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Economic Woes Compel a Shift in Khartoum’s “Strategic Alliance with Iran”

By Eric Reeves

March 30, 2015 (SSNA) -- Sudan Tribune reports today a remarkable declaration by the Khartoum regime’s foreign minister, Ali Karti: “We were never allies with Iran: Sudan Foreign Minister”

The Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti vehemently denied that his country was ever an ally of Iran and described reports saying otherwise as baseless and stressed that relations between Khartoum and Tehran did not exceed the traditional diplomatic framework.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday following the return of president Omer Hassan al-Bashir from Sharm el-Sheikh where he participated in the Arab summit, Karti said that what links Sudan to Arab countries is neighbourhood and Arabism and that Khartoum is on board in its alliance with the Arabs away from Tehran.... Karti said that relations with Tehran were nothing more than "normal" explaining that when Iranian expanded their cultural presence in Sudan the government closed these centers last year.

"I have been in the foreign ministry for some time and never heard of an alliance [with Iran],” he said.

But Sudan Tribune concludes with what is surely the real explanation for the radical shift from Khartoum's well-documented “strategic alliance” with Iran:

[R]ecent visits by Bashir to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates appeared to signal a strategic shift by Khartoum from Iran in favour of oil-rich Arab Gulf states with the resources to support Sudan’s beleaguered economy.

That this “shift” has entailed a profound disavowal of previous assertions about Iran as a “strategic ally” is clear from any examination of the leaked minutes of a meeting of the most senior military and security officials, as well as two senior political officials, on 31 August 2014 (notably, Karti was not included in the meeting). The minutes for this meeting have been fully authenticated by a very wide range of sources (see http://wp.me/p45rOG-1w5); they reveal a relationship between Khartoum and Tehran of which Karti is either ignorant or about which he is lying. The latter is the more likely.

The minutes also reveal a painful ignorance of the state of the Sudanese economy on the part of nearly all in attendance—but a very clear understanding that there is money to be had from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. The crushing effects of an almost total lack of foreign exchange currency (Forex) has made imports impossible in a great many cases, including yet again imports of wheat to be ground into flour for bakeries to make into bread. There been numerous reports of bread lines and bread shortages going back almost two years.

As the excerpts below reveal, the economic pain caused by a lack of Forex, high inflation, high unemployment, low revenue generation, and overwhelming external debt (some US$48 billion) has forced Khartoum into a dramatic about-face in its relations with Iran on the one hand and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States on the other. This certainly extends to reversing what had previously been Khartoum’s support for the Houthi insurgents in Yemen: Sudan is one of the Arab countries providing military assistance to Saudi Arabia in its campaign against the Houthis as they march on to Aden.

Examples of statements about Khartoum’s relationship with Iran, and with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf State, from the 31 August 2014 meeting. These are brief excerpts; substantially fuller excerpts providing greater context for these statements may be found at | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1EY:

• Major General Bakri Hassan Salih, First Vice President (arguably the most powerful figure in the regime after al-Bashir):

A primary recommendation: Maintain and protect the relationship with Iran. Managing this relationship through the military and security agencies.

• General Abdalla al-Jaili, Popular Defense Forces General Coordinator:

We have been targeted for the last twenty-five years because of our relationship with Iran. Both revolutions are committed to Islam. There is no country, other than Iran, who has the courage to say no to the whole West. Iran is an essential partner to the National Salvation Revolution. It was Iran who provided us with free and unlimited support, whereas Saudi Arabia was supporting Garang and the National Democratic Alliance. We shall be testing the credibility of these Gulf States, despite my belief that they are pro-America.

• General Siddiq Amer, Director General of Intelligence and Security:

I think we should improve the relation with the Saudis and benefit from them, but it must be clear that they are not trustworthy. At the same time we maintain our strategic relationship with Iran.

• General Yehya Mohammed Kheir, Minister of State for Defense:

Our relationship with Iran is strategic. We will inform [Iran] of our intention to close down their cultural centers for security reasons; because there is a threat to these centers from some Sunni radical groups who may target them and cause conflict. But again we must take a similar step towards the Wahabi group, to avoid any misinterpretation by the Iranians of these measures as targeting only the Shiite group.

• Major General Mohammed Atta, Director General of National Intelligence and
Security Services:

As soon as the incident [attack on a Shi’ite proselytizer in Darfur] happened, I received a call from the Iranian Security Advisor and the Chief of Republican Guards. We agreed to separate between the two issues: The strategic military and security relationship on one side, and the cultural relationship on the other. After that they reported the agreement to their leadership.

