The Cable

What's in the secret Sudan annex?

A "secret annex" to the Obama administration's new Sudan policy contains all of the details of what incentives and pressures the U.S. is readying to deal with the Sudanese government going forward, but administration officials aren't telling what's in it.

"We will employ calibrated incentives as appropriate and exert real pressure as needed on any party that fails to act to improve the lives of the people of Sudan," U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice told reporters at a Monday briefing set up to introduce the new policy. "There will be no rewards for the status quo, no incentives without concrete and tangible progress. There will be significant consequences for parties that backslide or simply stand still. All parties will be held to account."

But what those incentives and consequences might look like in practical terms is classified, leaving many to question why the administration is being so secretive and whether the new policy really contains strong levers that could convince Khartoum to reverse its bad behavior.

"We have a menu of incentives and disincentives, political and economic, that we will be looking to, to either further progress or to create a clear message that the progress we expect is not occurring," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "But we want to be somewhat careful in putting those out. They are part in fact of a classified annex to our strategy that we're announcing the outline of today."

Some incentives that special envoy Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration (ret.) has discussed in the past, such as removing Sudan from the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism, are not likely to be in the offing anytime soon. Likewise, strong pressures such as imposing a no-fly zone over large swathes of Sudanese territory are also not being seriously considered.

Two State Department officials, speaking on background basis, said that the classified annex contains specific benchmarks to measure whether or not progress is being made toward advancing the new policy, to be reported on a quarterly basis, but those benchmarks are also secret.

"We don't think it's in the interests of the success of the policy to lay it all out at this time," one of the officials said.

Overall, Sudan watchers and human rights groups came out remarkably in support of the new policy, calling it a victory for those who were warning against what they characterize as a naïve approach put forth by Gration, who said famously that "goldstars" and "cookies" could be used to effect positive change in Khartoum.

"This is a victory of accountability over goldstars and cookies," said John Prendergast, cofounder of the Enough Project, explaining that "the policy today clearly spells out the need for verifiable progress on issue of peace and protection of civilians before anything positive in the form of incentives will be issued."

While expressing cautious optimism, other advocacy leaders were quick to call on President Obama to get personally involved in his new Sudan approach.

"For a lot of people it sends the wrong message that he wasn't there for the rollout," said Sam Bell, executive director of the Genocide Intervention Network, who also wondered why the policy rollout took so long when it was promised months ago.

A former State Department official close to the issue told Foreign Policy that the delay was in part related to a fundamental dispute between Gration and Rice over how tough the policy should be.

Apparently, Gration's office drafted several iterations of the policy document and sent them along to the White House, the National Security Council, and the U.S. delegation at the United Nations. Each time, Rice's people at the U.N. sent back the document with heavy edits, calling for "more sticks" (meaning tougher pressures), based on her basic skepticism that Sudan's regime could be persuaded with carrots.

"Her view is very pragmatic, she has been working with these guys for a generation," the former official said, "[She knows that Sudan's] response diplomatically is yes, yes, yes, but administratively it's no, no, no, and then nothing really happens. So everything would go up to New York and would come back heavily edited ... That's why it's taken so long."

One open question raised by the administration's new Sudan policy is, what will it cost? Does the administration plan to bolster its new strategy with increased resources and will it have to go through Congress to secure those funds?

While there is no specific call for more money in today's announcement, down the road there will be a need for funds, especially when it comes time to get involved in the Sudanese elections, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told The Cable.

"If you're going to restore stability to Darfur, there's a cost to that, there's a cost to CPA implementation. So overtime I think there will be significant resources demands," said Crowley, "I'm sure that will require a significant U.S. investment."

Crowley didn't know if those funds would be included in the regular budget request, but admitted those funds will be needed sooner rather than later.

"We're acutely aware of the urgency of our task and the shortness of our timeline," Gration told reporters Monday morning, "We have only six months until Sudan's national elections take place. The referendum on self-determination [for the autonomous region of South Sudan] is only 15 months away."

Crowley also pledged that the United States would support independence for South Sudan if the people there choose it in 2011, another seemingly important clarification in the new policy.

But if Gration was hoping to engage directly with Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, he won't be doing so anytime soon.

"We have no intentions of working directly with President Bashir," one State Department official said, "We firmly believe he should get a good lawyer, present himself to the ICC, and face the charges that have been leveled against him."

Gration has several trips planned over the coming weeks to explain the policy to international stakeholders, a key ingredient of the new policy's potential success, experts said.

"If it's just a unilateral U.S. statement of policy," Prendergast said, "I couldn't think of anything besides toilet paper that's more meaningless."

FP assistant editor Elizabeth Dickinson contributed to this report.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Cable

Clinton rolls out new Sudan policy

The Obama administration is unveiling its new comprehensive policy toward Sudan this morning, their latest example of its worldwide trend of mixing pressure with engagement in a controversial push to increase American influence with the brutal regime in Khartoum.

The announcement, which began at 9 a.m. in Washington with a speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, begins as follows:

Sudan is at an important crossroads that can either lead to steady improvements in the lives of the Sudanese people or degenerate into even more violent conflict and state failure.  Now is the time for the United States to act with a sense of urgency and purpose to protect civilians and work toward a comprehensive peace. The consequences are stark. Sudan's implosion could lead to widespread regional instability or new safe-havens for international terrorists, significantly threatening U.S. interests.  The United States has a clear obligation to the Sudanese people -- both in our role as witness to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and as the first country that unequivocally identified events in Darfur as genocide to help lead an international effort.

The policy is based on the contention that U.S. policy can no longer focus exclusively on the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region or implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, the mostly Christian rebel group that runs the autonomous region of South Sudan.

Efforts will be made to try to persuade the government to act more responsibly both in its dealings with its own people and with the international community.

"To advance peace and security in Sudan, we must engage with allies and with those with whom we disagree," Clinton will say.

This has been the main objective of the administration's special envoy for Sudan, J. Scott Gration, who has come under fire from human rights groups for what his critics say is an approach to the dealing with the government that is either to conciliatory or too naïve.

According to reports, Gration will not have the power to negotiate directly with Sudanese leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir and the U.S. position explaining that genocide is what's happening in Darfur will not change.

The new policy also defines U.S. strategic objectives in Sudan as threefold: ending the conflict there, which has resulted in untold human tragedy, implementation of the CPA, which ended 20 years of bloody civil warfare, and continuing to ensure that Sudan does not again become a safe haven for international terrorists.

Interestingly, looking ahead to the state of Sudan after the planned 2011 elections, Clinton will say that the U.S. supports either one state in what is now known as Sudan, or "an orderly path toward two separate and viable states at peace with each other."

In addition to a full rollout at the State Department this morning, Sudan-related interest groups have a full days of activities planned to make sure their views and reactions are publicly understood.

While these groups are somewhat reassured by administration claims that incentives or rewards for the Sudanese regime would only come after it displays a willingness to make progress on the humanitarian crisis it has helped create, their skepticism that such progress is in the offing is paramount.

"The regime has shown time and again that it will do whatever it takes to maintain its grip on power," read an initial reaction by staff at the Enough Project, an anti-genocide advocacy group. "Easing up on Khartoum simply gives President Bashir and his close-knit circle of advisors (many of whom rose to power alongside Bashir in the 1989 coup) the chance to stall and make excuses, while fomenting violence and undermining peace efforts behind-the-scenes, with continued, devastating effect for the people of Sudan."

UPDATE: The State Department has released its outline of the new policy.