Tag Archives: Oil

Iran, Al Qaeda, and Why Sudan Matters to American Security

When I talk to most people about events in Sudan, the response is all too often simply, “Those poor people.” Those who are able to do something about the situation in Sudan spend their time working on fixing symptoms. The response to “Those poor people” is most often consideration of sending them humanitarian aid, knowing full well that they will need more of it later.  What happens when “Those poor people” are being abused and oppressed by people who not only wish to do harm to the United States and its interests, but have the ability do so? What happens when the oppressor can threaten severe harm to our allies and to our way of life? The response becomes “I’m interested.”

Starting in 1992 and ending in 1996, Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden were based in Sudan. They had been invited by Hassan al Turabi, the Islamist leader, in the aftermath of a coup led by Omar al Bashir. Al Qaeda established training camps and grew in strength. The world knows the results of the failure to stop Al Qaeda then. Sudan’s troubles came to America’s cities. Moreover, when we left Sudan alone, Bashir oversaw the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocents during the next decade, “those poor people,” first in Darfur and then in the Nuba Mountains.

Pleas of “never again” fall on deaf ears. Yes, we send humanitarian aid where and when we can, but as Samantha Power, in speaking about Bosnia, noted:

No U.S. president has ever made genocide prevention a priority, and no U.S. president has ever suffered politically for his indifference to its occurrence. It is thus no coincidence that genocide rages on.

Today, Iran supports the Sudanese government financially in exchange for the ability to operate from Sudanese soil and to manufacture weaponry there so as to ease transport to Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Syria and Hizballah. Great efforts are now being made to halt weapons smuggling through the Sinai into Gaza, but weapons are freely flowing elsewhere, destabilizing the region.

Iran is seeking to station medium and long range missiles in Sudan that could be used to strike Israel. These weapons could just as easily be fired to the east towards Saudi Arabia instead of towards Israel in the north. They could also be fired by Al Qaeda affiliated militant groups instead of Iranian troops. Either way, this could be a game changer, not only for Israel but for the region.

Policy makers are so focused on the threat by Iran in the Persian Gulf that they ignore the fact that the Gulf of Aden and the entire area to the south of the Suez Canal could just as easily, if not more easily, be shut down by attacks from Sudan. How many ships attacked while attempting to cross through the Suez Canal would lead to a reduction or halt of shipping? What would happen to oil prices if the Suez Canal were shut down? How would that affect the US economy? Anyone listening now?

Meanwhile rebels from Mali have been fleeing to Darfur for refuge.

We are not paying enough attention to the threats posed by the situation in Sudan including Iranian involvement and a long history of welcoming militants who hate America including Al Qaeda. The terror incubator remains open for business and business is unfortunately booming.

Sudan – The Failing Economy and The Future

Over the past few months, I have written several articles dealing with the state of the Sudanese economy and implications for the ongoing conflicts in which Sudan is involved. I wrote in October about ongoing attempts to bail out the Sudanese government in direct contradiction to the sanctions imposed upon it for its genocidal actions, but I wrote as early as May and  June that the economic situation will eventually have a major impact on Sudan’s ability to maintain its military or to avoid uprisings in the streets. Economically, things have gotten much worse in the months since. Professor Eric Reeves wrote a lengthy description of the economic situation faced by the Sudanese government in which he detailed an array of major problems. I encourage you to read the full article, but wish to highlight here some of what Professor Reeves describes. He notes that:

  1. Sudan is one of the most corrupt countries in the world which makes business investment there very difficult and expensive to conduct as well as causing resentment and distrust.
  2. Sudan is one of the worst performing economies in the world. There is negative economic growth in Sudan. The economy is getting smaller at a rate of -11.2% per year.
  3. Inflation is sky-high. In October the official rate was 45.3%. Meaning that next year, everything will cost nearly one-and-a-half times what it does right now. The inflation rates for food and fuel are much worse than that. As bad as this is, Reeves notes that in September, the official rate was listed at 42% but some suggest that the actual rate was closer to 65%.
  4. The Khartoum Regime has sold off much of its oil assets in order to pay current bills.
  5. Anti-regime protests forced Khartoum to reinstate fuel subsidies that the World Monetary Fund demanded that it end so that Sudan’s currency market could stabilize.
  6. The Sudanese government is now printing money to service its increasing debt resulting in both inflation in prices and devaluing of its currency. One US Dollar now is exchanged for 6.5 Sudanese Pounds in the black market compared with 5 pounds earlier this year.
  7. Sudan has limited foreign currency reserves and thus is facing a situation in which it is forced to use its own devalued currency to purchase needed items in foreign markets including the 400,000 tons of Sugar it imports each year.
  8. Arab governments are reticent to offer financial backing to the regime. Only Qatar (and I would add, probably Iran) has offered aid. Claims to the contrary about large deposits in the Central Bank of Sudan actually diminish the regimes credibility and therefore credit with other nations and exporters.
  9. Future prospects of oil income are far more limited than they once were with most of the oil reserves located in South Sudan. In April, 2012 Sudan was actually listed as a net oil importer by the International Monetary Fund meaning that it uses more oil than it produces.
  10. Agricultural land has been poorly managed or destroyed and Sudan no longer has sufficient native agriculture to meet national food needs.
  11. A huge percentage of Sudan’s gross domestic product GDP is going to pay for military operations. These bills are being paid in Sudanese Pounds which are being devalued. Thus soldiers who are being paid the same wages each month are seeing the value of what they are being paid diminish. With 50% inflation, someone paid $3000 per year is now being paid the equivalent of $2000. That is going to promote resentment and could spell the collapse of the regime’s efforts to defend itself.
  12. Political support is weakening along with increasing resentment among those who work for and support the regime.

Professor Reeves concludes:

Despite the already acute and growing danger of complete economic implosion, the regime persists with immensely expensive and unproductive policies, including war in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, as well as hostile actions along the North/South border, and the supplying of renegade militia groups inside South Sudan.  For a regime that is ruthlessly survivalist, this makes no rational sense: current economic realities are diminishing the chances that the regime will survive.

The world needs to stand up to the Khartoum Regime and force it to change its ways or leave power, not only for the benefit of the greatly suffering peoples in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, and Blue Nile, but also for the sake of Sudan itself and its population held hostage by an irrational, destructive, and hate-filled regime.

They Cry “Peace!” But There is No Peace.

Over the past couple of weeks, several developments have occurred, all of which are troubling. There is great fanfare in some parts of the world for the peace agreement between Sudan and South Sudan signed on September 27th. The Obama Administration welcomed the agreement, issuing a statement in which it declared:

The Sudanese and South Sudanese people who have suffered greatly through decades of conflict deserve the benefits of a lasting peace – a peace that can only be achieved through continued dialogue and negotiation, sustained implementation of the agreements reached to date, and steadfast work to resolve remaining issues…

The leaders of Sudan and South Sudan have chosen to take another important step on the path away from conflict toward a future in which their citizens can live in dignity, security, and prosperity.

I find myself incredulous. This is a Sudan led by a man wanted by the International Criminal Court for committing genocide. In what possible reality can citizens of a nation led by such a man “live in dignity, security, and prosperity???” The Obama Administration is hoping for a time brough about by a peace agreement that is far too far off in the future for citizens of Sudan who are battling for their very survival in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Darfur and Beja.

Recently, Abdul Azziz Hilu, Malik Agar, and Yassir Arman, the leaders of the Sudan Revolutionary Forces SRF and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, were in Washington DC. To some extent, they were in the United States seeking help, most importantly humanitarian aid for the peoples of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, but to a greater extent, they were here in America seeking to promote the idea that democracy is possible in Sudan and that working to squash those advocating for it is not a good thing.

American policy, along with that of the UN and AU, right now could be described as “Peace between the Sudans, but not for all of the people of Sudan.” Dignity for Bashir, but not for the Nuba, not for Darfuris, not for the people of Blue Nile. Security for the National Congress Party, but not for people living in the refugee camps in Darfur or villages in South Kordofan, both of which were attacked by government forces or government backed forces within the past week.