I say that our relationship with Iran is strategic and should be above all other interests. Anyone who wants to sabotage it doesn’t understand the art of keeping balances and lacks the necessary information.

• General Abd al-Rahim Mohammed Hussein, Minister of Defense:

I shall start with our relationship with Iran and say it is a strategic and everlasting relationship. We cannot compromise or lose it. All the advancement in our military industry is from Iran. They opened the doors of their stores of weapons for us, at a time the Arabs stood against us. The Iranian support came when we were fighting a rebellion that spread in all directions including the National Democratic Alliance. The Iranians provided us with experts and they trained our Military Intelligence and security cadres. They also trained us in weapons production and transferred to us modern technology in the military production industry.

• Major General Hashim Abdalla Mohammed, Chief of Joint General Staff:

We rule the people by power, not all the people support us and it is possible that some radicals can create problems like what happened in Western Sudan, when they killed a Shi’ite over religious differences. So let us separate between the two issues... the strategic relation [with Iran] and the Shi'ia Cultural Centers.

We have a problem with Saudi Arabia because they found out about the weapons we sent by way of the Red Sea to Abd al-Malik Al-Huthi’s Shiia group in Yemen [the Houthis are supported by Iran—and formerly by Khartoum].

• General Imad al-Din Adawy, Chief of Joint Operations:

Libya border is totally secured, especially after the victory of our allies (Libya Dawn Forces [Libya Dawn is a radical Islamist organization in Libya]) in Tripoli. We managed to deliver to them the weapons and military equipment donated by Qatar and Turkey and we formed a joint operations room with them under one of the colonels in order to coordinate and administer the military operations.

• General Abd al-Qadir Mohammed Zeen – National Service Coordinator:

The balance in our relationship with Iran on one side and the Gulf States on the other side is important, but my question is: Will Saudi Arabia change its position after it has classified the Muslim Brothers as terrorists? On the other hand, our relationship with Iran is linked to our relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood International Organization. Accordingly, we must consult with Iran and the rest of our Islamist group, before taking any step in this regard, specially that the relationship with the Saudi Arabia Kingdom is not guaranteed, despite their knowledge that we are in a position to threaten their rule.

• General Salah al-Tayeb, DDR Commissioner:

We should set our military and security relationships with Iran apart.

• Dr. Mustafa Osman Ismail, Political Secretary of the regime’s National Congress Party (former foreign Minister in the regime):

In my personal view our relationship with Iran is strategic in the areas of defense and security... I suggest that we maintain good relations with the Gulf States in principle, yet work strategically with Iran, in total secrecy and on a limited scale, through Military Intelligence and security. Thus, diplomatic relationships remain the same.

We have security and political agreements with Iran and they might refuse the suggestion of fresh relationships with the Gulf States, especially that Saudi has concerns regarding the Iranian military presence in Sudan.

• Ibrahim Ghandour, Deputy Chairman of the regime’s National Congress Party:

The relationship with Iran is one of the best relationships in the history of the Sudan. Accordingly, the management of this relationship requires wisdom and knowledge of all its details. The assistance we received from Iran is immeasurable. The commonalities between us are many. People should not limit their concern to the aspect of converting to Shi'ism only. There are many infiltrators who are working to see us lose our relationship with Iran. We must note that Iran is a friend to all the Islamic movements worldwide. We need to conduct internal consultations first and then we put our Iranian partners in the picture about all the details.

Eric Reeves is the Author of Compromising With Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007-2012 www.CompromisingWithEvil.org

Democratization and Sudan: An Obama policy of disingenuousness

By Eric Reeves

March 17, 2015 (SSNA) -- Recent comments in Khartoum by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Steven Feldstein warrant serious scrutiny in light of the elections in Sudan scheduled for a month from now. Most significantly, “[Feldstein] reiterated U.S. support for an inclusive and comprehensive National Dialogue to resolve Sudan’s conflicts” (State Department media note, 28 February 2015). This preposterous optimism about the nature and prospects of true national political dialogue in Sudan under the current regime is of a piece with Obama administration policies and statements over the past six years, and signals in advance of the elections that the “victory” that will be represented by President Omar al-Bashir’s “re-election” will be accepted, thereby providing the “legitimacy” that members of the regime see as the real goal of this electoral charade—boycotted by a growing number of important political constituencies and simply unable to be conducted in many parts of the country wracked by violence.

