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Sudan’s deal a clean slate for Hamdok but lost opportunity for real change: Analysts

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The deal signed between Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and General Abdel-Fattah Burhan allows the PM to get rid of a previous government that caused him “headaches” in the past and start anew, but the deal was a lost opportunity to do more than restore the status quo, analysts told Al Arabiya English.

Hamdok signed a political agreement with Burhan on November 21, ending the coup launched by the military on October 25. But analysts question what that deal really means for the future of Sudan.

Here’s what analysts told Al Arabiya English:

A new cabinet

The political agreement allows Hamdok to form an independent cabinet of technocrats, until an election can be held in July 2023.

Analysts find that the deal between Hamdok and Burhan is an opportunity for the PM to clean house in the cabinet and appoint new ministers who would be more cooperative in implementing changes to the government, its policies and projects.

“The infighting of the former civilian government was a headache for Hamdok,” said Theodore Murphy, Director of the Africa Program at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“The coup was a terrible catastrophe but if there is any silver lining to be wrung out of it, I think that Hamdok’s calculus was that it gave him an excuse to disperse of the difficult people in his constituency who were making his life difficult,” Murphy added.

Sudan has suffered from an ailing economy, widespread shortages of essential goods such as fuel, bread and medicine, incredibly high inflation and a society that was hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

Implementing reforms to better manage the country under Hamdok has not been very successful and the government’s efforts did not appease the general public.

“I think Hamdok thought [the deal] would improve his situation. The status quo before wasn’t great for Hamdok, because his political constituency, his cabinet, his ministers, there was a lot of infighting, there was a lot of difficulty,” Murphy said.

Hamdok’s office said in a statement last month that the PM denied having any “personal interest” in signing the deal and had stressed in multiple interviews that it was only for “national interest” and to “stop bloodshed”.

Why only Hamdok reinstated?

The reinstatement of Hamdok did not reverse the coup. The military retains overall control and the appointment of a technocratic government further dismisses the political parties and the pro-democracy protesters.

Analysts question why only Hamdok was reinstated from the previous government in the deal with the military.

“The agreement is a deal only between two figures: General Burhan and Hamdok,” Murphy said.

“The fact that he is the only one allowed to make that decision combined with the fact that his democratic constituency, the protest movement, has discarded him, that’s the more worrying part,” Murphy added.

“You don’t have to worry that the military – Burhan – is going to pull a fast one on Hamdok. I think what’s more worrying is what’s the understanding between Hamdok and Burhan.”

Yezid Sayigh, Senior Fellow at Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center believes the deal means the military “successfully asserted their political dominance in terms of setting the pace and direction of the transitional process.”

“Hamdok apparently felt unable to resist this assertion. Maybe he judged the US and EU to be insufficiently committed to forcing the generals to retreat, but in all cases, he made a strategic misjudgment,” Sayigh added.

As for the future of the relationship between civilian leadership and the military in Sudan, Sayigh said: “If Hamdok resigns and moves back into opposition, there is a chance to bring Burhan and his allies under real pressure and salvage the transition”

“But if he doesn’t, or if he continues until he loses all legitimacy and influence and becomes expendable (for the military), then I fear that Sudan’s transitional process will be hijacked by the military who will work towards… a civilian façade government that cedes complete autonomy to the military and leaves it as the most influential political actor and also an economic actor,” he added.

Why are protesters against this deal?

The Sudanese Professionals' Association strongly opposed the deal, accusing Hamdok of “betrayal” and “political suicide”.

The Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, an umbrella of many political parties and pro-democracy groups, also objected to any deal made with the military.

The protesters feel “there was a good political opportunity thanks to widespread domestic and international opposition to achieve more than simply restoring the status quo ante,” Sayigh said.

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Dubai’s Emirates to restart US flights after suspensions over 5G safety concerns

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UAE-based long-haul carrier Emirates said Thursday it would resume its Boeing 777 flights to the US amid an ongoing dispute over the rollout of new 5G services there.

