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ICC NOTE: This is an article well worth reading. The National Islamic Front is not intimidated by the UN, or the rest of the international community. They are emboldened with the tolerance and support from China. Why should they adhere to the protocol of the CPA? Why protect non-Muslims in Khartoum?

Why the regime remains so confident the genocidal status quo is unthreatened

Eric Reeves

January 26, 2007

In understanding why Khartoum remains resolutely opposed to significant numbers of UN peace support personnel in Darfur , it is first of all critical to make sense of just what the National Islamic Front regime sees as it surveys the international scene. What is there, we must ask, that convinces these brutal génocidaires that they will pay no price for the ongoing, indiscriminate bombing of civilians in North Darfur ? for the large-scale, violent displacement of thousands of civilians in West Darfur reported by humanitarian organizations in recent days? Which diplomatic realities secure this racist security cabal in its belief that it can continue to re-mobilize and heavily re-arm the Janjaweed without consequence—despite the UN Security Council “demand” of July 2004 that these brutal militias be disarmed and their leaders brought to justice? What forms of diffidence and cowardice among African and Western nations convince Khartoum’s thugs that despite the direst of warnings coming from UN and nongovernmental humanitarian organizations in Darfur—speaking bluntly about intolerable levels of insecurity—they may continue to beat, intimidate, harass, and obstruct aid workers in Darfur?

This last question has as its context the reality of a staggering population of conflict-affected and increasingly vulnerable civilians: 4 million in Darfur itself, and another half a million in eastern Chad . More than 2.5 million Darfuris have been displaced, either internally or into Chad , where the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs now estimates that there are 234,000 Darfuri refugees. Even as this vast population grows weaker and more vulnerable to disease, the reach of courageous humanitarian organizations continues to contract dramatically in all three Darfur states. Violence from all sources— Khartoum ’s regular military forces, the Janjaweed, and rebel groups, particularly elements of what was previously the Minni Minawi faction of the SLA —has brought humanitarian operations to the point of full-scale collapse. The “free fall” that former UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland again warned of last month continues. All that can avert a cataclysm of additional human destruction, far beyond the half a million human beings who have already died genocidal deaths, is a dramatic improvement in security.

Knowing precisely this about security in Darfur, the Khartoum regime continues to deny entry to the fully authorized UN peace-support troops, civilian police, and other personnel. In other words, the National Islamic Front military and political leadership refuses, without consequence, to allow the international actions that alone can halt the deteriorating security dynamic on the ground. What accounts for this obdurate defiance? Why does Omar al-Bashir, more powerful than ever within the National Islamic Front, feel so free to refuse bluntly the UN force that so many have argued he has already accepted? —

“‘Our experience with UN operations in the world is not encouraging,’ al-Bashir told an Associated Press reporter Wednesday [January 10, 2007] at his residence. ‘There are sufficient forces in the Sudan from African countries to maintain order and they can provide order. All we need is funding for the African troops.’” (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum ], January 10, 2007)

There could be no more explicit rejection of a UN/AU “hybrid force” for Darfur . And yet the world continues to pretend that al-Bashir and the NIF have somehow agreed to such a putative force, even when all evidence argues against such a conclusion. What accounts for this stubborn diplomatic blindness? Part of the answer lies in the conspicuous lack of professional diplomatic engagement with the regime. Al-Bashir made his declaration, not coincidentally, during the week in which he committed to an entirely factitious “cease-fire” negotiated expediently by US presidential aspirant Bill Richardson of New Mexico . With the assistance of the painfully naïve and irresponsibly ill-informed Save Darfur Coalition, Richardson and former Ambassador Lawrence Rossin secured from al-Bashir a paper commitment to a “60-day ceasefire.” But Rossin and Richardson didn’t bother to negotiate with, or even meet, any of the senior Darfuri rebel leaders during their quick-stop visit to el-Fasher ( North Darfur ); and thus while they produced headlines, they effected no change on the ground. Within days Khartoum’s heavy bombing of civilian villages had resumed, and continues relentlessly according to humanitarian workers in el-Fasher, adjacent to Khartoum’s major air force base in Darfur.

At the same time, Khartoum ’s military bombing campaign in North Darfur is clearly designed to disrupt the effort by rebel groups to coalesce and create a unified negotiating front. In other words, Khartoum ’s bombing campaign is both sustaining the insecurity that preserves the genocidal status quo, even as it works to prevent efforts to create a viable negotiating partner for peace talks. Reuters reports:

“The African Union has confirmed Sudan ‘s army bombed two villages in North Darfur , violating ceasefire agreements and jeopardising efforts to revive a stalled peace process. [ ] In the first independent confirmation of rebel reports that the government bombarded their positions in Anka and Korma on January 16 and 19, [2007] the AU condemned the attacks. ‘The (AU) ceasefire commission is once again calling on all parties to refrain from any activities that will jeopardize the peace process,’ the statement sent late on Monday [January 22, 2007] said.”

