Sudan policy review
October 19, 2009
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled the new Sudan policy of the Obama administration today expressing a goal of preventing Sudan from becoming a haven for international "terror" groups. Anonymous officials have said that they are eager to see steps taken to eliminate support for Palestinian militant groups, including Hamas. U.S. Sudan special envoy, Retired General Scott Gration, has also said the administration’s new approach was intended to prevent Sudan from serving as a terrorist haven. Barak Obama described Sudan as a "global security challenge" in his July speech in Ghana.
"We have a menu of incentives and disincentives," Clinton said, refusing to specify the potential punitive measures, though in January the Secretary of State said the Obama administration was considering the creation of no-fly zones and increased economic and trade sanctions.
The "incentives" could possibly include removing Sudan from the U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism or ending the existing trade sanctions which have been imposed against the nation for over a decade. An executive order, signed in 1997 by then- President Bill Clinton, bans most U.S. trade with Sudan, including any imports of Sudanese goods and the export to the country of anything except food, clothing and medicine. It also bars the extension of U.S. credit to the Sudanese government. The Darfur Accountability Act, passed in 2006, requires the administration to get congressional approval and certify that Sudan is taking certain steps before those sanctions under the executive order can be lifted. The same "steps" appear to apply regarding the state sponsor of terror list; "Getting off the terrorism list is something that could happen if and only if they have taken the right steps" an unnamed source told Reuters.
From now on, the United States will maintain that genocide "is taking place" in Darfur, anonymous officials told the Washington Post, a rhetorical assertion that is backed only by "political statements" made by intervention advocates that the GAO has characterized as lacking in "objective analysis", relying on "too few data points extrapolated to an excessive degree." This new characterization of genocide addresses a prior dispute between U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, who says that there is "ongoing genocide" in Darfur, and Scott Gration over how to characterize the violence in Darfur. Rice has long been a proponent of tough action against Khartoum. The genocide claims have been parroted ubiquitously in the Western press which has likewise parroted the demonization of Hamas by U.S. officials since Hamas won the 2006 elections.
To acquit itself of the "ongoing genocide" designation, Sudan is being asked to prove a negative, a logical impossibility. President of the Save Darfur Coalition, Jerry Fowler, says "the burden of proof is on the government of Sudan", while Ms. Rice said the administration would insist that Sudan show real evidence that conditions for civilians had begun to improve before offering incentives. The administration said that the policy calls for quarterly reviews of conditions in Darfur.
In Orwellian fashion the NYT presents the policy as "more balanced", presumably more balanced than the Bush policy which applied the 1997 sanctions and defined Sudan as a State sponsor of terrorism, but did not apply enough "pressure" according to Sudan hawks. Sudan interventionists are quite pleased with the new policy review. House Sudan caucus co-chairman Representative Frank R. Wolf, Republican from Virginia, said "considering the rumors we’ve been hearing, this policy seems very positive". Representative Donald M. Payne, Democrat of New Jersey, also a co-chairman of the Sudan caucus, said "I think the only thing the government of Sudan understands is bluntness and power." John Prendergast, co-chairman of the Enough Project, said the new policy appeared to be "a fine one."
Left unmentioned in the coverage of the policy review is the impact that the review will likely have on the heretofore promising peace talks which are underway due to the efforts of Egypt, Libya and Qatar. The next round of talks between the rebel movements of Darfur and the Sudanese government are scheduled to begin on November 16 in Doha, Qatar. Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha welcomed the Qatari hosted peace initiative saying "I think the solution to the crisis in Darfur is (above all) in the hands of the Sudanese and the citizens of Darfur."