It would be a long chronicle indeed that managed to record even briefly the various moments of disingenuousness and outright mendacity on the part of the Obama administration in speaking about Sudan and articulating what passes for a “Sudan policy.” Whether it is the refusal to acknowledge realities in Darfur and the need for meaningful civilian protection; the duplicitous means by which Abyei was abandoned (notably, President al-Bashir recently declared officially that Abyei is part of Sudan); the expedient failure to acknowledge the implications of Khartoum’s military actions in South Kordofan in summer 2011; or the absurd claim by former special envoy Princeton Lyman that the current National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime (NCP) is capable of overseeing democratization in Sudan—at countless points the Obama administration has failed to take issues in Sudan seriously or speak of them honestly. The secession of South Sudan marked the end of engagement with the real issues in Sudan; and the continuing lust for counter-terrorism intelligence has ensured that Sudan policy has moved further out of the State Department and into the multifarious U.S. intelligence community.

Examples abound

Obama’s first special envoy, Air Force Major General Scott Gration, declared soon after taking the position that only “remnants of genocide” remained in Darfur. A literally incoherent statement as it stood at the time, Gration’s evident claim has been thoroughly belied by the continuing ethnically-targeted human destruction, suffering, and engineered deprivation that never ceased and have dramatically accelerated for the past three years, reaching a current crescendo that has put more than half the population of Darfur at risk—more than three and a half million people. What the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs calls the “GAM load” for Sudan as a whole is 2 million, i.e., 2 million people are at risk because of “Global Acute Malnutrition” (GAM).

It must also be noted that almost 3 million people are either internally displaced within Darfur or refugees in eastern Chad, the latter figure approaching 400,000. Approximately 2 million Darfuris have been newly displaced since special envoy Scott Gration made his now infamous remark about only there being “remnants of genocide” in Darfur (many hundreds of thousands more Sudanese civilians have been displaced in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States since 2011). The disastrously conceived UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is collapsing and significant elements have been already been withdrawn by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations—not always publicly. The Mission’s UN Security Council authorization, which expires this June, will not be renewed—certainly not in any meaningful form in the face of veto threats from Russia and China; for its part, Khartoum has in recent months adamantly insisted that UNAMID be withdrawn. Humanitarian organizations that have withstood all that the Khartoum regime has inflicted upon them are at the end of their tether. Certainly the end of UNAMID, and thus any international protection force, will compel withdrawal by those that have not already suspended operations or been expelled by the regime.

The targets of militia attacks by Khartoum’s redeployment of Janjaweed elements as the Rapid Response Forces (RSF) continue to remain overwhelmingly populations from the non-Arab/African tribal groups in Darfur, as do attacks on civilians—including rape—by the regular Sudan Armed Forces (SAF).

Following the March 2009 expulsion of thirteen international humanitarian relief organizations and the closing of three important Sudanese national relief organizations, total humanitarian capacity in Darfur was reduced by approximately 50 percent, according to one extremely well-placed UN official (confidential e-mail received March 20, 2009). Moreover, institutional memory, administrative organization, and camp leadership provided by these organizations were devastated. It was impossible to replace the capacity that existed prior to March 2009, and in fact the international relief presence has actually been further reduced by subsequent expulsions, denial of access in many areas of Darfur, and Khartoum’s relentless war of attrition against humanitarian organizations.

The Obama administration response at the time of the expulsions was a mixture of helplessness, expediency, and disingenuousness—what has become a familiar pattern. President Obama declared a week after the expulsions that such actions were “not acceptable” (March 10, 2009). But he and representatives of his administration subsequently took to a vague language of accommodation:

“We have to figure out a mechanism to get those [expelled international humanitarian organizations] back in place [in Darfur], to reverse that decision, or to find some mechanism whereby we avert an enormous humanitarian crisis, [Obama said].” (Reuters [Washington, DC] 30 March 2009)

Such a “mechanism” was of course nowhere in sight, weeks after Obama’s initial declaration—and it was left to special envoy Gration to declare a month into the crisis, “We have to come up with a solution [to the humanitarian crisis] on the ground in the next few weeks” (Agence France-Presse [Khartoum], 4 April 2009). But in the absence of a “solution” or a “mechanism,” (then) Senator John Kerry, chair of the Senate foreign relations committee and an Obama administration surrogate on Sudan, offered an obscenely disingenuous claim of triumph: “‘We have agreement [with Khartoum] that in the next weeks we will be back to 100 percent [humanitarian] capacity,’ said [Senator John] Kerry” (Reuters [el-Fasher], 17 April 2009). Kerry knew full well that Khartoum’s promise was utterly worthless, but by citing it he tuned down international pressure on the regime to respond to actions that dramatically increased the risk faced by millions of Darfuris. Tremendous human suffering and destruction followed from this disingenuousness, and the diffusing of pressure on Khartoum over humanitarian presence and access.

