- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 14, 2011

A month after he lost part of his country to a new nation, Sudanese President Omar Bashir is facing multiple challenges that could destabilize his regime, Western officials and analysts say.

Lt. Gen. Bashir, whom many in Sudan blame for the secession of the south, is under growing pressure from security forces and Islamist hard-liners within his National Congress Party. Sudan also is expected to be hit by a financial crisis after it gives up critical oil revenue to the new nation of South Sudan.

Within the Bashir regime, there is also growing resentment over the absence of a significant improvement in relations with the United States since southern independence.

South Sudan became an independent nation on July 9.

Sudan remains on a U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and faces crippling sanctions.

“In the [National Congress Party], the hard-liners are in the ascendant, and the military is getting stronger. Bashir is in a difficult position,” said a Western diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Luka Biong Deng, a former minister in the national unity government in Khartoum, told a congressional committee last week that the “leadership of the [National Congress Party] is not only getting weaker and without focus but it is more divided with more radical elements and [the] army directing the affairs of the state.”

Gen. Bashir also is likely to face extreme difficulties in making any concessions to South Sudan on the disputed Abyei region, an oil-rich area that straddles the north-south border and is claimed by both sides.

The fate of Abyei is among a host of post-independence issues that Sudan and South Sudan are struggling to resolve.

Gen. Bashir came to power in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989. He has since fragmented Sudan’s security services to diminish the threat to his regime.

Jon Temin, director of the Sudan program at the U.S. Institute of Peace, said recent developments have created a lot of uncertainty and speculation in Khartoum.

“It seems clear that power dynamics within the government are shifting, but that is a fairly common occurrence for Sudan,” he said.

“What is uncommon is the combination of simultaneous domestic pressures faced by the government: political blowback for allowing the south to secede; economic pressure that results from southern secession and other factors; and the ongoing fighting in Southern Kordofan state and Darfur.”

Gen. Bashir has been indicted by The Hague-based International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes in Darfur. He denies the charges.

Western officials and analysts say the growing clout of the Islamist hard-liners is partly responsible for the aggressive response from the regime to developments in Southern Kordofan, situated north of the border with South Sudan.

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