Letter to Congress from Former Special Envoys for Sudan, Throwing Their Weight Behind Lifting of Sanctions on Sudan: A Critique

Eric Reeves   |   June 30, 2017 |  http://wp.me/p45rOG-24N

Yesterday, June 29, 2017, former Obama administration Special Envoys for Sudan Princeton Lyman and Donald Booth, along with former U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Khartoum Jerry Lanier, wrote a brief letter to the Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, arguing in glib and disingenuous terms for a permanent lifting of U.S. economic sanctions on the genocidal Khartoum regime (it is not surprising that there has been no mention by any of these men, in this letter or elsewhere, of the fact that an arrest warrant has been issued for President Omar al-Bashir, charging him with multiple counts of genocide and massive crimes against humanity in Darfur by the International Criminal Court).

The views expressed are not surprising and indeed echo previous and often demonstrably false claims made by these men. The entire letter appears here with my commentary interpolated, in blue italics follow by my initials. I would note by way of preface some of the more remarkable claims and moments during the tenure of these men, particularly Booth and Lyman.

I would highlight, as I have on a number of occasions, comments made by Lyman in an interview of December 2011. I do so because it represents so well the preposterous assumptions made by both Lyman and Booth, and how completely misguided their view of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime has been—a regime today celebrating the military coup that brought them to power exactly 28 years ago (June 30, 1989). In this almost three decades of brutal, tyrannical, and serially genocidal rule, this regime has not changed in any significant way. It has certainly not changed in ways claimed as possible by Lyman in December 2011:

“We [the Obama administration] do not want to see the ouster of the [Khartoum] regime, nor regime change. We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.” (Interview with Asharq al-Awsat, December 3, 2011 | http://english.aawsat.com/2011/12/article55244147/asharq-al-awsat-talks-to-us-special-envoy-to-sudan-princeton-lyman )

One hardly knows where to begin in parsing the absurdity of this statement, justifying the Obama administration’s opposition to regime change, overwhelmingly favored by the vast majority of Sudanese and indeed now the linchpin of political and military opposition to the regime throughout Sudan. In the five and a half years since Lyman’s statement, the following have defined the political history of Sudan:

[1] Acceleration of militia violence, especially by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF)—Khartoum’s militia force of choice and now formally incorporated within the regular army (the Sudan Armed Forces, SAF); this violence was dramatically in evidence from 2012 through 2016, culminating in the savage military assault on the Jebel Marra region of Central Darfur, during which chemical weapons were used against civilians nowhere near military actions (Amnesty International, September 2016 | https://www.amnestyusa.org/reports/scorched-earth-poisoned-air-sudanese-government-forces-ravage-jebel-marra-darfur/;

[2] As part of the rise of the Rapid Support Forces, we have seen a massive increase in the violent expropriation of non-Arab/African farmland | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1P4/;

[3] The epidemic of sexual violence against girls and young woman—a central element of Khartoum’s genocidal counter-insurgency efforts—has continued unabated; see my monograph on the subject (2016 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1QG/);

[4] Violence directed against civilians in Darfur by Khartoum’s regular forces also continues; most notorious so far this year was the “Nierteti massacre” (January 1, 2017):

Nierteti “massacre” sparks outrage across Sudan | Radio Dabanga, January 2, 2017| NIERTETI |At least two people have been killed and 39 others wounded in an attack by Sudanese army soldiers on Nierteti in Central Darfur on Sunday morning. [Figures for casualties varied but suggest that some 60 – 70 civilians were killed or wounded during the vicious SAF rampage; Darfur Union UK lists the names and ages of 11 people killed—five of them under the age of 17—ER]

[5] Some 3 million Darfuris remain displaced internally in Darfur or as refugees in eastern Chad—too fearful to return to their homes and lands, living amidst intolerable insecurity and badly attenuated humanitarian operations. 2.7 million IDPs live in some 200 locations (see | http://sudanreeves.org/2017/03/19/internally-displaced-persons-in-darfur-the-invisible-catastrophe/ ) and Khartoum has repeatedly threatened to dismantle these camps, which would make humanitarian relief efforts impossible and leave people utterly bereft and without protection. Moreover, the UN Security Council is today (June 30, 2017) re-authorizing the badly incompetent UN/African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID), but only after drastically slashing both military personnel (a 44 percent cut) and police forces (a 33 percent cut). The effect on humanitarian delivery and human security could well be catastrophic;

[6] The Khartoum regime continues its severe curtailment of humanitarian access to many hundreds of thousands of Sudanese civilians: the humanitarian embargo imposed in 2011 on areas in South Kordofan and Blue Nile controlled by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N) continues to this day; Khartoum’s refusal to negotiate access in good faith goes back to its rejection of the African Union/UN/Arab League “Tripartite” proposal of February 2012 (see | http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article44516/);

