Trump to lift Sudan terror sponsor designation
President Trump said on Monday that Sudan will be removed from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism following the delivery of hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate American victims of terrorism.
The announcement caps nearly a year of negotiations between the Trump administration and Sudan’s civilian and military government, which came into power in the fall of 2019 following a grassroots revolution that overthrew the three-decade dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir.
The Sudanese government has agreed to put $335 million into an escrow account to be divided among the families of American victims and then-foreign nationals who were either killed or injured in the 1998 twin embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
Negotiating with the victims and families of victims of the terror attacks was one of a number of key requirements of Sudan’s transitional government as part of its push for the removal of the State Sponsor of Terrorism designation.
The removal will allow the transitional government to access key international funding as Sudan teeters on the brink of an economic collapse.
“GREAT news! New government of Sudan, which is making great progress, agreed to pay $335 MILLION to U.S. terror victims and families,” Trump wrote in a tweet Monday afternoon. “Once deposited, I will lift Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. At long last, JUSTICE for the American people and BIG step for Sudan!”
GREAT news! New government of Sudan, which is making great progress, agreed to pay $335 MILLION to U.S. terror victims and families. Once deposited, I will lift Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. At long last, JUSTICE for the American people and BIG step for Sudan!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 19, 2020
Trump’s announcement is likely a signal that his administration is preparing to announce an opening of relations between Sudan and Israel, as part of the president’s push to announce more breakthroughs in Middle East diplomacy ahead of the Nov. 3 elections.
The president has yet to announce “five or six” more countries he has touted as wanting to open relations with Israel following the successful brokering of diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Sudan has held off on agreeing to normalize relations with Israel.
The head of Sudan’s sovereign council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda in February, but in August, a Sudanese spokesman was fired for saying Khartoum was having discussions about normalizing relations with Israel.
The opening of diplomatic ties between Sudan and Israel would be a significant foreign policy win for Trump weeks before the election, given Khartoum’s historic role as the location of the Arab League’s 1967 “three no’s” resolution on Israel — no peace, no negotiations and no recognition.
Talks last month between Sudanese and U.S. officials over recognizing Israel stalled, the Sudan Tribune reported, after the Sudanese called for the U.S. to provide $10 billion in economic aid to Khartoum over the next few years, among other requests including Congress passing legislation shielding Sudan from other terrorism related claims and the immediate delisting from the terrorism list.
The president on Monday provided no further information beyond his tweet of the details surrounding the lifting of Sudan’s terrorism designation.
Cameron Hudson, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council, said Sudan is likely to receive a handful of incentives from the U.S. for normalizing relations with Israel following the rescission of the terrorism designation.
This includes hundreds of millions of additional humanitarian assistance; promotion of U.S. trade and investment in Sudan; partnership in engaging the World Bank and International Monetary Fund on relieving Sudan’s debt; a U.S. contribution of $300 million in debt relief for Sudan; removal of Sudan from the U.S. travel ban list; and efforts to pass legislation shielding Sudan from terrorism-related claims in U.S. courts.
The administration is typically required to notify Congress of its intent to remove the designation of which lawmakers have a 45-day window to block the terrorism rescission.
A congressional aide said Monday that the administration had yet to send a notification to House lawmakers.
There is bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for supporting Sudan’s transitional government and removing the terrorism designation, although Democratic lawmakers are split on some of the details of the administrations efforts and amid pushback from victims of terrorism.
This includes criticism of a tiered-payment system to victims of terrorism where American victims will receive larger payouts of the $335 million than the foreign-nationals who at the time of the attacks were employed by the U.S. government.
In the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by Al Qaeda, nearly 250 people were killed — including 12 American citizens — and over 5,000 were wounded.
Senate Democrats are also split over the State Department’s push for Congress to pass legislation that would give immunity to Sudan from all other terrorist related claims as part of the rescission.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) are opposed to the to State Department’s proposal. They are concerned over how doing so might impact for victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to pursue ongoing cases against Sudan in U.S. courts.