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CIA Secretly Restores Ties to Sudan Despite Ongoing Human Rights Abuses in Darfur

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The Los Angeles Times recently revealed that the U.S. has quietly forged a close intelligence partnership with Sudan despite the government’s role in the mass killings in Darfur. Charles Snyder, the U.S. State Department Senior Representative on Sudan, defends the Bush administration’s policy on Sudan. [includes rush transcript]

In a major expose, the Los Angeles Times recently revealed that the U.S. has quietly forged a close intelligence partnership with Sudan despite the government’s role in the mass killings in Darfur. The Sudanese government has since publicly confirmed it is working with the Bush administration and the CIA. Eight months ago, former Secretary of State Colin Powell accused the Sudanese of carrying out a genocide in Darfur. Already 180,000 have died in the region from fighting or hunger. But relations appear to have since changed — for the Sudanese government’s benefit. One senior Sudanese official the LA Times that the country had achieved “complete normalization” of relations with the CIA. The Times reported that the CIA sent an executive jet in late April to Khartoum to ferry the chief of Sudan’s intelligence agency to Washington for secret meetings sealing Khartoum’s sensitive and previously veiled partnership with the administration. The Sudanese intelligence chief–Major General Salah Abdallah Gosh–has been accused by members of Congress of directing military attacks against civilians in Darfur. He also had regular contacts with Osama bin Laden during the 1990s.

We talk with Charles Snyder, the U.S. State Department Senior Representative on Sudan, about the report.

  • Charles Snyder, the U.S. State Department Senior Representative on Sudan.

Meanwhile as violence continues in Darfur, students throughout California lobbied yesterday in Sacramento for a bill that would require state divestment from all companies doing business in the Sudan. Two California public pension funds have over $12.5 billion in Sudan-related holdings. Last week the Illinois state legislature became the first to approve divestment of state funds from corporations doing business in Sudan. ??

  • Ben Elberger, a student at Stanford who is part of the group STAND, Students Taking Action Now: Darfur.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We continue the latest discussion on Sudan, with the Medecins Sans Frontieres’ report on hundreds of women raped in Darfur. We are joined by Nicholas Detorrente, Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders here in New York. Charles Snyder, US State Department Senior Representative on the Sudan, is on the line with us on the phone in Washington. Charles Snyder, I wanted to stick with you for a moment. Months ago, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, came out further even than the United Nations in talking about the genocide that was being carried out by Sudan in Darfur. But then The Los Angeles Times did a report about a month ago that the CIA had sent an executive jet to Khartoum to ferry the chief of Sudan’s intelligence agency to Washington for secret meetings, sealing Khartoum’s sensitive and previously veiled partnership with the administration. It was the Sudanese intelligence chief, Major General Salah Abdallah Gosh, who has been accused by members of Congress by directing military attacks against the civilians in Darfur, had regular contacts with Osama bin Laden during the 90s, that the US is now working with, so the government working with Darfur, with the Sudanese government. So presumably, you would have very high contacts to deal with what is taking place right now, for example, the latest report on the rapes.

CHARLES SNYDER: No, I mean, we have actually protested to him as well through other channels, basically saying to him, this is an outrage. But there’s been this misimpression that somehow, you know, we are overlooking some of these humanitarian concerns, we are overlooking the genocide because of this intelligence cooperation, and that’s simply not so. I mean, that was the sine qua non of this — the president allowing us to even negotiate with them way back in 2001 was they have to begin to cooperate on counterterrorism. That’s a necessity, and they were cooperating with us at quite a high level before we called them on genocide. So, we didn’t hesitate on the humanitarian side and on the, frankly, the human rights side to act when we saw it as necessary. We made it clear to them the intelligence cooperation is its own separate entity, and it’s the minimum for any kind of continued progress with us. So we have not at all pulled back our punches. Certainly, Secretary Powell didn’t pull his punches when he called it genocide. We have not at all pulled our punches based on what they’re doing with us on the intelligence side. And I just wanted to correct that misimpression. It just isn’t so. And in fact our access to people like Gosh is enhanced by this, and we are making demands on him, which is allowing us to clarify the situation in a number of ways. For instance, one of the problems we’ve got, and we agree 100% with Medecins Sans Frontieres, if they turn over this report, what they will wind up doing is using the names and the people and of the women themselves that have actually been raped and they will charge them with crimes. This is just not acceptable and outrageous. And we’re saying that to them. If you want to have anyone believe there is any hope for Sudanese justice, if you want to turn off the international justice, you have go to prove to us you will arrest and prosecute some of these people, not prosecute the victims.

