Thursday, July 15, 2010

US diplomacy in Sudan

Dave Eggers and John Prendergast have publish and op-ed piece in the New York Times entitled
In Sudan, War is Around the Corner

The article pretty much stems from Scott Gration's comments on the US' lack of leverage/pressure in Sudan to ensure a peaceful referendum.

"But we do have leverage. The peace in Sudan is one the United States “owns.” Developing a more robust package of carrots and sticks — rolled out multilaterally when possible, unilaterally if necessary — would strengthen America’s diplomatic hand, not weaken it."

Ignoring the fact that they just said the US "owns" the peace in Sudan (because I really don't know and don't want to know what they meant by that), the suggestions of carrots and sticks that the writers provide include:

The sticks
"...placing sanctions on key ruling party officials, blocking debt relief from the International Monetary Fund, supporting International Criminal Court arrest warrants...tightening the United Nations arms embargo and providing further support to the south."

The carrot
"If — and only if — true peace comes to Sudan, we could offer conditional, one-year suspensions of the International Criminal Court warrants and normalization of relations between Khartoum and Washington."

Whilst most of these seem reasonable and is typical of most 'diplomatic' strategies, the main problem I have with their suggestions are those pertinent to the ICC. This is simply because the US has failed to re-sign and ratify the Rome Statute, simply because it fears its own citizens being prosecuted (though there are other arguments for this).
So, legally, the US can only go so far as providing strong words of "support" to the warrant, providing legal advice and/or discovery of documents . Support which doesn't have enough clout to be considered a stick. This isn't a rebel leader in an ICC member state, this is the president of a non-member. So unless the US wants to throw in all its chips and intervene to overthrow another state leader, "support" for warrants is not really going to add up to much. And when did the US gain the ability to "offer conditional, one-year suspension of the International Criminal Court warrants"?! Is this a bluff? Do they think that Khartoum will not realise that they are throwing political weight they don't actually have? Or were they hoping that the ICC will back them up on this? Because the ICC should realise, by doing so, they are destroying the credibility of their warrants and their overall credibility and legitimacy....put simply, they become the US' bitch.
Furthermore, why would anyone agree to a conditional one year suspension?!
"Brilliant! Il let there be peace just so I can enjoy a years' worth of freedom before you DEFINITELY haul my ass to the Hague...yeah, nice one."

Strategically, with the rest of the World gunning for Bashir, the US should take advantage of its position as a non-member of the ICC to approach Khartoum and apply some of its 'soft-power' rather than trying to eliminate the last channel of diplomacy with an already alienated state with its guns pointed at the South and Darfur, whilst potentially in possession of strong connections and intelligence on a range of terrorist networks. It is therefore very clear to understand why Scott Gration has recently come out to voice his disapproval of the second ICC warrant on Bashir - a further example of the divided relationship of the White House and it's diplomatic actors.

For more info on US and ICC: link and link

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