I had the opportunity to speak with Commander Abdul Azziz Hilu, the leader of the Sudan Revolutionary Forces, this week. He phoned in to speak with some of our Help Nuba leaders to thank us for our efforts in speaking out against the genocidal regime in Khartoum and our efforts to bring the pro-Democracy people of Sudan together. He also told me that he had spoken with many leaders in Washington from all walks of life, diplomats, elected officials, along with intelligence and security officials and said that he did not feel like anyone really listened.

I believe that no little part of the problem is that the American diplomatic establishment believes that the pro-Democracy forces, the people from Darfur, Nuba, Blue Nile and Beja are incapable of working together with people from North and Central Sudan to create a nation in which the people truly are free. Instead there seems to be a belief  that the rebel movements who shout “Democracy and Freedom!” from bombed out villages are incapable of handling it, that the Darfuris, Nuba, and the others cannot cooperate off of the battle field.

Over the past few months, working with a wonderful group of people as part of Help Nuba and then in the creation of the United Sudanese And South Sudanese Communities Association USASSCA, I know that people from all across Sudan can work together, that the vast majority of the people want to see liberal values and freedoms put in place. The Sudanese in America cannot be that different from those in Sudan and they want to see Democracy as the basis of their government and want religious freedoms and rights for minorities and women. Why are we not working with those who want Democracy and share our values??? Let us give them a chance!

Instead, we demand that oil flow through Port Sudan that will support the oppressive regime of the dictator and we demand that support for the pro-Democracy movement in Sudan, the “Rebels”, cease, all  in the vain hope that appeasement of the dictator will stay his murderous hand, that a man who has orchestrated the slaughter of millions of innocents and is in the process of starving millions more will honor a peace agreement.

Explain this: We have imposed sanctions upon Sudan because of the genocide, but have demanded that South Sudan transport oil through Sudan providing Sudan will billions upon billions of Dollars worth of income which the regime will use to support oppression and murder. Sanctions? What sanctions?

I noted in an article published on this site in April that Samantha Power, a leading advisor to President Obama, described all too closely exactly what was going on then and what is going on today. I need to share the words of warning which I shared in April and which seem to be coming true.

The Center on Law and Globalization in discussing Samantha Power’s argument about “Why the United States has Failed to Stop Genocide” notes that:

Once the killing starts, Americans tend to believe that if the civilians who are in danger just keep their heads down they will be left alone. After all, a “rational” regime would only be a threat to groups that threaten the government. Why waste time, effort and resources killing innocent people who pose no threat?

In other words, if the rebels stop fighting, the regime will stop attacking the civilians. Of course, in Sudan we have evidence that the Sudanese government deliberately targets civilians. The article goes on to cite the Armenian Genocide. This paragraph is frighteningly similar to what is happening in South Kordofan and the genocide against the Nuba people:

Henry Morgenthau Sr., U.S. ambassador to Turkey at the time, provided detailed and gruesome accounts of Turk atrocities against the Armenians to the U.S. government. However, the official line from Mehmed Talaat, Turkey’s interior minister, was that Turkish forces were merely responding to the threats of Armenian groups against the Turkish government. Civilians were not the targets.

They cry “Peace!” But there is no peace. There will be no peace. There can be no peace until the oppression ceases. By promoting the financial well-being of Sudan and acting to discourage and impede pro-Democracy forces there, we may be saving lives on the battlefield in the short term only to sentence another generation to oppression and even genocide. It must stop. Sudan’s murderous oppression of the Nuba, the people of Blue Nile, and the people of Darfur is not a response to the rebellion.

The rebellion exists because of the oppression and the genocide. It is an attempt to combat both.

Those who are students of history know well that appeasing murderous dictators never works. “Never again!” means not repeating the mistakes of the past, ones which the world seems all too eager to repeat.