Gration’s successor as special envoy, Princeton Lyman, refused for months in summer 2011 to characterize the atrocity crimes in South Kordofan and the Nuba Mountains in remotely appropriate fashion. He denied the existence of mass graves in and around Kadugli following the large-scale and systematic targeting of Nuba civilians in June 2011, despite compelling satellite photographic evidence and reports from the ground by UN human rights officials. In a June 28, 2011 interview with the NewsHour (PBS) he scoffed at claims that what was occurring in the Nuba Mountains amounted to a reprise of the genocide of the 1990s:

“Nuba Mountain people are fighting back and I don’t think the North is capable of dislodging large numbers of people on an ethnic basis.... That’s the reality on the ground. Second, I’m not sure that’s the objective of the government....”

The current reality on the ground is that many hundreds of thousands of Nuba have been displaced over the past three and a half years—and more than 220,000 have fled from the Nuba and Blue Nile to South Sudan. Hundreds of thousands of other civilians live at acute risk of military assault from the air and on the ground. The agricultural economy of the region has been devastated. And as to Lyman’s declaring, “I’m not sure that’s the objective of the government [ethnic cleansing and destruction of the Nuba people],” President al-Bashir provided a forceful rebuke of such expedient skepticism just days later:

“[President and Field Marshal Omar al-Bashir] directed the armed forces to continue their military operations in South Kordofan until a cleansing of the region is over,” SUNA [Sudan News Agency] quoted Bashir as telling worshippers during Friday prayers.” (Reuters [Khartoum] 1 July 2011)

Lyman had downplayed the significance of Khartoum’s preparation for the military annexation of Abyei (May 20 – 22, 2011)—and following the event did little to suggest the U.S. was particularly concerned. This had an immediate impact on Khartoum’s thinking and was instrumental in unleashing the military campaign that began in South Kordofan two weeks later (5 June 2011).

One might have thought that Lyman learned something of the character of the regime during his tenure as special envoy; instead, he declared in a 3 December 2011 interview with the distinguished English-language Arab news outlet Asharq Al-Awsat:

[Asharq Al-Awsat] “The US administration has welcomed the Arab Spring which has overthrown a number of dictatorships in the Middle East and led to free and fair elections being held. Are you calling for the Arab Spring to encompass Sudan, as well?”

[Lyman] “This is not part of our agenda in Sudan. Frankly, we do not want to see the ouster of the [Sudanese] regime, nor regime change. We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.”

The sheer preposterousness of such a notion—that the Khartoum regime could “carry out reform via constitutional democratic measures”—is what provides the context for Feldstein’s visit to Khartoum and his comments on departing: “[Feldstein] reiterated U.S. support for an inclusive and comprehensive National Dialogue to resolve Sudan’s conflicts.” For Feldstein’s “National Dialogue” read Lyman’s “the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.”

Khartoum’s “National Dialogue”: A deadly political farce

Feldstein’s “reiteration” is not merely preposterous but sends to Khartoum a clear signal: the U.S. will welcome any effort, however specious, to present the April 2015 presidential election as somehow an advance in the democratic process. This is what lay behind the regime’s announcing a wholly factitious “National Dialogue,” which senior regime officials have themselves repeatedly described as a political ploy, designed to give credibility to the foregone conclusion of President Omar al-Bashir’s “victory” in the election. I offer in Appendix A many examples of such comments, which come from the now fully authenticated leaked minutes of the meeting on August 31, 2014 of the regime’s most senior security and military officials, as well as the minutes for a similar meeting on July 1, 2014, also substantially authenticated by native Arabic-speaking/writing Sudanese familiar with the practices of the regime. There have been other significant leaks as well, making clear that there is a serious internal breach in the regime’s security and giving added credibility to the authenticity of these particular sets of minutes.

And yet as widely as the proposed “National Dialogue” has been rejected by the most important political constituencies in Sudan, and despite the many actors who have vowed not to participate in what is transparently a rigged electoral process, the U.S.—with far too much international company—is content to pretend that the regime’s efforts are genuine, and that the “National Dialogue” is meant to include, in meaningful fashion, other political voices.

[I attach below (Appendix B) the lengthy comments of 31 August 2015 by senior regime political official Ibrahim Ghandour on the preparations the NCP had already made in fixing the April 2015—and this was half a year ago.]