In Darfur huge numbers of civilians are denied humanitarian access by the regime use of a wide range of methods: delay/denial of visas and travel permits; physical intimidation of relief workers; freezing of UNAMID assets and mobility; outright denial of access for reasons unrelated to security; and most consequentially, the ongoing expelling of humanitarian organizations (more than two dozen to date) and the vicious intimidation of UN agencies, effectively limited what can be said about mortality, malnutrition, sexual violence, and security conditions generally;

[7] Political repression has dramatically increased—the very opposite of the “carrying out [of] reform via constitutional democratic measures” Lyman so fatuously and/or disingenuously spoke of—and in Sudan repression takes many forms:

• Steadily increasing what were already draconian restrictions on the national press;

• Violent dispersal of demonstrations, most notably in September 2013 when the regime was confronted with country-wide demonstrations that were eventually put down when “shoot to kill” orders were given to police and security services (a fact established by both Amnesty International and the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies); more than 200 people were murdered, perhaps several times that number; https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/27/sudanese-protesters-attacked-march-fuel-subsidies/;

• The use of torture against journalists, humanitarians, and political opponents; the examples are too numerous to list (many are known to me from direct conversation with victims), but the continuing brutal incarceration of Mudawi Ibrahim, human rights advocate and founder of the Sudan Development Organization (SUDO), is emblematic; he faces the death penalty for his work | https://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2017/06/07/a-human-rights-defender-facing-the-death-penalty//;

• Creation of an utterly factitious “National Dialogue,” seized on my opportunistic diplomats like Lyman and Booth, but dismissed by the regime itself as a mere political ploy in confidential meetings, minutes of which have been leaked (see | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1In/; these minutes have been repeatedly confirmed as authentic | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1w5/); the “re-election” of génocidaire al-Bashir in April 2015 had all the electoral authenticity one might infer from his 94 percent victory margin. Lyman’s “reform via constitutional democratic measures” seems the worst sort of grimly bad joke in the wake of this election;

• A number of Darfuris meeting with then Special Envoy Booth in August 2016—this in the wake of the savage Jebel Marra campaign of the same year—were promptly arrested once Booth had left. Some remained incarcerated for weeks, despite claimed efforts by Booth to have them set free. Booth’s failure to anticipate these arrests is revealing of just how ignorant of the regime he proved on countless occasions.

• Threatening and arresting journalists who use the laboratory-confirmed designation of cholera to describe the epidemic sweeping through Sudan, a product in many ways of the regime’s failure to invest in national infrastructure projects, including the provision of clean water to an impoverished population (half the people of Sudan live below the international poverty line);

• The violent kleptocracy that is the NIF/NCP regime has created conditions of acute malnutrition in Sudan, malnutrition that is rising even as the agricultural sector is collapsing for lack of regime investment over almost three decades (see | http://sudanreeves.org/2017/04/04/famine-in-south-sudan-should-not-obscure-urgent-food-crisis-in-sudan/); the regime has so intimidated the UN humanitarian agencies that even critical malnutrition data goes unpublished (see | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1pL/).  Acute and Severed Acute Malnutrition affects more than 2 million children in Sudan; millions more suffering from chronic malnutrition (“stunting”)—and yet the military and security services commandeer more than half the national budget, ensuring the regime’s stranglehold on Sudanese wealth and political power.

In addition to the letter from Booth, Lyman, and Lanier, comments from present U.S. Charge d’Affaires Steven Koutsis seem clearly designed to push for a permanent lifting of U.S. economic sanctions, first imposed by President Clinton in 1997 and strengthened by President George W. Bush in 2006. Koutsis was recently cited by Agence France-Presse (June 24, 2017) as declaring:

“None of these other issues were the point of sanctions, and none of these other issues, therefore, should be linked to the lifting of sanctions."

The “issues” he was referring to are Khartoum’s abysmal human rights record, its increasing repression and continuing violent suppression of political dissent, its increasingly strident religious intolerance, and its continuing deployment of brutal militia forces in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan. But this statement if profoundly false and is directly belied by the language of the Preface to Clinton’s Executive Order of 1997:

We must wonder what part of “the prevalence of human rights violations, including slavery and the denial of religious freedom” escaped Koutsis’ understanding. Rather more to the point, we must ask whether it was an unforgiveable ignorance of this language in the 1997 Executive Order—or a cynical belief that no one would call him on the outrageous inaccuracy of his statement.

