Another day, another disastrous news cycle for the administration on Sudan. As if yesterday’s story in the Post was not enough, a piece today delves into a fascinating and sordid web of connections between disgraced former U.S. National Security Advisor Bud McFarlane and the Sudanese government as part of an effort to improve Khartoum’s relationship with the Obama administration. McFarlane was apparently contracted by the Sudanese government – for $1.3 million channeled through Qatar – to lobby Obama administration officials.
This is a well reported story, and it is a tale full of very, very bad judgment by some key players: by McFarlane who did not disclose that he was employed to lobby at the behest of a foreign government that is still designated as a state sponsor of terror; by U.S. Special Envoy Major General Scott Gration and National Security Advisor Jim Jones, who not only met with McFarlane but appear to have found him a useful intermediary; and, by everyone else who thought that using Qatar as a front for payments to McFarlane to help obscure his direct links to Sudan’s National Congress Party was a clever idea. The insistence by the White House that McFarlane just wanted to come in and discuss “the urgent need to improve the security situation in Sudan and the need for development in southern Sudan" does not seem particularly credible. It is hard to imagine McFarlane being paid over a million dollars by the NCP to go to the White House and chat about development.
The only people who look sensible out of all this are some of the former U.S. officials who had a role in Sudan policy and we smart enough to stay miles away from a relationship that clearly stank to high heaven. As Bob Oakley, a former U.S. Ambassador describes in the article, McFarlane was "trying to broker some arrangements between the Sudanese government and the Obama administration." Oakley calls McFarlane "a wheeler-dealer," and added, "I remember him from Iran-contra and all the rest. I didn’t get into it; I didn’t want to, quite frankly."
Combined with yesterday’s story in the Post, it is becoming painfully clear that U.S. policy toward Sudan is threatening to become unglued. We are still awaiting word as to what came out of the yesterday’s policy review, but something has to change.