By Walid Shoebat, Ben Barrack and Keith Davies
When the views of President Obama’s special envoys to Sudan since 2009 are examined in the context of the ‘close’ relationship he has with his brother Malik, who works for Sudan’s President, the truth about why the U.S. wants to ‘mend ties’ with Sudan begins to take a clearer shape. The degree to which the positions of these envoys are in alignment is a direct reflection on the President’s views toward that country.
In sworn testimony, relayed by NPR, President Barack Obama’s first Special Envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2009 there is “no evidence” that supports Sudan being identified as a State Sponsor of Terrorism and that the designation – made in 1993 – is “a political decision”. Yet, the same regime that harbored Osama bin Laden in the 1990’s is still in power there; it’s led by Omar al-Bashir.
When Gration was interviewed about taking this position, he pointed to how “complicated” it is to deal with a nation like Sudan. Quite the contrary, based on what we now know about the relationship President Obama’s brother Malik Obama has with al-Bashir, coupled with the “close” relationship between Malik and the President, an Obama administration policy that seeks to ease relations with Sudan could be quite simple.
Gration is a central figure in an exhaustive, hard-hitting report by Sudan expert Eric Reeves. In his report, Reeves makes a compelling case for calling the George W. Bush administration’s policy toward Sudan into question as well, pointing to – among other things – a decision to engage Sudan’s Intelligence Chief at the time, Major General Saleh Gosh and rewarding him with a trip to the U.S. in 2005. Reeves points out that Gosh was second on a list of 21 Sudanese leaders that had been banned from entering the U.S. and had overseen bin Laden’s stay inside Sudan from 1992 – 1996.
As irresponsible as that Bush administration policy may have been, Reeves says the “deception and disingenuousness” of the Obama administration appears to be worse. In drawing this conclusion, Reeves points to both Gration’s testimony as well as Obama’s tough talk on Sudan during the 2008 Presidential campaign. Reeves then suggests, perhaps somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that the CIA made Obama a ‘convert’ to a softer position with Sudan after being inaugurated.
Evidence suggests, however, that if anyone was converted, it was Gration. In a 2012 New Republic article by Molly Redden, the former Envoy to Sudan was identified as a “longtime Republican” who became a Democrat after being somewhat smitten with the President. Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh suggested that there was a bit of “hero worship” of Obama on the part of Gration.
The son of missionaries, Gration was also an F-16 fighter pilot instructor who voted for George W. Bush. As TNR’s Redden pointed out, much of this signaled a tough Obama administration policy toward Sudan; the opposite happened. Why? In the 2009 interview, Gration came off as more dismissive of the Darfur crisis than even then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. Evidence suggests that if anyone changed, it was Gration.
As further evidence that Gration’s public views on Sudan during his tenure were shared by the President, consider that even after he left in 2011, to subsequently take the position of U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Gration’s successor as special envoy to Sudan, Princeton Lyman, was very similarly-minded. In a 2012 Washington Times article entitled, “U.S. wants to mend ties with Sudan”, Lyman was quoted as saying that the U.S. wants a “normal” and “productive” relationship with that country.
The agenda of the Obama administration when it comes to al-Bashir’s Sudan and the newly formed South Sudan has been to be ‘more even-handed’ according to a 2012 article by Andrew Natsios in Foreign Affairs magazine. Natsios indicated that the reason for this likely had to do with the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise in Africa at the time. Natsios referred to a crisis between the two countries that Lyman helped to mediate.
This position has also been expressed by Lyman’s successor in 2013, Donald E. Booth, who became the special envoy to both Sudan and South Sudan, which gained its independence in 2011. Booth is someone who appears to be a bit more tightly managed than either of his predecessors and a Sudan newspaper seems to indicate that there isn’t much respect for special envoys from the U.S., to include Booth. In an article published by Sudan Vision last October, Sudan’s Foreign Ministers reportedly said they have little use for special envoys unless they improve relations between Sudan and the U.S. In a media advisory released shortly after his becoming special envoy, Booth’s agenda was identified as one in which he is charged with promoting “peace between Sudan and South Sudan”.
The problem with that position is that again, Sudan is a State Sponsor of Terrorism that is run by a man wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity with a hideous history of genocide. Conversely, South Sudan is a country in its infancy that is susceptible to al-Bashir’s use of third parties to sow terror and domestic insurrection as he’s done and continues to do with warlord Joseph Kony. In his article, Natsios reported how Obama himself took the side of al-Bashir in an “acrimonious meeting” between the U.S. President and Salva Kiir, President of South Sudan.
If one of these countries is deserving of more deference from the U.S., it would be South Sudan, not Sudan. Instead, talk of even-handedness and mediation between the countries actually shows favoritism for al-Bashir.
That Gration, Lyman and to a lesser degree – at least publicly – Booth held similar views toward Sudan while working for the Obama administration indicates that such views are held by Obama himself. Any suggestion that candidate Barack Obama’s tough talk on Sudan in 2008 was well-intentioned and that it evolved into something different once he became president is belied by the facts.
After five years, President Obama has more than demonstrated a propensity for lying. Consider the 36 times he was caught lying, when he assured people that if they liked their ‘healthcare plan’ or ‘doctor’, they could keep both under Obamacare. ‘Period’. When the IRS scandal broke last year, the President was indignant, saying that the “misconduct” within the IRS was “inexcusable”. Yet, less than a year later, during a nationally televised interview, he said there wasn’t a ‘smidgen of corruption’ at the IRS.
Al-Bashir was the President of Sudan when his country made the infamous list in 1993; he still in power. Yet, all of Barack Obama’s special envoys to Sudan have advocated inexplicably friendly sentiment toward that country. This demonstrates that such sentiment is desired by Barack Obama, the common denominator whose brother surely wouldn’t mind seeing al-Bashir’s Sudan taken off that pesky State Sponsors of Terrorism list as well.