Many in the Congress are quite aware of what an ignorant and tendentious diplomatic representative Koutsis is; indeed, he is little more than a hack, tasked with getting sanctions lifted using whatever mean are possible (see a fuller account of his handiwork at | http://wp.me/p45rOG-24G/). As a consequence, it is quite likely the Congress will act in the ways it has in the past on critical sanctions issues, including those directed against Russia and Iran. This will include targeted sanctions coupled with other leverage.

But the argument for lifting sanctions sent to the House Foreign Affairs Committee deserves close inspection, coming from leading Obama administration diplomats on Sudan—and now that the Khartoum regime has been able to hire the powerful legal and lobbying services of Squire Patton Boggs, one of Washington’s most prominent and powerful law firms (this because of the January decision by President Obama to begin the suspension of sanctions against Khartoum). The hiring of Squire Patton Boggs is particularly notable since, with good reason, Sudan is one of only three countries on the State Department’s list of “state sponsors of terrorism” (along with Iran and Syria). And there can be no doubt of the Khartoum regime’s continuing commitment to supporting radical Islamic militants, as it has done in, for example, Libya (see| http://wp.me/s45rOG-7964/).

Ironically, the decision to lift sanctions is motivated not, as Lyman would have us believe, by a hope that somehow this brutal, genocidal regime will somehow come to “carry out reform via constitutional democratic measures.” It is a policy decision by the U.S. intelligence community, which has long dictated the major terms of engagement between Khartoum and Washington (see, for example, my lengthy account from late 2011 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-GT /). The truly enormous new U.S. “embassy” in Khartoum has been filled by the CIA and other intelligence agencies with a full range of surveillance, intercept, satellite monitoring, and other equipment; it is designed to be the primary U.S. listening post for northern Africa, a fact celebrated, if a bit hyperbolically by a regime spokesman:

"There is communication between the two bodies and regular meetings. The CIA office in Khartoum is the largest office in the Middle East. Because the United States is aware of the Sudan strategic importance in the region, it has established one of the largest diplomatic missions in the region, even they had to expand their buildings," said Hanafi in an interview with the Khartoum based Al-Sudani newspaper published on Tuesday. (Sudan Tribune, January 31, 2017 | http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article61565/)

The Letter from Lyman, Booth, Lanier: Annotated

June 29, 2017

Honorable Members
House Committee on Foreign Affairs U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515

RE: U.S. POLICY ON SUDAN

Dear Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee:

We write to you today regarding U.S. policy on Sudan, and the objectives we all share: ending conflict in Sudan and promoting reforms toward a peaceful and more sustainable system of governance.

[This is a terrifying echo of Lyman’s words from December 2011: “We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.”—ER]

To this end, we urge you to continue supporting the existing five-track engagement strategy

[This isn’t a strategy; it is transparently an effort to put a “smile” on capitulation to the regime in return for the counter-terrorism intelligence Khartoum is believed capable of providing the U.S.—ER]

and the opportunity it now affords the United States to advance those objectives. In the same vein, we urge caution in rushing any new legislative action that might undermine this opportunity for progress going forward.

[This is a preemptive strike against possible Congressional imposition of a new sanctions regime on Khartoum—ER]

Over the last seven years, we have together spent considerable time engaging Sudanese officials inside and outside government; we know how imperfect are the choices when it comes to Sudan, and how critical is a strategy of engagement.

[If in this considerable time these men have decided still to cleave to Lyman’s 2011 assessment—“we want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures”—then it is all to clear that their “engagement” is extraordinarily ignorant of what this regime truly is.

Here we might bear in mind the staggering ignorance of Charge d’Affaires Koutsis: “None of these other issues [human rights, religious toleration, ending chattel slavery] were the point of sanctions, and none of these other issues, therefore, should be linked to the lifting of sanctions."—ER]

As you know, the State Department is mandated to submit a July 2017 assessment on the five-track engagement plan, which was first initiated in June 2016. That strategy was initiated with a view toward smarter and more results-oriented engagement with Sudan.

[I have cataloged above [and seriatim at www.sudanreeves.org/] the “results” of U.S. engagement since the beginning of the Obama administration, and in particular since Lyman’s extraordinarily, incomprehensibly misguided assessment of the regime’s “democratic” instincts—ER]

It is designed to use existing tools to leverage changes in behavior by Khartoum’s government in key areas, including a ceasefire and humanitarian access.

