Letter to Congress from Former Special Envoys for Sudan, Throwing Their Weight Behind Lifting of San

Yesterday, June 29, 2017, former Obama administration Special Envoys for Sudan Princeton Lyman and Donald Booth, along with former U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Khartoum Jerry Lanier, wrote a brief letter to the Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, arguing in glib and disingenuous terms for a permanent lifting of U.S. economic sanctions on the genocidal Khartoum regime (it is not surprising that there has been no mention by any of these men, in this letter or elsewhere, of the fact that an arrest warrant has been issued for President Omar al-Bashir, charging him with multiple counts of genocide and massive crimes against humanity in Darfur by the International Criminal Court).

The views expressed are not surprising and indeed echo previous and often demonstrably false claims made by these men. The entire letter appears here with my commentary interpolated, in blue italics follow by my initials. I would note by way of preface some of the more remarkable claims and moments during the tenure of these men, particularly Booth and Lyman.

I would highlight, as I have on a number of occasions, comments made by Lyman in an interview of December 2011. I do so because it represents so well the preposterous assumptions made by both Lyman and Booth, and how completely misguided their view of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime has been—a regime today celebrating the military coup that brought them to power exactly 28 years ago (June 30, 1989). In this almost three decades of brutal, tyrannical, and serially genocidal rule, this regime has not changed in any significant way. It has certainly not changed in ways claimed as possible by Lyman in December 2011:

“We [the Obama administration] do not want to see the ouster of the [Khartoum] regime, nor regime change. We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.” (Interview with Asharq al-Awsat, December 3, 2011 | http://english.aawsat.com/2011/12/article55244147/asharq-al-awsat-talks-to-us-special-envoy-to-sudan-princeton-lyman )

One hardly knows where to begin in parsing the absurdity of this statement, justifying the Obama administration’s opposition to regime change, overwhelmingly favored by the vast majority of Sudanese and indeed now the linchpin of political and military opposition to the regime throughout Sudan. In the five and a half years since Lyman’s statement, the following have defined the political history of Sudan:

[1] Acceleration of militia violence, especially by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF)—Khartoum’s militia force of choice and now formally incorporated within the regular army (the Sudan Armed Forces, SAF); this violence was dramatically in evidence from 2012 through 2016, culminating in the savage military assault on the Jebel Marra region of Central Darfur, during which chemical weapons were used against civilians nowhere near military actions (Amnesty International, September 2016 | https://www.amnestyusa.org/reports/scorched-earth-poisoned-air-sudanese-government-forces-ravage-jebel-marra-darfur/;

[2] As part of the rise of the Rapid Support Forces, we have seen a massive increase in the violent expropriation of non-Arab/African farmland | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1P4/;

[3] The epidemic of sexual violence against girls and young woman—a central element of Khartoum’s genocidal counter-insurgency efforts—has continued unabated; see my monograph on the subject (2016 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1QG/);

[4] Violence directed against civilians in Darfur by Khartoum’s regular forces also continues; most notorious so far this year was the “Nierteti massacre” (January 1, 2017):

Nierteti “massacre” sparks outrage across Sudan | Radio Dabanga, January 2, 2017| NIERTETI |At least two people have been killed and 39 others wounded in an attack by Sudanese army soldiers on Nierteti in Central Darfur on Sunday morning. [Figures for casualties varied but suggest that some 60 – 70 civilians were killed or wounded during the vicious SAF rampage; Darfur Union UK lists the names and ages of 11 people killed—five of them under the age of 17—ER]

[5] Some 3 million Darfuris remain displaced internally in Darfur or as refugees in eastern Chad—too fearful to return to their homes and lands, living amidst intolerable insecurity and badly attenuated humanitarian operations. 2.7 million IDPs live in some 200 locations (see | http://sudanreeves.org/2017/03/19/internally-displaced-persons-in-darfur-the-invisible-catastrophe/ ) and Khartoum has repeatedly threatened to dismantle these camps, which would make humanitarian relief efforts impossible and leave people utterly bereft and without protection. Moreover, the UN Security Council is today (June 30, 2017) re-authorizing the badly incompetent UN/African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID), but only after drastically slashing both military personnel (a 44 percent cut) and police forces (a 33 percent cut). The effect on humanitarian delivery and human security could well be catastrophic;

[6] The Khartoum regime continues its severe curtailment of humanitarian access to many hundreds of thousands of Sudanese civilians: the humanitarian embargo imposed in 2011 on areas in South Kordofan and Blue Nile controlled by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N) continues to this day; Khartoum’s refusal to negotiate access in good faith goes back to its rejection of the African Union/UN/Arab League “Tripartite” proposal of February 2012 (see | http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article44516/);

In Darfur huge numbers of civilians are denied humanitarian access by the regime use of a wide range of methods: delay/denial of visas and travel permits; physical intimidation of relief workers; freezing of UNAMID assets and mobility; outright denial of access for reasons unrelated to security; and most consequentially, the ongoing expelling of humanitarian organizations (more than two dozen to date) and the vicious intimidation of UN agencies, effectively limited what can be said about mortality, malnutrition, sexual violence, and security conditions generally;

[7] Political repression has dramatically increased—the very opposite of the “carrying out [of] reform via constitutional democratic measures” Lyman so fatuously and/or disingenuously spoke of—and in Sudan repression takes many forms:

• Steadily increasing what were already draconian restrictions on the national press;

• Violent dispersal of demonstrations, most notably in September 2013 when the regime was confronted with country-wide demonstrations that were eventually put down when “shoot to kill” orders were given to police and security services (a fact established by both Amnesty International and the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies); more than 200 people were murdered, perhaps several times that number; https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/27/sudanese-protesters-attacked-march-fuel-subsidies/;

