White House press secretary Robert Gibbs announced yesterday that the President would seek engage the regime of state sponsor of terror Sudan. According to an article in Politico, the Administration “would help enact a more “comprehensive policy” for dealing with Sudan’s political instability.” This “new” approach will not advance U.S. interests, but will embolden Omar al-Bashir.
With the exception of direct talks with regime officials, there is no a real substantive change in the U.S. approach to dealing with the genocidal regime of the Sudan. The President said he was going to extended the national emergency with respect to the Sudan and that sanctions would remain in place. “If the Government of Sudan acts to improve the situation on the ground and to advance peace, there will be incentives; if it does not, then there will be increased pressure imposed by the United States and the international community,” President Barack Obama said in a prepared statement.
The Obama Administration could have made a call for more substantive regional cooperation in isolating the al-Bashir regime, while increasing humanitarian assistance to south and other areas of the Sudan. Building on the work groups such as the Sudan Divestment Task Force and the Center for Security Policy’s Divest Terror initiative, created new tools for the Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control, as well as FinCen, to further restrict access to the regime of foreign investment in the Sudan. These and other innovative approaches can be implemented while helping opposition and humanitarian efforts on the ground and, most importantly, advancing U.S. security interests in the region.
Unlike the Bush Administration that generally took a reasonable and hardline approach to dealing with dictators, opting for robust application of economic sanctions and low-level contact with regime officials, while ensuring that humanitarian aid made its way to people that needed it, the Obama team wants more direct contact with high ranking leaders of various state sponsors of terrorism such as Cuba and Iran. The leaders of Iran, Cuba, and the Sudan, however, have demonstrated they do not desire change at all. Quite the opposite – they use these overtures to terrorize and consolidate power. Direct engagement is not going to change that, increased economic isolation and international pressure will.