The popular revolution in Sudan this spring may well represent more than just a local political transition. The overthrow of Numairi’s 16-year reign marks the end of a decade and a half of regime stability throughout the Arab world, with the exception of the two Yemens. This era of enormous wealth and scandalous waste, of construction and corruption, welfare and war, all financed by the flood of oil revenues, served to embalm and preserve these decrepit regimes from the effective opposition of their subjects. Sudan had become, in many ways, the weakest link. But Sudan is not unique. All of the most populous Arab countries—Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, for instance—have witnessed serious mass protests in recent years. The oil states themselves have experienced economic contractions which have not yet had their political expression. Sudan has broken the spell of oil.
This is not the only significant feature of Sudan’s revolution. For a second time (the first was in 1964), Sudanese have taken to the streets to bring down a military regime. This was no barracks maneuver and its popular character is still a potent factor for the immediate future. The inertia of the ruling Transitional Military Council since April has activists talking of “the generals hijacking the revolution.” Though Sudan is still nominally under martial law, huge rallies and unfettered political proselytizing have given Khartoum an air of political freedom quite unique in the Arab world. Furthermore, this popular movement was distinctly not Islamic but secular in its dominant coloration. In fact, Numairi’s efforts to impose Islamic law and punishments helped to precipitate his downfall.
Finally, the change of regime in Khartoum has already reshuffled regional alliances. Sudan has repaired relations with Libya and Ethiopia, while ties with Egypt remain strained by Cairo’s protection of Numairi. This August, the Pentagon had to conduct its annual Bright Star military exercises in the region without the usual participation of Sudan.
The Bright Star maneuvers this year were the largest yet in the region, with 9,000 US troops and contingents from Egypt, Jordan, Oman and Somalia. This year’s rendition included a mock amphibious attack and B-52 bombing of Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city. As usual, these intervention dry runs received little attention here in the US. This October, the annual Peace with Justice Week coordinated by the National Council of Churches coincides with the second anniversary of the October 23 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut. Mobilization for Survival and the American Friends Service Committee, along with many other organizations, are sponsoring a “Speak Out for Middle East Peace” campaign. Activists around the country are preparing programs and activities about US policy in the region, opposing intervention and promoting a comprehensive settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict. In addition to public forums, local coalitions are arranging commemorative events, access to local media and meetings with local congressional offices. Main themes include a moratorium on arms transfers to the region and a nuclear free zone in the area, and inclusion of the PLO in negotiations with Israel.
For current information about Middle East activities during Peace With Justice Week, contact the Mobe at 853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003, (212)533-0008; or AFSC at 1501 Cherry Street, Philadelphia PA 19102, (215)241-7143.
The Committee to Protect Journalists publishes the CPJ Update, and its coverage of government repression against journalists in the Middle East is quite good. The March-April 1985 issue, for instance, contained a first-person account by an Iranian woman journalist of prison experience in Iran under Khomeini, the text of a CPJ telegram to the Israeli government protesting the killing of two Lebanese CBS cameramen by Israeli troops, and articles on press restrictions in Jordan, Libya, Sudan and Lebanon. CPJ’s address is 36 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036. They would appreciate additional information on the situation of writers and journalists throughout the region.
The Defense Monitor, published by the Center for Defense Information in Washington, recently came out with a special issue on US Special Operations Forces, documenting the expansion of Green Berets and a host of similar commando units under the Reagan administration. The report concludes that Special Operations Forces make up between 25 and 35 percent of all US military training teams abroad, including the Middle East. Spending for SOF has roughly tripled in the last three years, and one deputy assistant secretary of defense has referred to them as the “most heavily used of our military forces today.” The report is available from CDI at 303 Capitol Gallery West, 600 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington DC 20024.