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Sudan A Pariah State?

In  the first article we established that Sudan is a valuable ally and credible partner in America's war on terror. Nonetheless, the US governments systematically condone a policy of hostility and rejection against Sudan. Many quarters in Washington campaign vigorously to label Sudan as a pariah state. Strange enough, these hostile policies continued for more than twenty years as an attempt to punish, destabilize, and facilitate the downfall of the Sudanese government. Ambiguities persisted over true U.S. intentions: whether the preeminent U.S. aim was to force a regime change, to press for reform of Khartoum, or to achieve a sustainable end to Sudan's war, with little attention paid to whether regime change was achievable or how these diverse and seemingly contradictory policies would be reconciled..

As early as  February 1991, the US withdrew its embassy personnel and closed its embassy in Khartoum. Two years later the US government placed Sudan on the state sponsors of terror list on 12 August 1993. Washington froze Sudanese assets in US banks, imposed comprehensive economic and financial sanctions that restricted exports and imports from the Sudan (with the glaring exception of gum Arabic), and banned US investments and financial transactions in the country. Washington also provided some $20 million in surplus military equipment ("non-lethal") to Ethiopia, Uganda, and Eritrea, in a covert war to overthrew the regime in Khartoum through its neighbors. In October 1997, the U.S. imposed comprehensive economic, trade, and financial sanctions against the Sudan. In August 1998, in the wake of the East Africa embassy bombings, the U.S. launched cruise missile strikes against a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. Furthermore, in late 1999, the US government reportedly supplied weapons to the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

Despite the Western European nations and Sudan's neighboring states normalized diplomatic relations with Khartoum in the late 1990s, Sudan-US relations grew increasingly hostile through the 1990s. Many American officials perceived Khartoum as the principal threat to US interests in East Africa. Although the US government succeeded in isolating and containing Sudan with financial and economic sanctions, the US made little headway in ending the country's civil war and did not significantly weaken Khartoum government.

The shift in the global environment in the aftermath of September 11th catastrophic terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC, opened the doors for US and Sudan to engage in a modicum of cooperation. Sudan was sympathetic to the US, as Sudan's Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail spoke by telephone to Colin Powell. This was the first high-level contact between the two countries in years. Khartoum condemned the attacks and said it would cooperate on the war on terrorism. This gesture led to the softening of the prevailing tension between the two nations. In other fronts, the US government started to promise incentives to Sudan if the country adhere to reform and peace talks. In 2003, US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, had pledged to lift sanctions against Sudan, provide financial assistance, and remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. This package was combined with pressure on Khartoum to end the conflict, reduce and make efforts to stimulate freedom and democracy.

A tide of diplomatic resolution and dialogue echoed in both capitals rather than containment and isolationism. These efforts culminated in signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement on 9 January 2005. Nonetheless, normalization process between Sudan and the US was once again stalled when the Bush administration made the normalization of diplomatic relations with Sudan conditional upon ending the Darfur crisis. This greatly angered Sudan who saw this as "moving the goalposts". The Darfur conflict, which began in February 2003, complicated international attempts to end the country's instability and kept US-Sudan relations tense.

The Obama administrative articulated a new U.S. strategy in Sudan that is comprised of three core principles: 1) Achieving a definitive end to conflict, gross human rights abuses, and genocide in Darfur; 2) Implementation of the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA); and 3) Ensuring that Sudan does not provide a safe haven for international terrorists. The U.S. expressed its appreciation to the Government of Sudan for its commitment to hold the southern Sudan referendum timely and the recognition of its outcome in favor of secession. But to the disappointment of Sudan government, the US did not celebrate much the smooth transition to the independent state of Southern Sudan and again shifted the goalposts to new obstacle to normal relations, namely conflicts in Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile region. The disappointment was mixed with a feeling that this is an open project of continued intervention into Sudan.

Ahmed Ibrahim, Speaker of Sudan's Parliament stated that:"We have been promised time after time ... that once a peace agreement is passed, Sudan will be lifted from the list of countries harboring terrorism," Ibrahim says. "But each time we realize that the bar is raised." Sudanese demands focused on the need to lift Sudan from the list of states sponsoring terrorism and the removal of economic sanctions. The international community is supposed to play effective role in boosting development in Sudan via exempting the country of foreign debts after achieving peace and ending the civil war. However, pressure exerted by the US upon donors in Heavily Indebted Poor Countries HIPC obstruct the international community not to exempt Sudan from foreign debts.

Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti affirmed that Sudan has fulfilled its obligations and that the development of relations between the two countries is relevant to the seriousness of the U.S. in fulfilling its obligations.  Thus, the question of American foreign policy towards Sudan hangs on the clarifying the objectives and real American interests in Sudan. Once labeled as a regional threat to peace and stability, Sudan is capable of being the center of peacemaking in the troubled Horn of Africa region. Through the years, the country has underwent great reforms in the fields of human rights, democracy and popular participation, nation-building with regard to regional autonomy and self determination, and peace building. The untapped wealth and vast natural resources in Sudan are always available for investment by American companies. These development and other Sudanese efforts in seeking normal relations with the US were sadly ignored, sidelined and met with rejection and aggression. Twenty years or more of continued hostile American policies makes you simply wonder as to what does America wants from Sudan (Northern Sudan)?.


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