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Clinton rolls out new Sudan policy

Clinton rolls out new Sudan policy

The Obama administration is unveiling its new comprehensive policy toward Sudan this morning, their latest example of its worldwide trend of mixing pressure with engagement in a controversial push to increase American influence with the brutal regime in Khartoum.

The announcement, which began at 9 a.m. in Washington with a speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, begins as follows:

Sudan is at an important crossroads that can either lead to steady improvements in the lives of the Sudanese people or degenerate into even more violent conflict and state failure.  Now is the time for the United States to act with a sense of urgency and purpose to protect civilians and work toward a comprehensive peace. The consequences are stark. Sudan’s implosion could lead to widespread regional instability or new safe-havens for international terrorists, significantly threatening U.S. interests.  The United States has a clear obligation to the Sudanese people — both in our role as witness to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and as the first country that unequivocally identified events in Darfur as genocide to help lead an international effort.

The policy is based on the contention that U.S. policy can no longer focus exclusively on the crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region or implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, the mostly Christian rebel group that runs the autonomous region of South Sudan.

Efforts will be made to try to persuade the government to act more responsibly both in its dealings with its own people and with the international community.

"To advance peace and security in Sudan, we must engage with allies and with those with whom we disagree," Clinton will say.

This has been the main objective of the administration’s special envoy for Sudan, J. Scott Gration, who has come under fire from human rights groups for what his critics say is an approach to the dealing with the government that is either to conciliatory or too naïve.

According to reports, Gration will not have the power to negotiate directly with Sudanese leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir and the U.S. position explaining that genocide is what’s happening in Darfur will not change.

The new policy also defines U.S. strategic objectives in Sudan as threefold: ending the conflict there, which has resulted in untold human tragedy, implementation of the CPA, which ended 20 years of bloody civil warfare, and continuing to ensure that Sudan does not again become a safe haven for international terrorists.

Interestingly, looking ahead to the state of Sudan after the planned 2011 elections, Clinton will say that the U.S. supports either one state in what is now known as Sudan, or "an orderly path toward two separate and viable states at peace with each other."

In addition to a full rollout at the State Department this morning, Sudan-related interest groups have a full days of activities planned to make sure their views and reactions are publicly understood.

While these groups are somewhat reassured by administration claims that incentives or rewards for the Sudanese regime would only come after it displays a willingness to make progress on the humanitarian crisis it has helped create, their skepticism that such progress is in the offing is paramount.

"The regime has shown time and again that it will do whatever it takes to maintain its grip on power," read an initial reaction by staff at the Enough Project, an anti-genocide advocacy group. "Easing up on Khartoum simply gives President Bashir and his close-knit circle of advisors (many of whom rose to power alongside Bashir in the 1989 coup) the chance to stall and make excuses, while fomenting violence and undermining peace efforts behind-the-scenes, with continued, devastating effect for the people of Sudan."

UPDATE: The State Department has released its outline of the new policy.