The disingenuous suggestion by Feldstein that Khartoum’s version of a “National Dialogue” has any real meaning works precisely to disenfranchise those within Sudan who truly want such dialogue. (Feldstein is evidently the most senior official Khartoum would allow, following the set-up visit by Ghandour to Washington last month; current U.S. special envoy for Sudan Donald Booth cannot obtain a visa to Khartoum.) As well as expressing support for the regime’s “National Dialogue,” Feldstein invoked in obligatory and entirely meaningless fashion the idea of “human rights” in Sudan:

"Deputy Assistant Secretary Feldstein said the United States will continue to emphasize key democracy and human rights priorities in Sudan."

And yet there is absolutely nothing suggesting that past Obama administration “emphasis” on “human rights” or “democracy” has borne any fruit; but of course using the words provides at least a fig-leaf of cover for an administration that is looking for a cost-free way to manage the Sudan relationship.

Words without consequence

The substitution of words for meaningful changes in policies toward Khartoum has been evident since the beginning of the Obama administration. Indeed, this was the only task for which special envoy Gration was qualified. But the substitution continues. When U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, in an unusually forcefully worded statement (12 June 2014), “condemned in the strongest possible terms” the deliberate and intensifying bombing of schools, hospitals, and “ordinary people” (Agence France-Presse [UN/New York], 13 June 2014), Khartoum had a ready response: four days after Power’s tough talk, the regime bombed the Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in South Kordofan:

During an aerial attack on a Sudanese village, Sudan’s air force bombed and partially destroyed a hospital run by the international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the war-torn South Kordofan region on Monday, depriving civilians of critical medical care, the organization said today. As bombs struck the village of Farandalla [more commonly spelled Frandala] on 16 June, two hit the MSF hospital. (MSF Press Release, 17 June 2014)

There was no U.S. response of consequence to this outrageous war crime, one that makes a mockery of Deputy Assistant Secretary Feldstein’s sanctimonious words in Khartoum about “human rights.” Indeed, in the final State Department read-out from the visit, Feldstein disingenuously spoke of the Obama administration’s

"concern about targeted attacks against civilians in Darfur and the Two Areas [South Kordofan and Blue Nile], including aerial bombardments of civilian targets, and attacks on aid workers. He called upon the Government of Sudan to fully investigate and hold perpetrators of these acts accountable.”

Absurdity reaches new heights with such expression of “concern”: Feldstein and everyone else knows that there is only one air force in Sudan, and that orders for the attacks come from the most senior members of the regime’s Sudan Armed Forces (SAF). Are we really to believe that the “Government of Sudan” will “fully investigate and hold perpetrators of these acts accountable”? That the regime’s senior military officials will “investigate” their own actions and “hold themselves accountable”? The pretense that any of the aerial attacks on civilians and humanitarians throughout Sudan are not at the behest of the “Government of Sudan” is simply despicable.

Such pretense and the lack of any meaningful response to the attack on MSF in Frandala—on the part of the U.S. and other international actors—is the primary reason Khartoum felt free to bomb the hospital again, this time with a Russian-made Sukhoi-24 advanced air-to-ground military jet aircraft.

This attack occurred less than two months ago—and only a little more than a month prior to Feldstein’s talk of “human rights” and “democracy” in Sudan. MSF reported (22 January 2015):

A hospital operated by the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was directly targeted in an aerial bombing in Sudan on January 20, forcing the suspension of medical activities, MSF announced today [22 January 2015]. The hospital, located in the Nuba Mountains village of Frandala in the South Kordofan region of Sudan, was bombed by the Sudanese Air Force (SAF). Repeated and targeted bombings in the region prevent the safe operation of medical activities, depriving the local population of lifesaving care...

“With more than 100 patients present, we were very lucky not to have more casualties because people simply had no time to seek protection. Everyone is shocked and frightened of further attacks.”

We should not be surprised by such attacks: for more than twenty years they have been a regular feature of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime’s conduct of war. Moreover, we have the benefit of the behind-closed-doors views expressed by Defense Minister (and former Interior Minister) Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein, indicted by the International Criminal Court for massive “crimes against humanity” in Darfur. Minutes from the 1 July 2014 meeting of senior regime officials, including not only Hussein but President al-Bashir, are startlingly frank—about both “human rights” and “democracy”:

[Hussein]: “We won’t stop the war on Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Our National Dialogue initiative is just a maneuver to provide us with political cover for a continuation of the war against the rebellion.

We have instructed the Air Force to bomb any place, whether it is a school, hospital, or a nongovernmental humanitarian organization operating in rebel-controlled areas without permission from the government. Such presence is offensive and should be destroyed.”

