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FP Report Highlights Schism in Obama Administration on Sudan Policy

A recent report by Foreign Policy magazine’s Josh Rogin suggests that the Obama administration is divided over the implementation strategy for the administration’s Sudan policy, which was released to last October. The administration–in particular, President Obama’s special envoy to Sudan, retired Maj. Gen. Scott Gration–has received much criticism from the Sudan advocacy community for its unwillingness to leverage diplomatic and economic pressure against the Sudanese regime.

The schism reported by Mr. Rogin will endanger the effectiveness of President Obama’s Sudan policy. This is indeed a problematic prospect, given recent reports of escalating violence in Darfur, a worsening humanitarian situation in the region, and the various political risk factors associated with the upcoming referendum on Southern Sudanese independence. According to Foreign Policy, the policy divide manifested itself during a principals-level meeting on Sudan last week. Gen. Gration and Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, clashed over the special envoy’s incentive-based Sudan policy recommendations: 

The news comes in the wake of a contentious principals-level meeting at the White House last week, in which Gration clashed openly with U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice over the direction of Sudan policy.

At the meeting, Rice was said to be "furious" when Gration proposed a plan that makes the January referendum a priority, deemphasizes the ongoing crisis in Darfur, and is devoid of any additional pressures on the government in Khartoum.

According to multiple sources briefed on the meeting, Gration’s plan was endorsed by almost all the other participants, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and will now go the president for his approval. Rice was invited to provide a written dissent. Vice President Joseph Biden did not attend.

STAND has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the upcoming referendum to the Obama administration’s Sudan policy. However, it is crucial that the administration recognize the potential for conflict in both Darfur and Southern Sudan, and act to prevent such conflict from occurring. The administration must leverage the pressures and incentives mentioned in last fall’s Sudan policy. Sudan is teetering on the brink of all-out war; clear international leadership from President Obama and Vice President Biden is needed to ensure that such a war does not occur.

Stay tuned for further updates on opportunities for you to ring the alarm on the administration’s stagnating Sudan policy.

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