A new report suggests the tight relationship between the Iranian and Sudanese militaries has consequences far beyond the Sudan's borders.
The Iranian bullets that a Conflict Armament Research report found throughout Africa probably weren't of the highest quality the Islamic Republic could offer. They were all made during the same three-year period at the beginning of the last decade -- it's likely they were military surplus or low-quality leftovers, sold at a discount to anyone looking for cheap ammo. But low-quality bullets are still deadly, and the CAR found Iranian munitions all over Africa, in 14 locations across nine countries, and with groups as diverse as a Tutsi militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and terrorists aligned with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. And there's evidence to suggest that Iran's closest African partner played an active role in funneling the ammunition throughout the continent.
Despite some very public internal disagreements, Sudan's nominally-Islamist National Congress Party government has positioned itself as a key ally of Iran, and of the collection of countries and militant groups opposed to American, Israeli and western policies in the Middle East. Ali Karti, Sudan's foreign minister, has publically spoken out against the country's tight military relations with Iran, and American policymakers have long viewed the NCP government as willing to abandon its close relationships with rogue states and terrorist groups if the right combination of incentives and inducements could be reached. But the moderate bloc inside the NCP doesn't seem to be winning out: Iran helps operate the sprawling Yarmouk weapons facility in Khartoum, a plant that stored a group of shipping containers that were targeted and practically vaporized by an airstrike in October, an attack that was likely Israel's doing. According to the Conflict Armament Research report, the Yarmouk is involved in the development of Iranian arms: "Yarmouk Industrial Complex in Khartoum serves as a production/onward shipment facility for Iranian/ Iranian-designed weapons," while plant personnel "visit Tehran for regular technical training on weapons or ammunition production." According to a 2006 Wikileaks cable, Yarmouk was also involved in the production of chemical and biological weapons material for Iran and Syria.