Such views—of which the Obama administration is well aware—call into question the appropriateness of lifting any economic sanctions against this regime, which remains committed to war, committed to a wide range of atrocity crimes, and committed to using the notion of a “National Dialogue” not to promote democracy but to subvert it. And yet this is precisely what occurred on 17 February 2015. Sudan Tribune reported (17 February 2015) that the U.S. Treasury Department had lifted sanctions on “exports of personal communications hardware and software including smart phones and laptops.”

In justifying this action, current Sudan special envoy Donald Booth declared that, “These changes are consistent with our commitment to promote freedom of expression through access to communications tools." This is of course nonsense and Khartoum would never allow the import of anything that might “promote freedom of expression.” Importing up-to-date American computers on the other hand is certainly on the regime’s wish list, and with its total control of Internet access in Sudan, the regime hardly fears that it will be loosing the forces of free speech. During the popular uprising in September 2013, Internet access was shut down entirely at the height of the crisis, and the same will be true for any using “smart phones” in the event of a similar uprising.

Bizarrely, noting the seizure of fourteen Sudanese newspaper editions earlier in the week, Booth claimed that such repressive actions “offer a prime example of the need to enable people to have access to communication tools.” On the contrary, Khartoum will be no more tolerant of telecommunications and social media than it is of newspapers—and it has learned a great deal from the experience of its “Arab Spring” neighbors. As the minutes from the August 31, 2014 meeting of senior officials make abundantly clear, Khartoum’s intercept capabilities have grown prodigiously in recent years, giving them access even to highly secured foreign intelligence data. Controlling domestic Internet and mobile phone use will not be a problem, as many in Khartoum can attest—and as can I, having recently seen my computer in the U.S. hacked and my Sudan websites compromised for any who were on my frequently visited Facebook page (now de-activated) devoted to Sudan issues.

“Democracy” in Sudan: Expedient self-delusion

It is far past time that we ask some hard questions of the Obama administration, which has gotten a “pass” from most news media on its Sudan policy. What possible meaning can “human rights” or “democracy” have in the context of the regime’s severe political repression, its increasing crackdown on the news media, its total monopoly on broadcast programs, its exceedingly well-funded propaganda machine for both domestic and international consumption—and a willingness to deny legitimacy to all who would indeed wish to participate in a true national dialogue but are consistently rebuffed? Major coalitions have developed over the past several years: the Sudan Revolutionary Forces (SRF), uniting the rebel forces of Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile; the large National Consensus Forces, which while not supporting armed insurrection has made common cause with the SRF in its ambition to bring about regime change; and most recently the signatories to the Berlin Declaration, an even more expansive group of political actors. The response to this Declaration by the regime was entirely predictable and delivered by President al-Bashir. Sudan Tribune reports (14 March 2015):

The Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir has described the Berlin Declaration signed by the political and armed opposition groups as a “failure” considering it “as if it had not taken place.” During the last week of February, the "Sudan Call" forces, including the National Consensus Forces (NCF), the rebel umbrella Sudan Revolutionary Forces (SRF), National Umma Party (NUP) and civil society groups announced readiness to participate in a meeting with the Sudanese government to discuss requirements and procedures of the national dialogue.

This came just two weeks after Feldstein’s reiteration of “U.S. support for an inclusive and comprehensive National Dialogue to resolve Sudan’s conflicts.”

Do Feldstein and the Obama administration think that merely uttering the words “democracy” and “human rights” makes the slightest difference to the regime’s ruthless survivalists? Do they think that should there be renewed popular demonstrations of the sort we saw in September 2013 the regime would hesitate to issue renewed “shoot to kill” orders to security forces? Such orders, authoritatively confirmed by Amnesty International, resulted in the deaths of more than 400 people in Khartoum, Omdurman, and other cities throughout Sudan.

But the recent peremptory rejection by President al-Bashir of the Berlin Declaration, coming just two weeks after Feldstein’s trip to promote “democracy” in Sudan, forces a question that the Obama administration has so far refused to answer directly: is the U.S. willing to accept a “National Dialogue” defined by the machinations and duplicity of the regime? Or does it support a truly national dialogue, between multiple important political constituencies? I queried the State Department official designated in the 28 February 2015 State Department press release in Khartoum, but was offered only a belated response, noting that my queries had been forwarded to Deputy Assistant Secretary Feldstein and Special Envoy Booth. Given the history of my past queries of the State Department, I am not optimistic about a meaningful response.

But we will have an answer in less than a month: the grotesque spectacle of an “election” that guarantees five more years of power to the NCP, and in the words of several senior regime officials, “five more years of legitimacy,” will make a mockery of the phrase “National Dialogue.” It will be clear that Defense Minister Hussein’s view prevails within the regime: “Our National Dialogue initiative is just a maneuver to provide us with political cover for a continuation of the war....”