Referendum for Abyei Possible in October 2013

According to an article in the Sudan Tribune, the African Union (AU) is proposing that a referendum take place in October of 2013 in which the people of Abyei will decide to link themselves to South Sudan or to Sudan. The proposal includes provisions for the Misseriya and Ngok Dinka who cross the borders between the nations. The AU suggests a “soft border” which would allow relatively free travel across the national boundaries regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

The proposal includes a provision in which 20% of oil revenues produced in Abyei will be shared with South Kordofan. This makes sense solely with the anticipation that Abyei will become part of South Sudan causing a further loss of oil revenue for Sudan. This all said, it is unlikely that any agreement on Abyei can be achieved until the situation with rebel groups along the border is settled because the agreement on Abyei seems to be dependent upon an ability to allow a soft border to exist.

Americans Exerted “Extreme Presure”

According to South Sudan’s Chief Negotiator, Pagan Amum:

It is true that the Government of South Sudan and the negotiating team, including myself personally as a chief negotiator were subjected to extreme pressure from the Americans, British, the Norwegians…and they were forcing us to give away the resources of South Sudan.

This is according to an article in the Sudan Tribune. Amum further accused the international community of siding against South Sudan on borders as well as oil. The South Sudanese Chief Negotiator continued saying that:

They were telling us…if Khartoum is taking your oil, let them take it. Continue to pump the oil. [But] When we told them the people of South Sudan have the right to own their resources and if Khartoum is taking their oil, then we will stop the flow, they said no, no.

Worse, the deal has now turned South Sudan into a major donor to Khartoum. South Sudan’s Vice President, Riek Machar, stated that the deal ” has unfortunately left a huge gap of oil revenues lost to Khartoum.” According to Vice President Machar:

South Sudan will continue to lose 17% of its total oil revenues every year for the next three and a half years.

Additionally:

South Sudan will also lose $4.97 billion of debt relief which Khartoum owed South Sudan, but is now pardoned per the agreement. There will also be an additional cash grant of $3.03 billion to be paid by South Sudan to Khartoum to improve on its economy.

Thus, it appears to be the case that the genocidal actions of the Khartoum regime are totally irrelevant and that the international community, including the United States government, is working hard to support the continued strength of the murderous and tyrannical Khartoum regime by ensuring needing cash flows while negotiating against the interests of the democratic and free nation of South Sudan. If Pagan Amum and Riek Machar’s statements are remotely trustworthy, IN-justice has been served.

A Sickeningly Happy Smile

I don’t know about you, but I feel sick when I look at the picture of Omar Bashir’s beaming smile as he shakes hands with Salva Kiir. Bashir looks like a child who has just been told that if he shakes this man’s hand, he gets to go to Disney World. I can’t help but wonder how either man could smile at the other, much less beaming like that. Bashir is a war criminal.

Then again, looking at the situation in which both men find themselves, if they have made any progress toward an oil transfer agreement, how they can smile might actually be understandable. South Sudan’s economy is in a shambles and is only deteriorating faster as the days pass and oil does not flow. Without oil flowing, right now South Sudan is closer to becoming a failed state than prospering one. Salva Kiir is in jeopardy of becoming the leader who ran South Sudan out of business.

But Sudan is not much better off. It’s economy is in a free fall and subsidies which were essential in placating the masses so that they would not rise up against the Khartoum Regime have had to be removed. There are mass protests in the streets. Foreign governments and investors would not think about investing in Sudan or even loaning it money. In addition to the protests, rebel groups in the west, south, and east all are challenging it and the ones in the south are fighting, fairly successfully, for control over the last oil reserves the nation possesses. Opposition parties have gained enough momentum to publicly challenge the ruling party and there is for the first time in a long time, a reasonable hope for regime change.

Thus, the smile, that sickeningly happy smile.

Peace and a renewed flow of oil solve the major problems that both men face. Sudan needs it badly. South Sudan is probably in as good a negotiating position as it could hope for. Khartoum can’t afford to delay the opening of the spigot. So, a tentative agreement that allows the oil to flow.