[Let’s judge the “success” of Lyman’s and Booth’s efforts in light of the facts presented above. In particular, claims about improved “humanitarian access” have been consistently untrue. Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power spoke in January, during her last press conference as Ambassador, of a “sea change” of improvement in humanitarian access. This characterization was rejected by every knowledgeable figure in the humanitarian community—on the ground in Sudan and in the broader humanitarian community internationally; even the State Department could offer no explanation of what led Power to this deeply troubling falsehood. And the basic reality is that a total humanitarian embargo remains in place, as it has since summer 2011, on SPLM/A-N-controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile States. This recalcitrant fact led U.S. Charge d’Affaires Koutsis to the truly bizarre strategy of blaming the SPLM/A-N for the continuation of the embargo—a symptom of how misguided U.S. thinking about the critical issue of humanitarian access has been—ER]

The State Department’s first assessment in late 2016 noted the changes the government made in response to the plan, which then resulted a first round of sanctions easing.

[Again, let’s judge this glib celebration of what President Obama referred to vaguely as “positive actions” by the realities in Sudan today, and as represented by the facts presented above—ER]

The U.S. engagement plan was not intended as a one-off effort, but rather is intended to initiate a framework for sustained bilateral engagement toward the realization of U.S. objectives. The United States retains considerable leverage over Khartoum, which seeks to see additional sanctions removed, its designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism rescinded, its path to debt relief cleared, and full diplomatic and military relations restored.

It is important that the Trump Administration and Congress show unity in carrying forward this initiative, and in turning early progress into sustained reform.

[In other words, “Believe us: we’re experienced diplomats and former special envoys for Sudan—ignore the realities that are all too conspicuous.”—ER]

Progress on the agreed tracks in this first phase of engagement, and lifting the agreed sanctions, moves the U.S and Sudan to the next phase of engagement,

[This is hopelessly vague and non-specific, ignoring both military/security and humanitarian realities in Sudan; evidently all three men count on the ignorance of those in the Trump administration making the decision, and are trying to silence the Congress—ER]

to include more steps toward respect for human rights,

[But the point is that there have been no steps toward respect for human rights”—none! –ER]

sustained humanitarian access,

[These callous men simply can’t bring themselves to discuss honestly the realities of humanitarian access in Sudan, and the degree to which the Khartoum regime obstructs the work of the world’s finest international relief organizations—this is finally despicable—ER]

and a lasting peace.

“Peace” for the regime means, and has always meant, military victory—now, after fourteen unspeakably bloody years, essentially achieved in Darfur—and the goal for South Kordofan once U.S. sanctions are lifted permanently. That these men were both content to assert the viability of the “Doha Document for Peace in Darfur,” long after its failure on all counts was conspicuous, should be noted—ER]

Stopping the process now would undermine progress to date and prevent forward movement.

[Again, there has been no progress—merely an expedient suspension of aerial attacks and military offensives in South Kordofan; these will resume when sanctions have been removed permanently. And judged by every other meaningful criterion—human rights, humanitarian access, economic development, democratization, infrastructure investment—the regime has continued to fail miserably and international rankings in each of these areas bear out this characterization—ER]

It would also bind the hands of the new administration and erase the momentum it has inherited.

[Again, there is no” momentum”—merely capitulation before Khartoum’s patient determination to get what is wants; it may trim its military behavior as necessary, make noises about improving humanitarian access—but there has been no “progress,” there is no “momentum”—the regime remains fully in power, although it presides over a collapsing economy that is galvanizing Sudan’s political opposition. Lifting sanctions permanently throws and economic lifeline to the regime at precisely the wrong moment—ER]

The U.S. plan represents an acknowledgement that sanctions alone had long failed to produce the changes we all hope to see—while also imposing unduly negative consequences on many ordinary Sudanese citizens.

[The “unduly negative consequences” suffered by “ordinary Sudanese citizens” are not a function of U.S. sanctions but of the catastrophic mismanagement of Sudan’s economy by the NIF/NCP regime over 28 years, enriching itself and its politically important cabal of cronies in a vast kleptocracy (see | http://www.enoughproject.org/blogs/enough-forum-release-kleptocracy-khartoum)

•  Failure to invest in the agricultural sector and instead selling and leasing vast tracts of arable land to Arab and Asian countries interested in securing their own future food security; the collapse of the once thriving Gezira Scheme is symptomatic—and has nothing to do with U.S. sanctions;

•  Failure to invest in infrastructure, hence the badly deteriorating water delivery system, which is a primary cause of the wild spread of cholera in the country, including Darfur as the rainy season begins in earnest;

• Failure to plan for the consequences of the secession South Sudan (July 2011) and the consequent extremely severe shortage of Foreign Exchange Currency (Forex), now required for the import of more than $1 billion of wheat per year and even refined petroleum products (the regime refused to use the ample oil revenues of 1999 – 2011 to build a significant domestic refining capacity—again, this has nothing to do with U.S. sanctions. Skyrocketing inflation, the precipitous drop in the value of the Sudanese Pound, the inability to import key commodities—including food and basic medicines—these are not a function of U.S. sanctions but gross economic mismanagement and terribly skewed budgetary priorities, devoting resources primarily to the military and security services;

History has demonstrated that a punitive sanctions regime cannot alone yield progress in Sudan.