• The use of torture against journalists, humanitarians, and political opponents; the examples are too numerous to list (many are known to me from direct conversation with victims), but the continuing brutal incarceration of Mudawi Ibrahim, human rights advocate and founder of the Sudan Development Organization (SUDO), is emblematic; he faces the death penalty for his work

| https://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2017/06/07/a-human-rights-defender-facing-the-death-penalty//;

• Creation of an utterly factitious “National Dialogue,” seized on my opportunistic diplomats like Lyman and Booth, but dismissed by the regime itself as a mere political ploy in confidential meetings, minutes of which have been leaked (see | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1In/; these minutes have been repeatedly confirmed as authentic | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1w5/); the “re-election” of génocidaire al-Bashir in April 2015 had all the electoral authenticity one might infer from his 94 percent victory margin. Lyman’s “reform via constitutional democratic measures” seems the worst sort of grimly bad joke in the wake of this election;

• A number of Darfuris meeting with then Special Envoy Booth in August 2016—this in the wake of the savage Jebel Marra campaign of the same year—were promptly arrested once Booth had left. Some remained incarcerated for weeks, despite claimed efforts by Booth to have them set free. Booth’s failure to anticipate these arrests is revealing of just how ignorant of the regime he proved on countless occasions.

• Threatening and arresting journalists who use the laboratory-confirmed designation of cholera to describe the epidemic sweeping through Sudan, a product in many ways of the regime’s failure to invest in national infrastructure projects, including the provision of clean water to an impoverished population (half the people of Sudan live below the international poverty line);

• The violent kleptocracy that is the NIF/NCP regime has created conditions of acute malnutrition in Sudan, malnutrition that is rising even as the agricultural sector is collapsing for lack of regime investment over almost three decades (see | http://sudanreeves.org/2017/04/04/famine-in-south-sudan-should-not-obscure-urgent-food-crisis-in-sudan/); the regime has so intimidated the UN humanitarian agencies that even critical malnutrition data goes unpublished (see | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1pL/). Acute and Severed Acute Malnutrition affects more than 2 million children in Sudan; millions more suffering from chronic malnutrition (“stunting”)—and yet the military and security services commandeer more than half the national budget, ensuring the regime’s stranglehold on Sudanese wealth and political power.

In addition to the letter from Booth, Lyman, and Lanier, comments from present U.S. Charge d’Affaires Steven Koutsis seem clearly designed to push for a permanent lifting of U.S. economic sanctions, first imposed by President Clinton in 1997 and strengthened by President George W. Bush in 2006. Koutsis was recently cited by Agence France-Presse (June 24, 2017) as declaring:

“None of these other issues were the point of sanctions, and none of these other issues, therefore, should be linked to the lifting of sanctions."

The “issues” he was referring to are Khartoum’s abysmal human rights record, its increasing repression and continuing violent suppression of political dissent, its increasingly strident religious intolerance, and its continuing deployment of brutal militia forces in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan. But this statement if profoundly false and is directly belied by the language of the Preface to Clinton’s Executive Order of 1997:

We must wonder what part of “the prevalence of human rights violations, including slavery and the denial of religious freedom” escaped Koutsis’ understanding. Rather more to the point, we must ask whether it was an

unforgiveable ignorance of this language in the 1997 Executive Order—or a cynical belief that no one would call him on the outrageous inaccuracy of his statement.

Many in the Congress are quite aware of what an ignorant and tendentious diplomatic representative Koutsis is; indeed, he is little more than a hack, tasked with getting sanctions lifted using whatever mean are possible (see a fuller account of his handiwork at | http://wp.me/p45rOG-24G/). As a consequence, it is quite likely the Congress will act in the ways it has in the past on critical sanctions issues, including those directed against Russia and Iran. This will include targeted sanctions coupled with other leverage.

But the argument for lifting sanctions sent to the House Foreign Affairs Committee deserves close inspection, coming from leading Obama administration diplomats on Sudan—and now that the Khartoum regime has been able to hire the powerful legal and lobbying services of Squire Patton Boggs, one of Washington’s most prominent and powerful law firms (this because of the January decision by President Obama to begin the suspension of sanctions against Khartoum). The hiring of Squire Patton Boggs is particularly notable since, with good reason, Sudan is one of only three countries on the State Department’s list of “state sponsors of terrorism” (along with Iran and Syria). And there can be no doubt of the Khartoum regime’s continuing commitment to supporting radical Islamic militants, as it has done in, for example, Libya (see| http://wp.me/s45rOG-7964/).

Ironically, the decision to lift sanctions is motivated not, as Lyman would have us believe, by a hope that somehow this brutal, genocidal regime will somehow come to “carry out reform via constitutional democratic measures.” It is a policy decision by the U.S. intelligence community, which has long dictated the major terms of engagement between Khartoum and Washington (see, for example, my lengthy account from late 2011 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-GT /). The truly enormous new U.S. “embassy” in Khartoum has been filled by the CIA and other intelligence agencies with a full range of surveillance, intercept, satellite monitoring, and other equipment; it is designed to be the primary U.S. listening post for northern Africa, a fact celebrated, if a bit hyperbolically by a regime spokesman:

"There is communication between the two bodies and regular meetings. The CIA office in Khartoum is the largest office in the Middle East. Because the United States is aware of the Sudan strategic importance in the region, it has established one of the largest diplomatic missions in the region, even they had to expand their buildings," said Hanafi in an interview with the Khartoum based Al-Sudani newspaper published on Tuesday. (Sudan Tribune, January 31, 2017 | http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article61565/)

The Letter from Lyman, Booth, Lanier: Annotated

June 29, 2017