While the focus of a Senate hearing yesterday was on the U.S. strategy for helping to implement a comprehensive peace in Sudan, some controversial comments by U.S. Special Envoy Gration sparked a media flurry today that focused more on the rifts within the Obama administration than on the way forward for Sudan.
Gration’s assertion that the U.S. classification of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism is a ‘political decision’ was one moment that caused a stir in the Senate press gallery. Here’s the original comment, followed by a readout from Enough’s Executive Director John Norris:
Here is a quick roundup of some of the coverage of Gration’s remarks:
The Christian Science Monitor writes: “The Obama administration’s internal debate about whether or not the term ‘genocide’ still applies to the conditions in Sudan’s Darfur region has spilled into public view.” The article notes that the comprehensive review of Sudan policy has hit several delays as key differences – between U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and Gration and between the National Security Council and the State Department – have emerged.
The Washington Post notes that while Gration told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the administration has created and is planning on announcing a new comprehensive strategy that includes “both incentives and pressures” that there are still clearly lingering tensions – not only with Susan Rice, who has been advocating a much stronger position against Sudan, but also with the State Department, which Gration remarked had turned down his request to fund more U.S. diplomats or private contractors to help his mediation efforts in Sudan.
An article in The New York Times titled “U.S. Envoy Says Sudan Sanctions Should Be Eased” jumped on Special Envoy Gration assertion that “there is no evidence to justify Sudan’s presence on a U.S. terrorism blacklist.”
A piece by Grace Chung, for McClatchy Newspapers noted that Gration’s comments on the question of genocide and the easing of sanctions “raised hackles among senators and human rights groups, who worry that the administration might be easing its pressure on Sudan.” Enough’s own Colin Thomas-Jenson, who is quoted in the article, echoed the sentiment: “The policy that the administration seems to be adopting has an overemphasis on incentives. The fact is, sanctions in the past have been an effective tool to change the behavior of Sudan.”
The title of The Washington Times’ front-page article sums it up simply: “Obama aides clash over Sudan policy.” It notes that this is one of the first clashes within the administration that has been made public. The article asserts that Gration and Rice differ not only about the question of genocide in Darfur, but on the equally large question of sanctions on Sudan. While Gration has spoken openly about the “honest debate” that he and Rice are engaged in, Rice’s aide told the paper that the U.N. Ambassador would not comment about their discussions.
And finally, NPR, in a story entitled “Love Blooms at Otherwise Serious Senate Session on Sudan,” has kindly posted the entire exchange between Special Envoy Gration and Senator Roger Wicker, which left the world in no doubt about the ‘love’ that Gration has for U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, despite their ongoing debate over Sudan policy.