[Of course one must ask, then, why is the regime so eager to see them lifted permanently—it is most certainly not out of concern for the “ordinary Sudanese citizens,” who have suffered grievously under this regime’s tyranny for 28 years—ER]

Only through the credible and consistent use of both incentives and pressures, and a view toward long-term reform, can we realize our objectives.

[“Long-term reform” becomes the illusory fiction to rely on when there is no short-term reform to point to—politically, economically, or in the humanitarian arena; this is the response to the conspicuous absurdity of Lyman’s declaration of five and a half years ago“We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.” There is no reform in evidence and no evidence that it will occur under this regime—no evidence whatsoever, which is why this perverse letter is so completely without specifics—ER]

To this end:

It is imperative that the United States follows through on the letter of the engagement plan, and do so on the basis of the Administration’s multi-pronged assessment.

[This “imperative” has not been demonstrated, merely asserted by interested parties—interested insofar as they represent policies that have enabled a genocidal regime to continue its tyranny and kleptocratic ways for the entire duration of the Obama administration these men represented—ER]

Delaying the process may seem an attractive option, but in reality it would damage U.S. credibility and squander the opportunity now before us.

[Again, the “opportunity” is completely unspecified—we are somehow to take it on faith from men who have been shown to be repeatedly and grossly in error in the past—ER]

We must continue to work with those who seek long-term reform

[And again, the revealing emphasis on “long-term reform”: this is what one stipulates when there is no “short-term reform” to point to—ER]

and Sudan’s re-integration into the global community. And we must avoid doing any favors for Sudanese hardliners who represent the worst of the government, and who oppose the very objectives we are seeking to achieve.

[This is simply bizarre and reflects an extraordinary ignorance of who really controls power in Khartoum: Sudanese hardliners who represent the worst of the government.” It is precisely the hardliners who have exerted most control since 2011 and the military decisions that led to the seizure of Abyei and to war in South Kordofan and Blue Nile; it was the hardliners who created the Rapid Support Forces, now the dominant militia force in Darfur and destined to play a similarly large role when Khartoum inevitably moves to seize full military control of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The characterization offered here by Booth, Lyman, and Lanier is but an updated version of an old claim that “if only the ‘moderates’ in the regime can be strengthened…” There are no moderates! Minutes of an August 31, 2014 meeting of the regime’s most powerful military and security officials make fully clear who commands power within the regime—and they are all “hardliners” by any meaningful definition of the phrase (these minutes have been fully authenticated, including by the U.S. State Department)—ER]

We believe that now is not the time for legislation that would complicate our sanctions regime and confuse our diplomatic strategy.

[If Booth and Lyman revealed anything during their tenure, it was that they had no “diplomatic strategy”—hence, for example, the celebration of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, a peace agreement without any buy-in from either Darfuri civil society or the significant rebel movements. What has distinguished the Obama administration is not a diplomatic strategy but rather fashioning the best tactical means by which to secure Khartoum’s cooperation in providing counter-terrorism intelligence—ER]

Introducing new benchmarks—especially those that cannot be effectively measured or achieved—will not help us in realizing our objectives.

[This is pure tendentiousness: there is no coherent set of objectives that has any chance of being realized once sanctions are lifted—again, the lack of specifics in this letter, and the refusal to acknowledge errors and failures of judgment of the past, are all too revealing—ER]

If Sudan walks back progress to date,

[“Progress to date”: how can this phrase possibly be made to comport with the realities I’ve detailed above? This is “argument by bald assertion,” untroubled by realities on the ground in Sudan—ER]

or fails on the next phase of engagement, the Administration and Congress can re-assess and take appropriate steps— including punitive measures if necessary—at that juncture.

Thank you, as always, for your continued interest and commitment, and we stand ready to discuss these important issues with you further.

Sincerely,

Ambassador (Ret.) Princeton Lyman

Former U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan

Ambassador (Ret.) Donald Booth

Former U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan

Ambassador (Ret.) Jerry Lanier

Former U.S. Chargé d'Affaires to Sudan


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Eric ReevesSenior Fellow at Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights

 

ereeves@smith.edu

www.sudanreeves.org

Twitter@SudanReeves

About Eric Reeveshttp://sudanreeves.org/about-eric-reeves

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