eyes debt relief after lifting from U.S. sponsors of terrorism list. (2020, October 19). Retrieved October 23, 2020.