Will the Obama administration accept these realities and all they imply for millions of Sudanese? Will it accept, if with a dutiful grudgingness, the “re-election” of Omar al-Bashir as génocidaire-in-chief? Let us assume that the answer hinges on whether the Sudan file is now at the State Department or within the intelligence community; the election will clarify this question as well.

Appendix A: Examples of statements about the uses of the “National Dialogue” by senior officials of the Khartoum regime (from both the 1 July 2014 minutes and the 31 August 2014 minutes):

1 July 2014:

  • Defense Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein:

“Our National Dialogue initiative is just a maneuver to provide us with political cover for a continuation of the war....”

  • General Engineer Imadal-Din Adawy, Chief of Joint Operations:

The National Dialogue will serve to provide us with political cover. We will continue with this effort because it will serve us in our war against the rebellion in the coming dry season.

  • President Omar al-Bashir:

[The National Dialogue] is also intended to provide political cover for the present Constitution and the Decisive Summer Campaign [against the SPLA-North].

We don’t negotiate outside the country, and if such negotiations occur, we have used them as a means to take us to the elections in April 2015.

We will not accept a halting of the war; the solution is military victory. That will be obtained in the Decisive Summer Campaign. You are now instructed to crush the armed movements in all three fronts (Nuba Mountains, Darfur, and Blue Nile).The war against the rebellion must continue.

I am glad from what I have heard that we agree on the following: —

[1] Preparation for the Decisive Summer Campaign is to continue.

[2] Elections to be held on time April 2015.

...

[8] There will be no holding of any constitutional conference or formation of a transitional government.

31 August 2014:

  • General Hashim Osman Al-Hussein, Director General of Police:

Let us go ahead and prepare a force to protect the elections. Secondly, if negotiations are necessary let them take place after the elections. Also, the internal national dialogue can continue after we hold the elections. We will continue recruiting and splitting the field commanders, and winning them to our side since we have all the information about the rebels.

  • General Mohammed Atta, Director General of National Intelligence and Security Services:

We said the National Dialogue must be held inside the country, elections must take place on schedule, the decisive summer campaign must continue. We should step-up the recruitment to increase the RSF.

************************

  • Ibrahim Ghandur, Deputy Chairman of the NCP

We want a slow dialogue in order to allow for maneuvering. If we see that we are benefiting from it we can accelerate it, but if it is not in our favor, it can go slowly and the elections can take place in time. Our aim is to go to the election enjoying legitimacy accorded by the National Dialogue process. [See fuller comments in Appendix B]

  • General Bakri Hassan Salih, First Vice President:

The negotiations, the National Dialogue, the Paris Declaration and all their statements are needed to take us to the elections.

Try to manage this crisis until we see the result of the National Dialogue, the elections, and wipe out the rebellion to end the war. We don’t want any foreign solutions again. Any agreement should be achieved inside Sudan.

*********************

Appendix B: Ibrahim Ghandour, Deputy Chairman of the NCP, discussing electoral machinations and payoffs, from the minutes of the August 2014 meeting of senior military and security officials in Khartoum:

“First our preparations for the elections are going according to plan. Our party conferences are being held all over the country and the convention will take place on time, except that, we are going to delay naming our candidate for the presidency until the last moments so as to take the political arena by surprise. We want our security agencies to inform us ahead of time about the opinion of all political parties, loyal or detractors concerning the elections so we influence things at an early stage.

“We have already arranged with the Public Congress Party (PCP), and we are paying them individual and party compensations for their loss, in addition to funds to be used to induce opposing PCP members. The total amount is three (3) billion to be paid in three installments. The first amount is to be paid at the beginning of the National Dialogue. The second amount is to be handed at the nomination for the elections. The third, and last, is to be paid during the election campaign. We made this agreement that way in order to guarantee the participation of all the PCP in the election process.

“We agreed to it because Turabi’s support for us has another dimension. It guarantees the consent and support of all the Islamic movements who are members of the International Islamic Movement, and in case there is any security threat, he can join us in the jihad against our common enemy. We will be able to bring all the Islamists together by that agreement on the basis of a program that holds mutual benefit to all. It is not necessary to come under one organization, the most important thing is the common objective against the secular forces or currents and the conspiracies targeting the Islamists all over the Arab land.

“Regarding Al-Marghani group, (DUP) half of the party is with us, but we still need to concentrate on Hasan Hilal, Ahmed Saad and Omer Al-Shariif (currently ministers). We stand behind them, give them information on how they are targeted within their party. Also half of Ghazi Salah al-Din’s party is ours.

