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Sudan and the Security Council: Accountability or Appeasement?

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With its latest invasion-by-proxy in Chad, the Sudanese government is taking its defiance of the United Nations Security Council to a new level. Khartoum has sponsored and supported an open and transparent effort to overthrow a neighboring government. A month ago, the regime burned the strategic town of Abyei to the ground, leaving the North-South peace deal (CPA) at extreme risk. This comes against the backdrop of a government offensive in Darfur and ongoing support to the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), whose actions threaten the children of four countries.

Today I briefed the Security Council alongside a growing constituency of human rights activists who spoke truth to power: in Sudan, the credibility of the Security Council is on the line. Although the Council has passed 9 resolutions and issued 19 presidential statements on Sudan since the start of the Darfur crisis in 2003, the effects of these many statements have been decidedly perverse:

• Facilitate the historic CPA? Khartoum adeptly plays one conflict against the other: first waging a genocidal counterinsurgency in Darfur while negotiating with southern rebels, and then impeding implementation of the North-South deal when the world becomes preoccupied with saving Darfur.

• Create a peacekeeping force to protect civilians? Khartoum continues to systematically obstruct full deployment with total impunity. More than a year later, only one-third of its troops are deployed, critical gaps exist in equipment and logistical support, and the force has been repeatedly attacked.

• Impose an arms embargo on Darfur and threaten targeted sanctions against violators? Sudan's allies on the Security Council ensure that only four people are sanctioned -- those individuals least likely to have foreign assets or indulge in extensive foreign travel.

• Refer the situation to the International Criminal Court, or ICC, which indicts government official Ahmed Haroun? Khartoum promotes him to Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, where he presides over the activities of humanitarian groups attempting to alleviate the very crisis he has created.

The Security Council's track record of saying one thing and allowing Khartoum to do just the opposite strongly suggests that when it comes to Sudan, appeasement is the policy of choice. The United States and its allies on the council must shift to policy that demands accountability. Yesterday's unanimous statement of support for the ICC investigation is a step in the right direction, but needs to be followed up with concrete actions to promote peace, protect civilians, and impose the right mix of pressures on Khartoum.

Peace in Sudan can still be one of the few bright spots on President Bush's foreign policy legacy, but only if the U.S. uses all its weight to ensure that Security Council resolutions are more than just rhetoric.