Following the release of our Blueprint for Peace, which laid out policy options for the Obama administration to consider in devising its approach to Sudan, change.org’s Stop Genocide blog ran a post that posed some thoughtful questions to our team. Thanks to blogger Michelle for opening up further discussion on our key recommendations. Below please find the questions Michelle posed on her blog as well as some of our thoughts.
Regarding our recommendation to isolate Bashir:
Q: Khartoum’s warmongering hasn’t alienated Chinese and Arab investments yet (or at least, doesn’t seem to have done enough), and predictions about the possibility of international and domestic political isolation of Bashir have been made before. Are there specific examples that can explain why this might be a possibility, or is it mostly hypothetical at this point?
A: Isolation does not happen in one fell swoop. Many of those who have maintained rhetorical support for Bashir, including the Chinese and a number of key Arab states, increasingly see him as damaged goods and are considering what different leadership in Khartoum might look like. Both the ICC arrest warrant and the expulsion of humanitarian groups change the calculations of these external actors, although countries do not want to acknowledge so publicly. At the end of the day, more and more countries are starting to see Bashir himself as a destabilizing force, and that runs counter to their long-term interests. It is also important to note that the downturn in oil prices have made other actors, including China, less dependent on securing oil supplies from Sudan regardless of the political costs.
Regarding our recommendation to support elections in 2010 and the 2011 referendum:
Q: Given that Khartoum is quite crafty at subverting international attempts to do anything in this country (implement the CPA, deliver humanitarian aid, etc), and even as a de facto veto power over the presence of UNAMID peacekeepers, what would need to be done to ensure that international support for free and fair elections was actually effective?
A: Very few expect that the election will be fully free and fair and in some places, such as Darfur, it is difficult to imagine how the logistics of a free election could even work at this point. The government is also lagging with putting in place key pieces of electoral legislation. It is particularly important that the international community ensure the safety of elections, and avoid allowing the contests to provide an opportunity for spoilers to mobilize and stoke conflict along ethnic lines. UNMIS has a critical role to play in this regard by monitoring local tensions and working aggressively with local officials to mitigate conflicts before they fully erupt. In the North, it is unlikely that elections will achieve the "regime transformation" envisioned by the CPA. Rather, those provisions of the CPA calling for greater wealth and power sharing between the central government and the states must be the focus of international pressure on the regime.
Regarding our recommendation to re-contextualize counterterrorism cooperation:
Q: This seems like an important step that the US could take unilaterally. As ENOUGH pointed out recently, the fact that Sudan is both listed as a state sponsor of terrorism and then hailed for its cooperation, all the in the same document, is a tad absurd. What does Sudan gain from this "cooperation" that it would not what to lose if Obama took a different stance?
A: Khartoum always knew where it stood with the Bush administration largely because of the counterterrorism relationship. Bashir and others understood the primacy of this relationship, and could reasonably expect that the USG would not take any steps that would threaten it. Moreover, they understood that U.S. leverage and ability to act militarily was seriously handicapped by America’s misadventure in Iraq. In a nutshell, they felt secure. With Obama bringing a new perspective globally to how the United States engages in the fight against Islamic extremism, Sudan stands to lose that sense of security at a time when Bashir sees his circle of friends and supporters shrinking.
Regarding our recommendation to expand the arms embargo and effectively end offensive military flights:
Q: Efforts to accomplish both of these aims have thus far been unsuccessful. What currently stand in the way that needs to be addressed for either of these to be accomplished?
A: International consensus, pure and simple. Ideally, the U.N. Security Council would agree on a mechanism for implementation of the ban and expand the arms embargo. But there is strong opposition from China and Russia in the P5 — neither country like the precedent of a coercively enforced no-fly zone, and both are selling weapons to Khartoum. To date, there has been no practical plan to end offensive military flights; it has simply been rhetorical posturing by the international community. For these air attacks to end, the international community would have to impose a clear and direct cost for each offensive military flight.
Regarding our recommendation to remove Sudan’s veto over UNAMID:
Q: What would keep the government from Sudan as seeing UNAMID, if not in Darfur on their terms/invitation, from seeing the peacekeepers as a hostile foreign force, and responding accordingly? UNAMID desperately needs to be fully deployed and equipped in order to fulfill its current mandate for civilian protection — would they then be able to protect themselves, if necessary?
A: It is difficult to imagine that a force that is unable to protect itself would be able to effectively protect civilians. UNAMID needs to have sufficiently robust capacity to respond to provocations and attacks from either the government or rebels. It is deeply unfortunate that the Security Council authorized this force without a willingness to meet even a minimal standard for its likelihood of success. That needs to change.
In addition to our full blueprint, we also published an activist brief that provides details about how you can urge President Obama to take concrete actions to create lasting peace in Sudan.