“We want our security agencies to maintain and keep the opposition elements so there will be a criticizing voice among us. This will help us convince the international community that ours is a mature and genuine democracy. Our relation with the EU is good and all the attempts of the SRF to enjoy recognition by the EU has failed. They only meet parliaments and not the governments who hold the decisions. We want a slow dialogue in order to allow for maneuvering. If we see that we are benefiting from it we can accelerate it, but if it is not in our favor, it can go slowly and the elections can take place in time. Our aim is to go to the election enjoying legitimacy accorded by the National Dialogue process...”

“That same night I went with Mustafa to see Al- Ziber Ahmed the S/G of the Islamic Movement and found Dr. Kamal Obeid and Dr. El- Fateh Ezz el-Din. As soon as he saw us he asked us if we were coming regarding “Sadiq and the Rebels’ declaration” and he said that after consultations they rejected it part and parcel. They considered it a conspiracy directed against us. He told us that you must criminalize anyone who attended or participated in this [Paris] Declaration, the media must be directed to campaign against it and intimidate people from joining this declaration. This declaration was supervised by foreign circles that are endeavoring to destroy Islam and the Muslims and it is tainted by the SPLM vision.

“So we asked Mbeki and Mohammed [Ibn Chambas, former UNAMID chief—ER] to bring together the rebels for consultation about the National Dialogue and both are in agreement with us.

Eric Reeves is the Author of Compromising With Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007-2012 www.CompromisingWithEvil.org.

Rebuilding trust and reconciliation under Kiir is impossible!

By: Luk Kuth Dak

March 18, 2015 (SSNA) -- Emphatically, I have been radicalized by Gen. Slava Kiir and his Nuer golden boys. Goodbye silence and certainly, the reasoning with morons.

On December 15, 2014, I was incredibly horrified and extremely shocked by the kind of evil Salva Kiir was capable of when I learned that thousands of innocent Nuer civilians were massacred simply because they were Nuer!!

The event was personal to me, not only because I am virtually a member of the Nuer nation, but more so because I had held Gen. Kiir in high esteem and believed that we were sharing the same aspirations and beliefs. 

I was dead wrong!

Evidently, when Kiir first began to commit the massacre of the Nuer citizens, he had only one overarching objective on his pernicious mind: “No captives or prisoners, kill them all," he was quoted as saying! That had prompted very many human rights organizations to infer that the regime's ultimate goal was actually intended to wipe out the Nuer, who have proven to be the impediment in establishing an outright Jieeng state in the country.

A year and plus later, no credible investigation had been carried out, and certainly no one had been held accountable and, Kiir remains president!

And while one can argue that Gen. Kiir may not have fired a single bullet himself at the Nuer people, there's just no denying that he instigated it and carefully crafted the shameful plot. He will never be able to escape this history. Therefore, he must be held accountable.

It's only a matter of time!

Under this dictator, our reputation is at all time low. Matter of fact, we have become a laughing stock on the world stage. Even the closest allies are calling South Sudan a" failed state." But to the Nuer people, Kiir is simply known as a “cold blooded killer." Certainly, that's not a good position for anyone to be in, much less a president of a country.

Abraham Lincoln writes: “a house divided against itself cannot stand." If you want to know what institutional tribalism looks like, all you have to do is look around the presidential palace, the federal agencies and embassies, which are solidly controlled by one tribe and one tribe only! ( I didn't even mention that when and wherever you enter any of those agencies, chances are you would be greeted in the Dinka Language!!)

To the Jieeng credit, they are truly blessed with a talented crowd of some of the most educated and intellectuals; ironically, they don't know how to govern. In my 7 years as an anchorman and reporter at Juba radio, I had seen more than my share of the greediness exercised by the Jieeng-led defunct former High Executive Council.

Apparently, the current Jieeng-led regime didn't learn anything from the past mistakes, which led to the division of the region in 1983, better known as "Kokora." And with the country's direction hanging in the balance, the time for Gen Kiir to move on or be ousted is right now... not tomorrow. He has failed to lead the nation, and there is really nothing he can possibly offer to heal the bleeding country.

Meanwhile, Dr. Riek Machar who was seen by the marginalized South Sudanese as a savior and a pathfinder they had hope will lead them to the promise land, failed to seize the moment and to live up to their expectations. Some fear that he does not have enough fire in him to face the dire situation.

Therefore, if you are a South Sudanese citizen who thinks that you have been treated unfairly, do something about it!!

Stand your ground!

The author is a former anchorman/reporter at Juba radio. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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