Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Special Envoy Gration Makes Splash on Sudan

Major-General Scott Gration, USAFImage via Wikipedia

The United States has listed Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993. Countries determined by the Secretary of State to have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism are designated pursuant to three laws: section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act, section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act, and section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act. Taken together, the four main categories of sanctions resulting from designation under these authorities include restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.

In 1998, during Bill Clinton’s second term a US cruise missile strike dubbed Operation Infinite Reach destroyed the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum; it allegedly produced chemical weapons and had links to al-Qaeda. Sudan remains a third tier danger and hardship assignment in the Foreign Service.

Last week, the Special Envoy Scott Gration went before the SFRC to talk about Sudan. Video of PJ Crowley’s DPB the following day is here. PJ and the press chased each other around the room over what General Gration said the day before; that took almost half the 32-minute press briefing. Selected excerpts below:

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QUESTION: Yesterday, on the Hill, the special envoy for Sudan said that there was no evidence to support the designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism, said that sanctions were hurting his ability to do his job and they weren’t effective. And I’m wondering, since the building didn’t have a reaction to this yesterday, I’m wondering what the reaction is today.

MR. CROWLEY: There is a comprehensive policy review that is going on regarding Sudan. Obviously, there are a number of issues attached to that. Obviously, the situation in Darfur is critically important, as is implementation of the Comprehensive North-South Peace Agreement, the resolution of which will fundamentally affect the future of Sudan. We have a number of bilateral issues with Sudan – obviously, terrorism being a crucial one. We have received improved counterterrorism cooperation with Sudan in recent years. So that process is ongoing, and I would expect it to be completed in the coming weeks.

QUESTION: Okay. Thinking back on your answer, I’m not sure you answered my question.

MR. CROWLEY: You made a detailed rundown of --

QUESTION: Well, here’s the – let me rephrase it then. Does the Administration agree with General Gration’s assessment?

MR. CROWLEY: Assessment?

QUESTION: Of – that the sanctions – that Sudan is not – that there’s no evidence that Sudan is a state sponsor of terrorism, as it is designated; that the sanctions are hurting his ability – his --


QUESTION: No, no, no. Can we – I need to stay on this. I’m sorry. I still am looking for an answer to my – is there any daylight between General Gration’s comments and the Administration’s thinking?

MR. CROWLEY: General Gration is the special envoy for Sudan.

QUESTION: Is he speaking for the Administration, or is he speaking on his own?

MR. CROWLEY: General Gration is a member in good standing with the Administration.

QUESTION: And he, in those comments yesterday, reflected the Administration’s current thinking on the situation in Sudan?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, and my caveat, Matt, is that there is a – General Gration spoke about issues that are a subject of the policy review, a review that is ongoing. So --

QUESTION: But the Administration’s current thinking is at odds with what he said.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I would say that --

QUESTION: Is that correct?

{snip} {snip} {sni} {sn} {ssss}

MR. CROWLEY: -- it is safe to say on an issue as large and complex as Sudan, you may infer that different agencies, different individuals may agree broadly on many things, and may have differences of view on certain elements. In the Obama Administration, there is a very healthy interagency process. There are genuine debates that go on all the time within the Administration about very difficult and very challenging information.

The President has created an atmosphere that encourages debate. And in debate about complex issues, it is not unusual that different individuals and different agencies may come at an issue with different perspectives. That all is part of a valid and effective review process. Sudan is no different. I think you’ll have – you’ve reported similar issues when it comes to North Korea, Iran, other things.

There is a policy review going on. I’m sure within that policy review, certain elements of that are being debated, and it may well be that different individuals have different perspectives. But the policy review is ongoing. The President has not yet made final decisions on what we’re going to do with respect to Sudan. General Gration has been traveling extensively in the region, has had extensive consultations with the Government of Sudan and other governments that are focused on Sudan as well, and brings that perspective back to Washington, and that perspective informs what he says on the Hill and what he says to the President and what he says to the Secretary of State.

QUESTION: Okay. So in other words, what you’ve just said is that he is not speaking for the Administration. This is his own personal view.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, no, what I’m saying is General Gration is the special envoy for the Administration for Sudan, and he brings an important perspective to the ongoing debate about –

QUESTION: But he was talking about --

MR. CROWLEY: -- what we should do in the future with and about Sudan.

QUESTION: So his testimony then was his own perspective and not Administration policy?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll try it again, which is there is an ongoing review. General Gration is part of that review. I think what you heard on the Hill was his current perspective on the current situation.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. CROWLEY: Whether that may or may not end up being exactly what the President and Secretary of State decide in terms of our policy approach to Sudan.



QUESTION: It’s crystal clear now. (Laughter.)

* * * It's hard to imagine that the Special Envoy would be freelancing on this. Was this a trial ballon? After all, Congress would have a direct role in the removal of Sudan from the terrorism list, since the executive branch must notify Congress before actual removal. Congress also has the option to initiate legislation to block removal. If this was not a trial balloon, was he just genuinely blunt? "It's a political decision," Gration said of the terror designation; a designation ordered under his current boss' husband's watch in 1993. During the Secretary’s press event with the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister, Radio Sawa put the question to 67:

Madame Secretary, are you considering lifting Sudan – removing Sudan from the list of state that supports terrorism?

SECRETARY CLINTON: With respect to your question, Samir, we have made no decision to lift the listing on the terrorist list of Sudan. As you know, there is a very intensive review going on within the Administration concerning our policy towards Sudan, but no decisions have been made.

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