President Imposes New Sanctions on Sudan
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
In announcing new U.S. sanctions on Sudan yesterday, President Bush made clear his frustration with the inability of his administration and the United Nations to halt the violence in Darfur, which he has described as ongoing "genocide."
"I promise this to the people of Darfur," Bush said at the White House. "The United States will not avert our eyes from a crisis that challenges the conscience of the world."
The administration's strong rhetoric and new plan to squeeze Sudan was greeted with immediate roadblocks yesterday. At the United Nations, China and Russia displayed little interest in joining the U.S. drive to isolate Khartoum economically and coerce its leaders into cooperating with international efforts to stop the violence in Darfur.
On the other end of the spectrum, lawmakers and advocacy groups that have campaigned for tougher action on Darfur voiced disappointment with the president's plan as being too little, too late. They questioned whether the steps are tough enough to cause the Sudanese president, Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan al-Bashir, to abandon tactics that have delayed the arrival of thousands of additional U.N. peacekeeping troops.
"Khartoum has conned the administration into prolonged negotiations that yield only partial results, while the genocide continues without stop," said Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "Additional sanctions are welcome now, but they could have sent a stronger message months ago and saved many lives from being disrupted or lost."
Yesterday's announcement represents the culmination of six months of deliberations within the administration about Darfur, where up to 450,000 people have been killed and about 2.5 million displaced as a result of a campaign of violence waged since 2003 by Arab militias with the backing of the Khartoum government. According to current and former administration officials, the situation has long been of special concern to Bush, who has been described by some as the "Sudan desk officer" for the White House and privately has expressed repeated frustration with the options presented to him.
But Bush has been unable to broker an effective international effort to secure peace. He has been considering sanctions since last year but has repeatedly delayed implementation out of hope that diplomacy might encourage Bashir to facilitate the deployment of peacekeepers. Currently, an overwhelmed African Union force of about 7,000 soldiers is stationed in Darfur, but Bashir has stymied U.N. efforts to send a force triple that size, U.S. officials said.
"President Bashir's actions over the past few weeks follow a long pattern of promising cooperation while finding new methods for obstruction," Bush said at the White House.
The plan announced yesterday is designed to ratchet up pressure on Bashir. The Treasury Department said that it will add 30 Sudanese-owned or -controlled companies to an existing list of 130 companies banned from any involvement with the U.S. financial system. The government also added three Sudanese individuals -- two senior government officials and a rebel leader -- to the list of four people already subject to U.S. sanctions.
Bush also said that the United States will seek a new U.N. Security Council resolution imposing strengthened international sanctions on Sudan and expanding an arms embargo. Diplomats say that they are also seeking a means to better enforce the prohibition on the government there conducting offensive military flights over Darfur. But the proposal leaves a major sticking point unresolved: whether a U.N. or an African Union general will exercise ultimate command over the peacekeepers.
Many experts on Sudan voiced doubt that unilateral sanctions will affect Khartoum, especially its booming oil business, because the country has been under onerous U.S. sanctions since 1997. "I don't think they will have any impact," said John Prendergast, an Africa expert at the International Crisis Group.
But Treasury Department officials said that they have been working on ways to squeeze the oil industry, with 12 companies already on a sanctions list.