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Are Coercive US Sanctions On their Last Legs?

By:Khalid Al Mubarak

Unilateral coercive US Sanctions on the Sudan have lasted since the 1990s and have devastated the economy. The railways, aviation, trade, banking, agriculture, education, health, as well as relations with the US-dominated IMF and World Bank were all impacted. The US may not be as dominant as it was immediately after the Second World War; but, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and despite the emergence of China, it remains the most influential world hegemony. The US National Strategy (2015) stresses preserving the current international order and enforcing US ability to project power across the globe. When this power was unleashed at the Sudan ,focusing on the civil war in the South, it had momentous repercussions .There are many  minorities in Africa ,Asia and Europe with deeply held grievances and a genuine desire for secession. They struggle to garner regional or international recognition; but the US’s support for the SPLM/A was the decisive factor in engineering the Referendum in which Southern Sudanese voted overwhelmingly for secession in 2011. Contrary to the widely held view, US sanctions on the Sudan were never plain sailing. They were challenged by big business when soft drinks companies convinced President Clinton to exempt Gum Arabic from sanctions.

They created tension with Western financial institutions which resented US application of its national laws on banks that didn’t break British, French or WTO laws but were penalised because they processed Sudan-related transactions. Major French and British banks were involved. When he visited London in October 2015 Richard Nephew of Columbia University (who had worked for US Sanctions institutions) presented a paper at Chatham House in which he acknowledged the need for both reform and restraint in US sanctions. He argued that US economic power is finite and that unreformed sanctions policies could erode US position over time. Another former US official has questioned the sanctions policy and referred to the Sudan. Ambassador Johnnie Carson (US Assistant secretary of State for African Affairs 2009-2012 and an influential African America who is now a Senior Adviser at the US Institute of Peace) has written an article for Foreign Affairs (republished by African Arguments on 5 January 2016) in which he called for President Obama to “elevate US Diplomatic relations with Sudan”. He argued that the sanctions “have not significantly isolated the country nor weakened its government” .Even the International Crisis Group (ICG) which has consistently criticised the Sudan and supported sanctions has pointed out last March Sudan’s” shift from radical Islamism …to more pragmatic politics”. It also mentioned the Sudan’s alternative relations with China, India and the Gulf states. The recent “more constructive relations with South Sudan (and Uganda)…should provide

a stimulus for countries such as the US to assess what incentives are available” .As is well known, the UK has already declared that it has no sanctions on the Sudan. The same goes for Germany and the EU. To be fair to the Obama administration, it did listen to the different views. It also listened to the Sudanese politicians and diplomats, including a meeting in Nairobi between John Kerry and Prof. I. Ghandour Sudan’s Foreign Minister. Some minor sanctions were lifted; but the main hurdles in banking and the illogical terror sponsorship listing remain. It goes without saying that US strategic partners are briefed or even consulted about US policy; but none actually make US policy as some naive Sudanese journalists seem to suggest. The US is the superpower; close allies are protected, advised and informed. If a difference of opinion is perceived, the judgment of the superpower prevails. The larger picture includes unbiased American and British experts like Dr J. Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council USA and UK Professor Alex DeWaal  (now at Tufts University USA) who have objectively called for a more nuanced policy towards the Sudan. Embarrassingly, some Sudanese, employed by the Enough Project oppose the Roadmap and call for more sanctions that target gold coupled with attempts to cut Gulf States connections! The wider picture also includes the tragic implosion of South Sudan which was hailed as a US foreign policy success in 2011.The rise of Daesh and Boko Haram is another factor. So is the need for Sudanese cooperation in stopping human trafficking and illegal migration to Europe. The policies of the Sudan have changed. The AU Roadmap for Peace and the recommendations of the National Dialogue signify an inclusive and peaceful future. In this context are the Coercive unilateral US sanctions on their last legs?


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