Emirates said its Boeing 777 service to Chicago, Dallas Fort Worth, Miami, Newark, Orlando and Seattle would resume on January 21.

Flights to Boston, Houston and San Francisco, which saw Emirates deploy its Airbus A380 jumbo jet, will resume Boeing 777 flights on January 22.

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Tim Clark, Emirates president, apologized in a statement but warned that American officials had come up with only a “temporary reprieve” for the situation.

“A long-term resolution would be required,” he said.

Major international airlines rushed to rejig or cancel flights to the United States ahead of a 5G wireless rollout on Wednesday that has triggered safety concerns, despite two wireless carriers saying they will delay parts of the deployment.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had warned that potential 5G interference could affect height readings that play a key role in bad-weather landings on some jets and airlines say the Boeing 777 is among models initially in the spotlight.

Despite an announcement by AT&T and Verizon that they would pause the 5G rollout near airports, several airlines still cancelled flights or switched aircraft models.

Late Tuesday, the FAA began updating its guidance on which airports and aircraft models would be affected, in a move expected to dramatically lessen the impact of the nearly 1,500 notices of 5G restrictions issued by the regulator.

The 777 last year was the second-most used widebody plane on flights to and from US airports with around 210,000 flights, behind only the 767, according to data from FlightRadar24.

Industry sources revealed Boeing had issued technical advisories noting potential interference, but that flight restrictions were in the hands of the FAA, which has for now limited operations at key airports unless airlines qualify for special approvals.

Radio altimeters give precise readings of the height above the ground on approach and help with automated landings, as well as verifying the jet has landed before allowing reverse thrust.

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Nine-member ‘gang’ guilty of money laundering in UAE referred court

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Authorities in the United Arab Emirates have rounded up nine suspects who have been found guilty of laundering funds collected from “theft and fraud operations,” according to a report from official UAE state media WAM.

The UAE Public Prosecution reportedly ordered the defendants to appear in court after the Sharjah Public Prosecution found them targeting workers through an elaborate scheme.

In a statement issued on Wednesday by the Public Prosecution, it said that the “gang of nine suspects” used to issue SIM cards, open bank accounts and obtain ATM cards all under workers’ names.

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The group reportedly ran and managed these accounts through online banking applications, defrauding victims by calling them feigning the identities of bank employees who wanted to update their data or offer the chance to win a monetary prize.

The ruse allowed the nine members to obtain the necessary information, transfer money to other bank accounts they had operated for this purpose, withdraw cash, and then deposit it into accounts belonging to them abroad.

Investigations also revealed that the group of nine forged bank seals.

The Public Prosecution declared in the original statement carried by WAM that it has requested the court to apply the maximum penalty against the accused, in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Decree No. 20 of 2018 on Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism.

This law stipulates that a temporary imprisonment and a fine of no less than AED 300,000 ($81,600) and no more than AED 10,000,000 ($2.7 million) be charged to the perpetrators of the crime.

The Public Prosecution confirmed in the statement that necessary legal actions have been taken against the culprits and urged the public to be “cautious and not to cooperate or respond to fraudsters.”

According to a Bloomberg report, the UAE is at “increased risk of being placed on a global watchdog’s list of countries” subject to more oversight for shortcomings in combating money laundering and terrorist financing, even after a recent government push to stamp out illicit transactions.

The Central Bank of UAE established a dedicated department in August 2020 to handle all Anti-Money Laundering and Combatting the Financing of Terrorism matters (AML/CFT), which the Banking Supervision Department handled previously.

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North Korea hints at restarting nuclear, ICBM tests, defying repeated US warnings

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Accusing the United States of hostility and threats, North Korea on Thursday said it will consider restarting “all temporally-suspended activities” it had paused during its diplomacy with the Trump administration, in an apparent threat to resume testing of nuclear explosives and long-range missiles.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said leader Kim Jong Un presided over a Politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party where officials set policy goals for “immediately bolstering” the North’s military capabilities to counter the Americans’ “hostile moves.”

