Sunday, October 18, 2009

White House rolls out official Sudan policy

The Times and Post both fronted previews Saturday of the administration's official new Sudan policy, which is to be released Monday.

The backstory, as I've chronicled previously, is that Obama had a very hard-line position against the Khartoum government while he was a senator and during the campaign, but then appointed retired general J Scott. Gration as his envoy, and Gration has taken a very conciliatory approach. That angered a lot of the Darfur lobby, and Susan Rice, the ambassor to the UN.

The Post's lede has the news as:
After lengthy debate, the Obama administration has settled on a policy toward Sudan that offers a dramatically softer approach than the president had advocated on the campaign trail -- but steers clear of the conciliatory tone advocated by his special envoy to the country.
It's hard to tell, at least yet, exactly what this new policy is going to be in practice. It sure sounds, though, closer to the Gration end of the spectrum than the Rice end. I'm not sure the Darfur lobby is going to be so happy with this. I think it's pretty clear their public criticisms have had some effect in the past months -- I mean, this announcement Monday is damage control. The WH is saying "ok, we'll be tougher than what Gration has been doing."

Many of the Darfuri expatriate groups in the US say they want Gration out, period. So I imagine they're going to continue to be pretty skeptical after Monday's announcement. Which is good. No one should be placated by the announcement. We should all see what the Administration does now. Maybe it will be good, maybe not.

On Sunday, the Times already had a follow-up article on the not-yet-announced policy, reporting:
A day after the first details began to emerge of the Obama administration’s long-awaited policy for Sudan — one that proposes working with the government rather than isolating it — advocates of a tougher approach toward Khartoum said they wished the administration had been stronger.

But they also expressed relief at what has been released so far, saying they had feared the White House would take an even more conciliatory line toward the government, whose leader has been charged with crimes against humanity.
The article only has one source actually saying that, though (Rep. Frank Wolf). And in fact, the person from the Enough Project is pretty skeptical:
“It raises some real philosophical problems,” he said, referring to administration assertions that Sudan has provided important support for the United States’ fight against terrorism. “In exchange for some cooperation on terrorism issues, are we not going to hold Khartoum accountable for the displacement of millions of people?”
Last thing: for the view that Gration has done nothing but bad, see this op-ed from August by Eric Reeves. I'm not sure how much I agree, but I think he's probably right on at least some of it.


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