The West Asia region after the decisive 2003 and 2011 events witnessed challenging of the established regional order, and the regional and international powers went to the struggling for a new favorable order in the region. The outcomes of rivalry are emerging now as the region sees new alliances and a new regional order in the making. The Axis of Resistance, coalescing with Russia, in competition with the Western-Arab-Israeli camp has managed to make game-changing gains and influence the course of developments and determine how the future regional order should look like.
This is significant because some players have begun to review their behavior in a bid to draw closer to the camp that gathers together the Resistance and Russia. This necessarily means that such players have to move away from the Western-Arab camp. An apparent example is Turkey. Before new developments changed the face of the region, Ankara was recognized as part of the Western front. However, the failed military coup of July 15, 2016 against the Turkish president turned the tide, making Turkey move toward solidification of relations with Russia and Iran, as the leader of the Axis of Resistance.
Another similar actor is Sudan. President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan visited Russia last week. He expressed Khartoum's interest in expansion of cooperation with Moscow and went against any military or political encounter between the Arab states and Iran. He also criticized the American and European intervention in the regional crises.
This visit and its outcomes provide with an evidence that Sudan is eyeing alteration of its foreign policy attitudes. But the crucial point about this change is existence of division backgrounds in relations of Sudan and the Arab-Western front. Once the equations of power change in the region, the divisive factors rise to surface again to push Sudan away from the US and Saudi Arabia as the faces of the Western-Arab camp.
One of the divisive factors between Sudan and Saudi Arabia could stem from the Sudanese ruling party’s affiliation to the Muslim Brotherhood and its gain of legitimacy in the country through ideological closeness to this Islamist movement. Saudi Arabia's ruling family, an ideological patron of Wahabbism which is struggling to spread across the Muslim countries, finds power gain of the Muslim Brotherhood-linked political factions in the region posing a danger to its regional position and domestic rule.
When the war sparked in Syria in 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood put premium on ousting the Syrian government as a top political, ideological, and military priority. This agenda drew Sudan close to Saudi Arabia. But things have changed now that Erdogan’s Turkey, as the godfather of Muslim Brotherhood across the region, turned head towards work with Russia and the Axis of Resistance and in practice took back its primary calls for the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down from power.
The Sudanese government followed suit, showing that it is for Assad remaining in power, to the frustration of Saudi Arabia which since the beginning spared no efforts to oust the Syrian leader. Sudan president during his trip to Moscow said: “Peace in Syria is unlikely without President Assad's stay in power.” The Sudanese stance went against those of Saudi Arabia also in Egypt. While Riyadh colluded with the military to organize a coup against President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, Khartoum found a Muslim Brotherhood-led Egyptian government in its best interest and so voiced backing for it.
There is another aspect of the conflict of the Saudi-Sudanese policy. The Sudanese government, embarking on an Islamist approach as a Sunni state, for long years has insisted on its confrontational policy in the face of the Israeli regime and the US. This is while Riyadh is a frontrunner of efforts for Arab normalization of diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv and is a key ally to Washington in the region. Despite the fact that the kingdom has been an advocate of concessions to the Israelis and pressure on Hamas of Palestine, Khartoum has often highlighted the need for anti-Israeli resistance and adopted pro-Hamas policy.
Another problem in the two sides' relationship is Sudan leaders' relative consistence with the Iranian approach to some regional cases, something drawing the Arab monarchy's anti-Sudanese criticism.
But in past few years, Riyadh and Khartoum moved towards closer work and boost of relationship. This closeness even allured Sudan into the Saudi-led Arab military coalition war against Yemen. The analysts point to the country’s political, economic, and security crises, which severely augmented the government susceptibility, as the main drive behind Khartoum’s shift and walking in line with Riyadh. In fact, the Sudanese government redesigned its policy in order for its needs to be met and threats against it to be eliminated. The final aim was to pave the way for the Saudi Arabian aids to pour towards the country and also lifting of the Western sanctions. Riyadh’s $1 billion financial aid cajoled Khartoum into supporting the Saudi viewpoint in regional issues, including the Yemeni crisis. But the kingdom’s help was far from being able to yield trust and settle the differences of Sudan's leaders with the West and Saudi Arabia.
Now that the American-Arab-Israeli camp is losing the edge and on the opposite side the Resistance-Russia bloc's influence is on the rise, Sudan is optimistic to beat its problems in politics and economy via partnership with Russia and without the need to disregard part of its foreign policy tenets that are marked by antipathy to the Israel regime and advocacy of the Muslim Brotherhood, beside condemnation of Western interventions in the region.