“We’ll deal with the border region later. No one attack the other. We both need the money.” That is the obvious discussion. Mutual butt-saving.

In South Sudan, Salva Kiir will be able to fulfill promises for his suffering people and things will dramatically improve. Peace will bring massive investment and growth. The economy in the South could boom. The people will be vastly better off in the short run especially. Kiir’s butt saved.

But this will certainly put a damper on change in Sudan. The Khartoum Regime will strengthen. The inevitable collapse will not merely be delayed for a bit, but perhaps it will no longer be inevitable at all. Bashir’s butt saved.

The return of subsidies will quell demonstrations. In Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile and Eastern Sudan, there will be a newly strengthened Sudanese Armed Forces and police presence. Opposition leaders will suddenly become silent, at least the ones who do not go missing. Things could get a lot worse.

I know that it is a stretch to read to much into the smile of a consummate liar, but I just get the feeling that he’s not lying. Bashir seems genuinely happy. That makes me sick.

All Things Being Equal, There Is No Morality

It is becoming more and more the norm that newspapers and editorials present “both sides” of any and every issue. To be considered unbiased, it seems that one must invariably find fault with each side of a dispute and to present both sides as equally responsible for any problems. The logic is that one side cannot be correct or right. They only have one opinion, one view. The other side’s view must be equally valid or they would agree with the first side. This makes no sense. It is an abdication of journalistic ethics to make no effort to determine right or wrong, truth or lies. Yet it is the new standard.

Ask both sides. Print both views.

The latest in this trend of politically correct moral equivalency may be found in a recent New York Times editorial about Sudan and South Sudan. The Times Editorial Board wrote:

South Sudan, along with Sudan, created this crisis, and they have the means to fix it.

The two sides fought a civil war that killed more than two million people before a peace deal in 2005. In the past year, they barely avoided a return to all-out conflict. Violence continues in Darfur and in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, a rebel-held area where the Khartoum government is trying to bomb and starve the people into submission. Thousands have been displaced.

It is difficult to see how South Sudan created the crisis by stopping the flow of oil that was providing an endless supply of money for Sudan to use to buy weaponry from Iran with which it has been using to bomb the border region, including into South Sudanese territory, and to commit genocide first in Darfur and now in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. Was there no conflict ongoing before South Sudan stopped the flow of oil in January, much less when it went into Heglig in March and April? In fact, I think it safe to say that there were many attacks ongoing by the Sudan Armed Forces in the border region prior to South Sudan’s military response in Heglig.

Here’s an article about the Sudan Airforce bombing Jau in Unity State in South Sudan on February 14.

Here’s one about the bombing of Western Bahr-al-Ghazal state in January.

Then of course there is the bombardment of South Sudan friendly civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile which is ongoing, but began long before the flow of oil was shut off from the south or any South Sudanese troops set foot in Heglig. Satellite Sentinel’s report from January of 2012 details similar events for months prior. One could potentially make the argument that defending civilians against genocide is a good reason to conduct military operations, but the international community has made it pretty clear that the people are on their own and that South Sudan cannot offer official help. “Genocide away,” I guess. “Never again” are words for commemorations rather than policies.

But more to the point, how can one forget the bombing of Yida Refugee Camp in Unity State in South Sudan on November 10th, 2011?  The Times must believe that Sudan’s bombing of the refugee camp must have been justified in anticipation by several months of South Sudan’s future military action or else it would be difficult to argue that “South Sudan created this crisis,” even limiting the “crisis” in question to the past year alone. Moral equivalency cannot possibly allow for Sudan to be the obvious aggressor even when its leadership is wanted for genocide by the International Criminal Court!

This all said, while restoring the flow of oil through Sudan will bring money into the South Sudanese economy, it also will provide Sudan with a much needed influx of capital with which to fund its military and police activities, harming the possibility of regime change in Sudan and prolonging the ongoing crisis of oppression caused by the Khartoum Regime for decades now.