AMY GOODMAN: What about sanctions?

CHARLES SNYDER: The sanctions, you know — we have sanctioned Sudan every way from Sunday and have for years, going back into the Clinton administration. Our ability to act unilaterally on these kinds of things simply is not effective in the modern world. That’s the reason when we called it genocide, we took it to the security council, hoping that the security council would join us and call this genocide and said, as you know, as the commission of inquiry went out and it found high crimes, war crimes, things approaching genocide but did not call it genocide. And that leaves us unable and frustrated in many ways to impose the kind of sanctions that we would like to see imposed in this situation: truly universal, truly effective sanctions. You need the Chinese, the Russians, the Europeans and frankly, even the rest of the Africans to join us in that, and the security council in this commission of inquiry simply did not find it to be genocide. We still disagree. But again, it’s an interdependent world. When we act alone, we’re important, but we’re not able to squeeze the regime like this as effectively as we should be able to and would like to be able to.

AMY GOODMAN: Now Congress has issued a list of senior Sudanese officials who they claim have been involved in war crimes but the administration has not released its own list, as Congress has requested it do.

CHARLES SNYDER: We’re in bit of a delicate position here. Everyone sees our opposition to the ICC as a mile wide and 12 miles deep, and we could be accused of prejudicing their actions by coming up with our own name and a list of names and then we get into this game where the ICC says, you know, these 51 and the Americans say that 51. We want to give the ICC some space to operate. So, we are a bit reluctant to get too far into the big names until we see where the ICC investigation goes.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, certainly, in other cases, the US names people they call terrorist, and the US is very busy not supporting the International Criminal Court, so it seems odd to use that as an example to respect the Criminal Court and not name people?

CHARLES SNYDER: Well, on the Security Council, this is the first time we acted on the ICC. We abstained, which said we would give it the space to operate. We just don’t feel at this time naming names that may turn out to be a different list of names from what the ICC has or from somebody’s professional judgment. Ocampo is a professional prosecutor. In his judgment, the case may not be valid against these 51 names, and we need to be careful. I mean we have also got a peace part of this that we have to balance against the justice. We cannot sacrifice either one to the other. And it’s a delicate dance we are doing. We are not going to satisfy Congress on this in the short run, but I think in the longer run, I think they will be satisfied with the way we come out.

AMY GOODMAN: The Congress has requested a number of other steps also like targeted sanctions on people so that they’re identified as having committed war crimes. Those that are would have their, for example, bank accounts frozen and be barred from operating on an international level. Your response to that?

CHARLES SNYDER: Well, the resolution has got its own committee enforcing the sanction. You know, 1591 is the particular UN Resolution involved in this. And it’s just now begun to be set up under the Greeks and they’re not far enough along yet to have a list of names. We’ll provide names who we believe are responsible for this. You have also got the problem where a lot of these people, especially when you get down to the tribal chieftain level, this is something that makes us feel good as opposed to is this going to have any effect. These men don’t have bank accounts overseas. They don’t send their children abroad to school. So the kind of sanctions that we’re dealing with here are just not going to be effective against them.

AMY GOODMAN: What about an arms embargo? Those in Congress asking for an arms embargo on the government of Sudan?

CHARLES SNYDER: We pushed, as you know, in the security council, for an arms embargo. The trouble is to get 15 people to go along with that, you have to overcome the Russians, the Chinese, and several others that object to this, some on theoretical grounds and some on practical grounds, that they’re actually selling weapons. But nonetheless we need a universal vote or otherwise it’s a unilateral American arms embargo. And right now we have an arms embargo against Sudan: we do not sell weapons to Sudan.

AMY GOODMAN: What difference does it make — let me put this question to Nick Detorrente, especially with two of your people in a very precarious position now, not allowed to leave the Sudan after the rape report was out — what kind of pressure is put on the Sudanese government?

