Last November, President Obama made Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir an offer: Allow southern Sudan to secede peacefully in the upcoming referendum and the United States will remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terror. Ironically enough, President Obama admonished President Bush when he made a similar offer two years ago. The Obama Administration gave Bashir, a man responsible for mass genocide, an opportunity to save face.
While this offer will be rescinded should Bashir fail to live up to his promise, the label “state sponsor of terror” should not be treated as a political tool. Such a status should be removed only if a country legitimately ends its support to terrorist organizations. Sudan has been listed as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993. It has been a safe haven for some of the most wanted terrorists, including Carlos the Jackal and Osama bin Laden.
Other potential incentives being touted by the Obama Administration for Sudan’s good behavior include the removal of sanctions, international debt relief, integration of Sudan into trade and investment relations, and improved diplomatic benefits as announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the U.N. Security Council Ministerial Meeting on Sudan in November. These incentives for Bashir’s cooperation are extremely generous for a man wanted for war crimes and genocide. While Bashir is cooperating for now, there’s no guarantee that he won’t return to his gruesome ways once the period for which he is required to behave has lapsed.
The United States should not bend to the will of any international leader who has committed atrocities against his own people. So far, according to Nile Gardiner of The Heritage Foundation, the Obama presidency has earmarked for engagement practically every dictatorship on earth, from Iran to Venezuela to Sudan. Sadly, this new policy has borne little fruit. From North Korea to Belarus, from Iran to Cuba, millions suffer under the yoke of tyranny. In Sudan, the Obama Administration is betting against the trend line.
In the aftermath of the referendum, if southern Sudan votes for independence, President Obama should not allow Bashir and his troop of mass murderers to inflict violence or impose any political action that would hinder the south’s right to self-determination. His unreliable diplomatic strategy of weighing carrots over sticks could prove dangerous not only for the southern Sudanese but for Americans as well.