“Rebels are trying to hold a conference in Darfur to unify their position ahead of a renewed push for peace talks. They want government guarantees that the conference will not be attacked, but the army has three times bombed rebel positions in the past two months, the AU says.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum ], January 23, 2007)

Earlier (January 21, 2007) Reuters had reported the comments of rebel commander Jar el-Naby, perhaps the most principled of those fighting in the “Group of 19” (G-19) faction of what was formerly the SLA :

“Rebel commander Jar el-Neby also accused the government of bombing. ‘They bombed for about five hours (on Saturday [January 20, 2007]),’ he said. ‘I think they are trying to stop our commanders’ conference.’ Rebel commanders want to hold a conference in Darfur to unite their positions ahead of peace talks. There are more than a dozen rebel factions. Rebels say they want guarantees the army will not attack or bomb their meeting.”

But there will be no such guarantees: Khartoum ’s continuous campaign of aerial bombardment makes clear the regime will do all it can to prevent the rebels from creating a cohesive negotiating front. A statement last month from the African Union speaks volumes about Khartoum ’s intentions in Darfur (here by way of an Associated Press dispatch [dateline: Khartoum ], December 31, 2006):

“Sudanese forces bombed two rebel locations in Darfur just days after the head of the African Union’s peacekeeping force visited the area to urge the rebels to join a cease-fire agreement, the AU said yesterday [December 30, 2006]. A Sudanese government aircraft on Friday [December 29, 2006] bombed Anka and Um Rai in North Darfur province where Gen. Luke Aprezi had met on Wednesday [December 27, 2006] with rebels, an AU statement said. ‘When a bombing is made after I have visited an area, my credibility is involved,’ Aprezi told The Associated Press by telephone from Khartoum , Sudan ‘s capital. ‘To that group, I don’t have any credibility anymore.’”

“The incident jeopardizes efforts to bring additional groups into the cease-fire that a single rebel faction and the government signed in May 2006, the AU said. [ ] The AU obtained consent from Sudanese officials in Darfur and the capital ahead of meeting the rebels, it said in the statement. It called Friday’s [December 29, 2006] attack ‘a seriously disturbing development.’”

Just as ominously, National Islamic Front junta leader Omar al-Bashir is preparing to assume the chairmanship of the African Union at the AU summit in Addis Ababa (January 29-30, 2007). This ensures that the rebels in Darfur will regard the AU as having taken sides in the Darfur conflict. The immediate result will be an end to any possibility of the AU’s providing diplomatic auspices for further peace negotiations: how can such auspices be provided by an organization that is led by the génocidaire-in-chief of the very regime that is a belligerent in the conflict? Even more consequentially, the AU forces on the ground in Darfur will be perceived as combatants aiding Khartoum . Indeed, they will almost certainly be attacked by Darfuri rebels and other armed elements, perhaps on a large scale. This in turn will lead to either AU withdrawal or a complete hunkering down in the Darfur state capitals, making el-Geneina, Nyala, and el-Fasher essentially garrison towns.

Such a retreat by the AU will eliminate the last vestiges of security for humanitarians seeking to reach rural populations and the large numbers of camps not in the immediate vicinity of the state capitals. Confidential reports from humanitarian organizations make clear that security cannot deteriorate any further without full-scale withdrawals from Darfur —not evacuations, but full-scale withdrawals. The provision of food, medicine, and resources for clean water will then come to a halt. Hundreds of thousands will die, even as the Janjaweed will continue their savage predations without international witnesses. The camps themselves will face wholesale destruction, with the clear prospect of massacres.

Who is working meaningfully to halt this unfolding scenario of vast human terror and destruction? Certainly not the Arab League, which serves as an extension office of the Egyptian foreign ministry. And there is no Egyptian pressure on Khartoum except as pro forma expressions of concern. Despite the conspicuous need for international forces in Darfur, Khartoum ’s assertion of “national sovereignty” is backed by Egypt without qualification. The Organization of the Islamic Conference is no better—watching indifferently the ongoing genocidal destruction of Darfur ’s African tribal groups, all of which are Muslim. And the African Union is tragically preparing to ratify its incompetence in responding to Darfur —morally, politically, militarily—with the election of Omar al-Bashir as chairman of the organization.

