As the Obama administration’s Sudan Policy review drags on, the government of Sudan, led by a wanted war criminal, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, clearly looks to Washington and dreams of normalizing relations. So how has President Bashir tried to work its way back into the good graces of the Obama administration? Well, there has been a recent spate of government attacks in Darfur, and a recent report by the Small Arms Survey suggests that most of the new and heavier weaponry appearing in militia clashes in South Sudan likely comes from government stockpiles. Certainly, the government has not given the slightest suggestion that it would hand President Bashir over to the International Criminal Court to face charges. Khartoum has not been on a charm offensive.
Instead of actually changing its behavior, Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party wants to return to America’s good graces the old-fashioned way: by swamping a bunch of high-powered lobbyists in a sea of money to make its case. Thanks to two excellent recent articles in the Washington Post by Dan Eggen, we have gained a much clearer window into the behind-the-scenes machinations by the National Congress Party and of the greedy inside-the-Beltway types lining up to do the party’s bidding. In the process, we have also gained some alarming insight into how the administration is dealing with this mess. As actress Lily Tomlin once said, “No matter how cynical you get, you just can’t keep up.”
The first bombshell dropped when former U.S. National Security Advisor Bud McFarlane of Iran-Contra fame was outed by the Post as having accepted $1.3 million, passed through the government of Qatar, to represent the Sudanese government as it tried to warm relations with Washington. McFarlane somehow forgot that this kind of representation usually requires registering as a lobbyist on behalf of a foreign government, something he did not do for either Qatar or Sudan. Making matters worse, Sudan is still on the state sponsors of terror list. But the niceties of paperwork never appear to have been McFarlane’s strong suit.