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Why does the West contradict itself in responding to the Al-Burhan and Al-Sisi coups?

Sudanese demonstrators gather during a demonstration against the visit of the Egyptian President to the capital Khartoum on March 6, 2021 [ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP via Getty Images]
Sudanese demonstrators gather during a demonstration against the visit of the Egyptian President to the capital Khartoum on March 6, 2021 [ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP via Getty Images]

There is a clear contradiction between the way that the West in general, and America in particular, has responded to the coup in Sudan led by Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and the 2013 coup in Egypt led by Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. Some commentators suggest a number of reasons for this, including the fact that Sudan has normalised relations with Israel and fulfilled the conditions for the resumption of relations with Washington, whereas there were fears for the colonial-occupation state given the support for Palestine and its people by Egypt under democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi who was ousted by Al-Sisi.

Sisi Era - Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Sisi Era – Cartoon [Carlos Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

"What is the secret that makes the United States and Western countries support Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi's coup in Egypt and overlook all his crimes, prisons and detentions while standing firmly against Abdel Fattah's coup in Sudan and demanding the release of civilians and their return to power?" asked journalist Ahmed Mansour on Twitter.

According to Sameh Rashid, a researcher in Arab and African affairs at Al-Ahram Centre, the position of the West and the US on Sudan can be described as pragmatic. Interests and parameters such as normalisation with Israel or commitment to support it have always been maintained, which is what actually happened after the Sudan revolution.

He told Arabi21 that the most important thing is to restore relations with the US quickly. In this regard, there was no problem with the civilian component of the Sudanese Transitional Council participating in power, and so it should have been preserved. This does not mean excluding the military, but exerting pressure on Al-Burhan to return to the partnership, perhaps with new terms and conditions.

Rashid also pointed out that there is a difference between 2013 and now in terms of timing and balances in the region, and the civilian revolutionary component in Sudan responded quickly to normalisation with Israel. Morsi, however, took a different view, especially on Israeli aggression against Gaza, and announced on more than one occasion that he was aiming for Egypt to be self-sufficient in food, medicine and weapons. There was also the mobilisation of the Islamic movement at the Syria conference in Cairo Stadium when Morsi cut ties with the regime of Bashar Al-Assad.

READ: UN Human Rights Council to hold special Sudan session

Such positions, explained Rashid, did not reassure the West and were enough reason not to support Morsi. It was believed then that Al-Sisi would be more realistic and avoid the Muslim Brotherhood's mistakes, which were the cause of domestic anger against Morsi as well.

International relations expert Abu Al-Khair noted that there was clear Israeli support for the then Minister of Defence Al-Sisi before the coup because of his stance on Israel's military offensive against Gaza, as well as his relations with the US Department of Defence. This paved the way for him to oust Morsi, who had been made to look helpless as president by the deep state, leaving him isolated in government.

Sudan's military seized power and arrested Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok

Sudan's military seized power and arrested Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Speaking to Arabi21, Al-Khair agreed that Western enthusiasm for the revolutionary and civilian component in Sudan was down to the swift normalisation with Israel and fulfilment of Washington's demands. The defining factor, he added, is and always has been Israel; either fear for its security in the case of Egypt and Morsi, or its preservation in the case of Sudan and the civilian component in the Transitional Council.

READ: Sudan to form new government 'soon', says army chief

Former Egyptian Ambassador Abdullah Al-Ashaal stressed that what moves the US and the West are their interests, as well as stability, even if the price to be paid is the freedom of ordinary citizens. It is important, though, for Israel to be protected, which is what the military government could do in Egypt, and what the civilian component of the transitional government did in Sudan. The US and the West do not care much about how this is done, as long as someone does it, as long as their interests are not affected and Israel's security is preserved.

Al-Ashaal also highlighted the visit of Morsi's Prime Minister, Hisham Qandil, to Gaza at the time, as well as the announcement of positions in support of Arab and Islamic issues. This, he told Arabi21, sent the "wrong" message to the West, so it overlooked what Al-Sisi did in July 2013, and what he has done to this day in terms of human rights abuses.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 1 November 2021

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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AfricaArticleAsia & AmericasEgyptOpinionSudanUS
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