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A Sudan Policy At Long Last?

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A Sudan Policy At Long Last?

Posted by Laura Heaton on October 16, 2009

We’ve recently gotten word that the long-awaited release of the Obama administration’s policy on Sudan will likely be released on Monday, after seven months in the making.

Now is when things get tricky.

The official policy is certain to include a well-considered balance of both incentives and pressures that the U.S. government plans to use to motivate the Sudanese government to get its house in order, so to speak. But the real test is how this policy will be implemented. If the past seven months of U.S. engagement with Sudan are any indication, this is where the real problem lies.

Despite the ruling National Congress Party’s 20-year history of orchestrating violence in various parts of the country, its failure to live up to commitments made in several peace agreements, and an outstanding arrest warrant for Sudanese President Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the special envoy’s comments suggests that he believes that the U.S. government can help achieve peace in Sudan by offering incentives to the ruling regime and shelving, at least for now, additional pressures. Monday’s policy certainly won’t say this, but that has been the modus operandi so far (despite Candidate Obama’s talk of getting tough with Khartoum).

With violence escalating in Darfur and the South, looming national elections that could lend legitimacy to an accused war criminal, and the prospect of a new state facing enormous challenges in southern Sudan, the U.S. must lead an international effort to hold all sides – in the North, the South, and Darfur – accountable to their commitments.

Press coverage leading up to this policy release has been less-than-favorable, with some hard-hitting pieces about the U.S. special envoy’s performance and the behind-the-scenes dealings between U.S. lobbyists and the Sudanese government (a throwback to the Iran-Contra days in more than just approach). This context is important to keep in mind as all of us listen to the administration’s words on Monday.

We’ll keep you posted with specific details about the release as soon as we have them.