China is of course the most reassuring part of the international scene from the perspective of Khartoum ’s génocidaires. China has provided Khartoum more than $10 billion in commercial and capital investments over the past decade, even as it has been the regime’s primary supplier of weapons, weapons technology, and weapons engineering expertise. Much of the weaponry in Darfur is from China , or is of Chinese design and manufactured in Khartoum . China is also the dominant player in oil development and exploration in southern Sudan , with the largest stakes in the producing consortia of both Eastern and Western Upper Nile; these are the regions where Khartoum-backed militia pose the greatest threat to the north/south peace agreement of January 2005. Some of these brutal militias have been hired to provide security for Chinese oil workers, even as all militia forces were to have been disbanded or incorporated into regular military forces by January 1, 2006.

And of course, China has offered Khartoum unstinting diplomatic cover at the UN, where it wields veto power on the Security Council. China abstained on UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (August 31, 2006), which authorized—under Chapter VII of the UN Charter—deployment of 17,300 troops, 3,300 civilian police, and 16 Formed Police Units. The forces deployed would have had robust rules of engagement, and a specific mandate to protect civilians and humanitarians. China effectively eviscerated the resolution by insisting on language that specifically “invites the consent of” the very génocidaires whose ethnically-targeted destruction had created the need for this huge force. In the event, despite language merely “inviting” Khartoum ’s consent, this passage has been construed by the international community as conferring upon those responsible for the Darfur genocide the power to veto forces that might end or at least mitigate genocidal destruction. And no international actor has been more consequential in creating, and sustaining, this perverse state of affairs than China .

For the simple truth is that China views Sudan through the prism of petroleum needs—it consumes almost two-thirds of Sudan’s crude oil exports—and the growing value of trade and other economic ties with Khartoum. Of course the portion of Sudan that sees any rewards from Chinese investment is miniscule: a small sliver of the Nile River Valley (including Khartoum , Omdurman , and their suburbs) enjoys almost exclusive benefit from China ’s presence and investment in Sudan .

China will not be moved from its present callous and unqualified support of Khartoum without a major investment of diplomatic and political energies by Western nations, preeminently the US . Such investment is nowhere in sight, and the recent trip to Beijing by Andrew Natsios merely confirms this geostrategic marginalizing of Darfur . Despite his august title—(part-time) Special Envoy of the President of the United States —Natsios extracted nothing of value from the Chinese regime. In fact, China went out of its way to make clear that it felt no pressure had been exerted by Natsios:

“‘Any solution to the Darfur problem should be made with the consent of the Sudanese government,’ said [Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister for Africa Zhai Jun], suggesting that the problem be resolved ‘politically and as soon as possible with the support of the international community.’”

“He denied any pressures being exercised by the United States on China to persuade Sudan to accept the deployment of UN peacekeepers in Darfur . ‘There are no pressures on China ,’ he said, adding: ‘Our relations with America are not at the expense of our relationship with other countries and do not contradict our ties with the Sudan .’” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: Khartoum ], January 16, 2007)

Moreover, recent comments from China ’s foreign ministry make clear just how patient the Chinese are prepared to be with Khartoum ’s génocidaires:

“‘The Sudan issue should be resolved like any other—through peaceful negotiation,’ said [ Beijing ’s] spokesman, Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun, who spoke at a news conference in Beijing . ‘Using pressure and imposing sanctions is not practical and will not help settle the issue.’” (New York Times News Service [dateline: Shanghai ], January 25, 2007)

Predictably, the US account was starkly different in tenor, reflecting an increasingly desperate desire within the Bush administration not to be seen as helpless in responding to the Darfur catastrophe, characterized unambiguously by former Secretary of State Colin Powell on September 9, 2004: “genocide has been committed in Darfur, and the government of Sudan and the Janjawid bear responsibility.” Special Envoy Natsios, far less committed to honest assessments, declared following his meeting with the Chinese that, “China has pushed the Sudanese government recently to help resolve the bloody Darfur conflict and ease the plight of the region’s nearly 3 million refugees”:

“The Chinese intervention marked a shift from past policy under which Beijing seemed reluctant to use its influence in Sudan, according to the envoy, Andrew S. Natsios. ‘I think they’re engaging much more aggressively,’ Natsios said at a news briefing after four days of talks here with Chinese officials.” (Washington Post [dateline: Beijing ], January 12, 2007).

This assessment—flying directly in the face of what China has consistently said and done—has the same credibility as Natsios’ earlier warning of a coercive US “Plan B” that would be deployed in the event of continued intransigence on Khartoum ’s part after a January 1, 2007 deadline. This proved a thoroughly vacuous bluff. And in fact there is simply no present evidence or reason to believe that Natsios has moved the Chinese to “engage aggressively” on Darfur . Indeed, this assertion is pure expediency, of a piece with the disingenuousness that has marked the public comments of every senior Bush administration official working on Darfur over the past two years.