The Cable

What’s in the secret Sudan annex?

A “secret annex” to the Obama administration’s new Sudan policy contains all of the details of what incentives and pressures the U.S. is readying to deal with the Sudanese government going forward, but administration officials aren’t telling what’s in it. “We will employ calibrated incentives as appropriate and exert real pressure as needed on any ...

WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 19: (L-R) U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice speaks as Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton look on at a briefing at the State Department on October 19, 2009 in Washington, DC. Clinton held the briefing to discuss new strategy to confront the critical situation in Sudan, such as offering incentives based on progress made in improving conditions. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

A “secret annex” to the Obama administration’s new Sudan policy contains all of the details of what incentives and pressures the U.S. is readying to deal with the Sudanese government going forward, but administration officials aren’t telling what’s in it.

“We will employ calibrated incentives as appropriate and exert real pressure as needed on any party that fails to act to improve the lives of the people of Sudan,” U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice told reporters at a Monday briefing set up to introduce the new policy. “There will be no rewards for the status quo, no incentives without concrete and tangible progress. There will be significant consequences for parties that backslide or simply stand still. All parties will be held to account.”

But what those incentives and consequences might look like in practical terms is classified, leaving many to question why the administration is being so secretive and whether the new policy really contains strong levers that could convince Khartoum to reverse its bad behavior.

“We have a menu of incentives and disincentives, political and economic, that we will be looking to, to either further progress or to create a clear message that the progress we expect is not occurring,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “But we want to be somewhat careful in putting those out. They are part in fact of a classified annex to our strategy that we’re announcing the outline of today.”

Some incentives that special envoy Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration (ret.) has discussed in the past, such as removing Sudan from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, are not likely to be in the offing anytime soon. Likewise, strong pressures such as imposing a no-fly zone over large swathes of Sudanese territory are also not being seriously considered.

Two State Department officials, speaking on background basis, said that the classified annex contains specific benchmarks to measure whether or not progress is being made toward advancing the new policy, to be reported on a quarterly basis, but those benchmarks are also secret.

“We don’t think it’s in the interests of the success of the policy to lay it all out at this time,” one of the officials said.

Overall, Sudan watchers and human rights groups came out remarkably in support of the new policy, calling it a victory for those who were warning against what they characterize as a naïve approach put forth by Gration, who said famously that “goldstars” and “cookies” could be used to effect positive change in Khartoum.

“This is a victory of accountability over goldstars and cookies,” said John Prendergast, cofounder of the Enough Project, explaining that “the policy today clearly spells out the need for verifiable progress on issue of peace and protection of civilians before anything positive in the form of incentives will be issued.”

While expressing cautious optimism, other advocacy leaders were quick to call on President Obama to get personally involved in his new Sudan approach.

“For a lot of people it sends the wrong message that he wasn’t there for the rollout,” said Sam Bell, executive director of the Genocide Intervention Network, who also wondered why the policy rollout took so long when it was promised months ago.

A former State Department official close to the issue told Foreign Policy that the delay was in part related to a fundamental dispute between Gration and Rice over how tough the policy should be.

Apparently, Gration’s office drafted several iterations of the policy document and sent them along to the White House, the National Security Council, and the U.S. delegation at the United Nations. Each time, Rice’s people at the U.N. sent back the document with heavy edits, calling for “more sticks” (meaning tougher pressures), based on her basic skepticism that Sudan’s regime could be persuaded with carrots.

“Her view is very pragmatic, she has been working with these guys for a generation,” the former official said, “[She knows that Sudan’s] response diplomatically is yes, yes, yes, but administratively it’s no, no, no, and then nothing really happens. So everything would go up to New York and would come back heavily edited … That’s why it’s taken so long.”

One open question raised by the administration’s new Sudan policy is, what will it cost? Does the administration plan to bolster its new strategy with increased resources and will it have to go through Congress to secure those funds?

While there is no specific call for more money in today’s announcement, down the road there will be a need for funds, especially when it comes time to get involved in the Sudanese elections, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told The Cable.

“If you’re going to restore stability to Darfur, there’s a cost to that, there’s a cost to CPA implementation. So overtime I think there will be significant resources demands,” said Crowley, “I’m sure that will require a significant U.S. investment.”

Crowley didn’t know if those funds would be included in the regular budget request, but admitted those funds will be needed sooner rather than later.

“We’re acutely aware of the urgency of our task and the shortness of our timeline,” Gration told reporters Monday morning, “We have only six months until Sudan’s national elections take place. The referendum on self-determination [for the autonomous region of South Sudan] is only 15 months away.”

Crowley also pledged that the United States would support independence for South Sudan if the people there choose it in 2011, another seemingly important clarification in the new policy.

But if Gration was hoping to engage directly with Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, he won’t be doing so anytime soon.

“We have no intentions of working directly with President Bashir,” one State Department official said, “We firmly believe he should get a good lawyer, present himself to the ICC, and face the charges that have been leveled against him.”

Gration has several trips planned over the coming weeks to explain the policy to international stakeholders, a key ingredient of the new policy’s potential success, experts said.

“If it’s just a unilateral U.S. statement of policy,” Prendergast said, “I couldn’t think of anything besides toilet paper that’s more meaningless.”

FP assistant editor Elizabeth Dickinson contributed to this report.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

 Twitter: @joshrogin

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