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Officials gave instructions to “reconsider in an overall scale the trust-building measures that we took on our own initiative … and to promptly examine the issue of restarting all temporally-suspended activities,” the KCNA said.

The North’s Foreign Ministry had already warned of stronger and more explicit action after the Biden administration last week imposed fresh sanctions over the North’s continued missile testing activity. The latest North Korean threat came as the UN Security Council scheduled a closed-door meeting for Thursday to discuss North Korea and non-proliferation matters.

The North has been ramping up its weapons demonstrations recently, including four rounds of missile launches just this month, amid a prolonged freeze in nuclear diplomacy with the United States.

Experts say Kim is reviving Pyongyang’s old playbook of brinkmanship to extract concessions from Washington and neighbors as he grapples with a decaying economy crippled by the pandemic, mismanagement, and US-led sanctions over his nuclear ambitions.

Kim announced a unilateral suspension of his nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests in 2018 as he initiated diplomacy with then-President Donald Trump in an attempt to leverage his nukes for badly needed economic benefits.

Their summitry came after a provocative run in North Korean nuclear and intercontinental range ballistic missile testing in 2017 that demonstrated Kim’s pursuit of an arsenal that can viably target the American homeland and resulted in him exchanging threats of nuclear annihilation with Trump.

But negotiations have stalled since the collapse of their second summit in 2019, when the Americans rejected North Korea’s demand for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.

At the end of that year, Kim vowed to further bolster his nuclear arsenal in face of “gangster-like” US threats and pressure and declared a “frontal breakthrough” against sanctions while urging his people to stay resilient in a struggle for economic self-reliance.

He then said the North was no longer obligated to maintain its suspension on nuclear and ICBM tests, which Trump touted as a major foreign policy achievement.

However, the pandemic thwarted many of Kim’s economic goals as the North imposed a lockdown and halted most of its trade with China, its major ally and economic lifeline.

North Korea appeared this month to have resumed railroad freight traffic with China that had been suspended for two years.

North Korea conducted its sixth and last test of a nuclear explosive device in September 2017 and its last launch of an ICBM was in November that year.

Some experts say that the North could dramatically raise the ante in weapons demonstrations after the end of February’s Winter Olympics in Beijing. They say Pyongyang’s leadership likely feels it would take a dramatic provocation to move the needle with the Biden administration, which has offered open-ended talks but showed no willingness to ease sanctions unless Kim takes real steps to wind down his nuclear and missile program.

“The present US administration persists in maneuvers to deprive the DPRK of its right to self-defense. All the facts clearly prove once again that the hostile policy towards the DPRK will exist in the future, too as long as there is the hostile entity of US imperialism,” the KCNA said in its report about the Politburo meeting, using an abbreviation of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

It said the Politburo members unanimously recognized the need for North Korea to be prepared for a long-term confrontation with the United States and called for practical measures to “more reliably and effectively increase our physical strength for defending dignity, sovereign rights and interests of our state.”

Kim in recent years had showcased some new weapons he may wish to test, including what appeared to be North Korea’s largest-ever ICBM that was rolled out during a military parade in October 2020.

He also issued an ambitious wish list of sophisticated weaponry early last year while setting a five-year plan to develop military forces, which included hypersonic missiles, solid-fuel ICBMs, spy satellites and submarine-launched nuclear missiles.

If the North does stage another nuclear test, it may use that event to claim it acquired an ability to build a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a purported hypersonic missile it tested twice so far this year, experts say.

Last week, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on five North Koreans over their roles in obtaining equipment and technology for the North’s missile programs, in its response to North Korea’s earlier tests this month.

The State Department ordered sanctions against another North Korean, a Russian man and a Russian company for their broader support of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction activities. The Biden administration also said it would pursue additional UN sanctions over the North’s continued tests.

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