NICHOLAS DETORRENTE: Well, I think we’re concerned about the ability to be able to continue to provide humanitarian aid, you know, in Darfur, and we have to remember that, you know, in — going back a little bit, that for many, many months when the attacks were at their peak in late 2003-early 2004, there was virtually no access at all to Darfur, and aid was completely blocked, and the region was inaccessible. The Sudanese government would not allow aid workers in. Since then it has been opened and political pressure has played a key part in that, in allowing at least humanitarian aid to be provided, and that has enabled a very significant aid effort to be undertaken, which has helped maintain the population above survival levels. I mean, the situation right now is a deep stagnation and stalemate. People are stuck in the camps. They’re just above survival level. Assistance is coming in. It’s very fragile and precarious. And that needs to be able to continue.

And this is our fear, because these attacks — these arrests are the most high profile, you know, signs of intimidation of aid workers. But there have been a number of others. A lot of other aid workers have been detained for questioning, arrested at the local level, and we have to remember, most of the aid workers in Darfur are Sudanese. They — we have international staff, in a way, they are, you know, more protected. These are high profile arrests. Paul Foreman and Vince Hoedt, you know, speak to the BBC. They’re well known. But we have, you know, thousands of Sudanese staff who are out on the front lines of providing assistance to the people in Darfur. I frankly, I’m more worried for them right now, because if this gives a signal, kind of a green light for local officials to start intimidating and harassing aid workers at the local level, I think the aid effort could easily be undermined, and that would be very dramatic for the close to 2 million people displaced in camps in Sudan right now, who are utterly dependent on outside assistance as they cannot return to their homes. Their villages are have been burnt, and they’re stuck in these camps just above survival levels, and they’re dependent on aid.

AMY GOODMAN: Charles Snyder of the State Department, Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, writes in The Washington Post, “Since January, Bush and Rice have met with leaders from NATO and UN security council member countries 29 times. They have mentioned Darfur publicly only once.” He says, “That’s no way to convince the world and Sudan that America is serious.” Your response?

CHARLES SNYDER: We have been pressing in every channel, including the meetings you mentioned on this Darfur issue. The secretary herself, as you know, brought up on a personal level to the North Atlantic Council, as well as with the Russians in Vilmius the idea that NATO should be used, as well as potentially the European Union’s defense procedures, to reinforce this AU presence. We have been the leader in pledging money and pledging funds and in taking action on the ground. 70% of the food aid is ours. 50% of the cash that’s been expended in Darfur is ours. We have already spent $95 million on this first AU force. We have just pledged another $50 million, and we have offered airlift. We think that that in the long run is the answer. And the long run is not that —- I’m not talking years here, I’m talking months, over the course of the summer, getting a larger -—

AMY GOODMAN: But, of course.

CHARLES SNYDER: — African Union force on the ground.

AMY GOODMAN: But, of course, you know, the statements of the President of the United States and the Secretary of State are priceless.

CHARLES SNYDER: No, and I think the Secretary has spoken out on this, and in particular, deputy secretary Zoellick has taken the lead on this. And he has been quite active in his — and that was going back yet again. And he has made several phone calls in the interim.

AMY GOODMAN: But that’s lower level, talking about, you know, the public statement of the President of the United States who is engaged in a, (quote), “war on terror.”

CHARLES SNYDER: Well, we have made these ideas present at the highest levels. The President has spoken privately to people about this. There will be an appropriate moment to speak out forcefully and openly. The secretary is now the level at which we are speaking out. And you will see the Pentagon take action in support of moving the AU in. This is an area where we are willing to actually be engaged effectively. And the question is what’s most effective, and our judgment right now is what we’re doing is the most effective.

AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Charles Snyder, US State Department senior representative on Sudan, also Nicholas Detorrente is with us, Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders here in New York. And for a moment we’re joined by Ben Elberger of Stanford University. He’s with a group called STAND, Students Taking Action Now: Darfur. We only have a minute, Ben, but I wanted to ask about your lobby day yesterday in Sacramento for a bill that would require state divestment from all companies doing business in the Sudan. Two California public pension funds have over $12.5 billion in Sudan-related holdings. Last week, the Illinois State Legislature became the first to approve divestment of state funds from corporations doing business in Sudan. Ben Elberger, talk about what you are doing?

