By 12 July, Washington must decide whether to permanently lift the economic and trade restrictions on Sudan it suspended in January. According to the International Crisis Group, lifting the sanctions may be “the better of two imperfect options”.
On 13 January this year, the USA announced that it would temporarily lift certain sanctions against Sudan, based on positive actions by Khartoum over the preceding six months.
Washington would permanently repeal them if progress were sustained over the subsequent six months, and listed five tracks on which advances would be gauged: counter-terrorism cooperation, addressing the threat of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), ending hostilities in Darfur and the Two Areas (South Kordofan and Blue Nile), improving humanitarian access, and ending negative interference in South Sudan.
The sanctions were imposed in 1997, after Sudan was listed as a “state sponsor of terrorism”. The measures blocked all Sudanese government assets in the USA and barred a large number of trade transactions with Sudan.
“To lift sanctions would reward a regime that must do much more to improve governance and end its wars; not to do so could lead to a reversal of advances made and discourage further cooperation.”
'Not an easy choice'
The arrangement of January this year broke an impasse born of mutual mistrust – Washington’s deep scepticism that Khartoum’s conduct would ever change, and Sudan’s profound doubts that the USA would ever be satisfied if it did, the Crisis Group, an international think-tank based in Brussels stated in a news briefing on Thursday.
The decision to continue or permanently lift the sanctions is not an easy choice, the Crisis Groups notes. “Sudan’s government has gone some way toward meeting US criteria for sanctions relief. But its progress, particularly on humanitarian access and ceasing hostilities in its internal conflicts, at best is partial and President Omar Al Bashir’s government remains autocratic, corrupt and abusive.
“To lift sanctions would reward a regime that must do much more to improve governance and end its wars; not to do so could lead to a reversal of advances made and discourage further cooperation.
“On balance, lifting sanctions is the better of two imperfect options, particularly if coupled with clear signals that far more is needed for the government to escape those sanctions that will remain in force, and obtain debt relief. The USA should also make clear that it stands ready to impose new targeted financial sanctions should Khartoum renege on its commitments,” the 20-page briefing reads.
Also on Thursday, the activist Enough Project, based in Washington DC, produced a pamphlet in which they also urge the US government to deal in a more flexible way with the sanctions.
In addition, the USA should pursue a multilateral approach to Sudan. “Sanctions programs are usually more effective if they are more multilateral, but the financial pressure strategy [..] involving network sanctions and anti-money laundering measures can be employed directly by the USA and would have significant impact,” Enough Project states.