Opinion: Enough Already on Sudan Sanctions
John Prendergast of the lobbying group Project Enough argues in The Hill that twenty years of ineffective sanctions against Sudan are not enough for him. He’s dead wrong and here’s why.
In early January President Obama conditionally lifted the sanctions against Sudan which were first imposed in 1997 by President Clinton, when the terrorist Osama bin Laden was expelled from Sudan, and more sanctions were imposed in 2004 by President Bush during the tragic devastation in Darfur.
The sanctions have continued without abatement, in spite of the fact that President Bush negotiated with Sudan the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 and President Obama negotiated five years ago the separation of the oil rich South Sudan from Sudan. Immediately thereafter, this new nation descended into warfare and chaos due to tribal insurgencies of complex origins and scarce facts. This resulted in new sanctions by President Obama for South Sudan in its own right.
Ironically, Sudan has been among the most stable and consistent partners of the U.S. intelligence community in the war against terror in this century as the State Department has annually reported. Nevertheless, the sanctions continued to punish the people of Sudan in horrific ways. Here are just a few:
An estimated $3 billion in GDP is lost each year in Sudan, where a majority of its 40 million people suffer in poverty, simply because international banks are scared of possible fines by the U.S. Treasury Department for processing perfectly legal transactions such as a Red Cross volunteer paying for a Khartoum hotel room with a dollar-based credit card or U.S. companies buying Gum Arabic for their products. The only breast-cancer hospital in Sudan could not pay for GE medical equipment, maintenance or training and consequently, deaths from breast cancer went from the 10th to the 2nd cause of death in Sudan. Sanctions kill innocent people.
Here’s one we know about first hand: A proposal to build sustainable solar villages in the Gum Arabic belt that stretches from the Red Sea in the east to Darfur in the West, and which can raise a million farmers living in poverty into sustainable clean energy villages with middle class solar houses, could not be funded by the World Bank because of U.S. sanctions.
And here’s one that has to go down in the record books of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Sudan has the only proven effective rehabilitation and reintegration program for terrorist defectors on the planet. Ten Muslim nations are seeking to imitate it right now. The proposal to communicate rehabilitated terrorist stories in the Internet is recognized by intelligence agencies to be the best way to defeat ISIS recruiters who are aggressively targeting Muslim teenagers with a pack of lies. But the obsolete, outdated and ineffective sanctions placed on Sudan have prevented U.S. Internet and communications knowledge from being used by Sudan to do so.
It is no surprise to us that one of the final acts of President Obama (which was agreed to by the Trump transition team) was to normalize relations with Sudan so it can improve its economy for its citizens, and the world can benefit by its anti-terrorism program. But it’s a disappointment to Mr. Prendergast whose moneyed lobby for continuing the sanctions indefinitely has made him well known among his misinformed supporters.
He may believe his lobbying job is of more value than lifting Sudanese farmers from poverty and improving healthcare while reducing ISIS recruitment in the Internet. We do not. And neither should you.
Christopher Shays is a former member of Congress who chaired the National Security Committee of the Government Oversight Committee and Richard Swett is a former Member of Congress and former U.S. Ambassador both favor normalization of relations between Sudan and the U.S.