BEN ELBERGER: We actually, in our lobby day we went up to talk about the bill with state senators. It passed the California Assembly. Unfortunately, when it was in the California Assembly, it was amended and it was watered down to change from divestment to take action within fiduciary responsibility. So what we are really trying to push is for them to add back divestment, but really target the oil companies that are doing business there, because there are a lot of connections that are suggesting that oil companies and the oil royalties that goes to government are being used to fund weapons.

AMY GOODMAN: Which oil companies are there?

BEN ELBERGER: We know — our research suggests that PetroChina, Sinopec, Tatneft, ABB Ltd., Total FA, Marathon Oil and London Petroleum, are really seven companies that are documented as doing business there.

AMY GOODMAN: And California pension funds are invested in them?

BEN ELBERGER: We know that California pension funds are probably invested in some of them. CalPERS has told us they are not invested in PetroChina or Tatneft at the moment, but we’re really trying to push to make sure that they put these companies on a “do not invest” list.

AMY GOODMAN: Charles Snyder, your response to these moves from Illinois to now California to go after companies that do business in the Sudan?

CHARLES SNYDER: The truth is, under the IEPA sanctions which have been in place against the government of Sudan, going back into the Clinton administration, no American company is permitted to spend money in Sudan that’s in any way related to the government of Sudan’s activities. For instance, he just mentioned Marathon Oil. The truth is Marathon Oil has not been allowed to spend any money in pursuit of its existing contracts and is in fact probably in violation as a technical matter of a whole number of agreements they have with other companies, because they simply cannot spend any money or do anything effectively in Sudan. And that’s true across the board. I mean, recently, the Sudanese were after buying an airbus from China. The engines are GE engines. We blocked that export. The truth is the practical embargo by the United States is in effect against this kind of activity.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me put a question to Nicholas Detorrente. The issue of the arms embargo, would that make a difference on the ground if the US imposed an arms embargo against the Sudanese government?

NICHOLAS DETORRENTE: It’s hard for me to comment on that, but I think that there are sufficient weapons and especially the will to carry out the kinds of policies of repression and scorched earth that have characterized the situation in Darfur at the moment, and so I think that the real issue right now is pressure on whoever is waging violence to stop that, especially directed at — obviously directed at civilians and specific crimes such as sexual assault and rape, and then, of course, is the — to — the pressures to allow for aid to continue. I think that’s the precondition for anything else. The aid has to be able to continue. But it’s not enough, and we are actually frankly concerned that just the trickle of aid that is being allowed to come in and very precarious, very fragile is, you know — this kind of stalemate seems to be convenient for everyone at the moment. People are stuck in the camps. They cannot go back. But nothing is really done to enable them to return to their villages, to move on and the political solutions that need to be put in place for that to happen are really stalemated at the moment, at least from the perspective of the people in the camps and suffering in Darfur today.

AMY GOODMAN: And final time, Charles Snyder, again why the Bush administration is not pushing for an arms embargo against the Sudanese government, who itself — who the Bush administration says is engaged in genocide?

CHARLES SNYDER: We did in fact push for such an arms embargo. Frankly, the security council will not go along with us. What we got was the best we could, which is a limited embargo.

AMY GOODMAN: But a US embargo, not UN, but US.

CHARLES SNYDER: There is a US arms embargo. We do not sell weapons to the Sudanese government. We have not. And to the degree we detect anybody, as a third party, selling US weapons, we take action against them. But the truth is the weapons are not coming from the United States. And as the Medecins Sans Frontieres guy already pointed out, there’s enough weapons on the ground to fight this war another ten years without any new weapons. It’s not us. It’s other parties that are selling these weapons, and as long as at security council chooses not to see this as a viable action, it’s a unilateral action on our part that’s relatively ineffective.

AMY GOODMAN: On that note, we’ll have to wrap it up, I want to thank you very much, Charles Snyder, US State Department senior representative on Sudan, Nicholas Detorrente, Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders in New York City, and Ben Elberger, Stanford student lobbying for divestment from companies to doing business with the Sudan.

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