Obama's Southern Sudan Policy

Southern Sudan's mostly Christian population has been under genocidal attack from the Islamist-dominated North.  WikiLeaks has shed new light on the Obama administration's diplomatic activities on this crisis.


According to WikiLeaks cables, in December 2009, the U.S. warned Sudan to stop transshipments of Iranian arms to Hamas in Gaza for use against Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  The cables, however, did not discuss that Sudan was also transferring Iranian arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan to kill American and coalition forces.


Other Sudan-related WikiLeaks-released cables from the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, reported that in 2009, the Obama administration threatened Kenya with "sweeping sanctions" if it delivered the shipload of weapons, including 32 tanks recovered from Somali pirates, to their rightful owner, the Southern Sudanese governmentThe tanks remained in Kenya.  This new policy contravened the Bush administration's 2008 plan to convert the Southern Sudanese People's Liberation Army from a guerrilla outfit to a small conventional army capable of defending Juba, the capital of the South.


Nonetheless, the Obama administration continued the efforts to make Southern Sudan a viable state.  On December 20, the White House declared that it had "intense interest in having a successful referendum."  The decision to stop the arms shipment and the tanks from reaching the Southern Sudanese so they could defend themselves from the heavily armed Northern Sudanese army raises the question: who in Washington sets the U.S. policy towards Sudan?


Southern Sudan, a mostly Christian region, could soon gain its independence from the U.S.-designated terrorist Islamic Republic of Sudan and its ruler, the internationally indicted and wanted war criminal, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.


The Obama administration's concessions to Bashir made possible the independence referendum scheduled on January 9 that would lead to Southern Sudan's independence in July 2011.  Publicly, the concessions include the removal of Sudan from the U.S. list of terrorism-sponsoring states, ending the sanctions against the country, and allowing negotiations for economic assistance, including debt relief.  The administration first announced this development in June 2010.


It is unclear what guarantees were given to Bashir, who in July 2008 was charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague and has two international arrest warrants against him.  Moreover, according to a WikiLeaks-released State Department cable, in March 2009, ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo informed the U.S. that Bashir stashed "possibly $9 billion" in banks outside Sudan.


If the past is any indication, reading the New York Times (NYT) will give the impression that Bashir will likely be celebrated as a reformer by the Obama administration.  On July 13, 2010, The NYT updated its "people" information with the following: "Mr. Bashir has been vilified ... [and] suspected of war crimes ... [and] often perceived as a villain in the West" (emphasis added).  But Mr. Bashir, according to the NYT, enjoys "strong support from voters in northern Sudan" because under his leadership, Sudan's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) "has nearly tripled."  However, The NYT did not mention that the Northern Sudanese "voters" are Muslims cowed by the military dictatorship and that the new Sudanese wealth comes from oil exports, from which Bashir has pocketed some $9 billion.


Bashir will not be the first murderer and thief to benefit by promising peace to an American administration.  Yasser Arafat, an internationally wanted terrorist for decades who ordered the killing of American diplomats and who incredibly stashed away more than $10 billion (part of which was international aid money to the Palestinian refugees), received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 just because he promised "peace."  Is Bashir next?


Last week, in its end-of-the year report, Israel's Security Agency detailed Sudan's ongoing facilitation of transshipment of Iranian weapons to Hamas.  Clearly, the 2009 U.S. warning failed to deter the Sudanese government.  Days before the referendum, there are two unknowns: will Bashir accept the results, and judging by the Obama administration's shifting policies regarding Sudan, how will the U.S. react if Bashir rejects the results?  Stay tuned.

Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the NY-based American Center for Democracy and author of Funding Evil; How Terrorism is Financed - and How to Stop It.
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