In Stratfor's Fourth Quarter Forecast, we highlight Sudan's attempts to thaw its relationship with the West. By lifting sanctions on Sudan, the United States is sending a clear signal that those efforts are paying off. How Sudan's reorientation to the West will affect its leadership is a key trend to watch in the coming months.
Sudan's improved relationship with the West is becoming more concrete. On Oct. 6, the United States formally lifted partial sanctions on Sudan. The decision follows Sudanese efforts to work more closely with the United States on issues such as counterterrorism and human rights and is part of a general trend toward warmer relations. Shortly before leaving office in January 2017, former President Barack Obama initiated a partial lifting of sanctions on Sudan. Then in July, U.S. President Donald Trump decided to delay the final decision to permanently lift the sanctions against Sudan until October.
Sudan has worked hard to improve its human rights record and its intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States in the past few months. U.S. and Sudanese officials have reportedly engaged in several high-level meetings, and the Trump administration recently dropped Sudan from the list of countries facing restricted travel to the United States. Washington's move also lends credit to several Sudanese officials that in recent years have pushed for a gradual foreign policy reorientation away from Iran and toward Saudi Arabia and the United States.
There are several constraining factors, however, that Sudan will have to overcome before it can reap the full benefit of its newfound orientation toward the West. Most notably, Sudan will remain on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. The International Criminal Court's outstanding arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al Bashir for alleged crimes against humanity could also drive a wedge between the African country and the West. Al Bashir has previously stated that he will remain in office until at least 2020, which given the ICC warrant, will limit the extent of the Sudan-U.S. relationship.