All eyes on Sudan

THE new round of US sanctions against Sudan marks a rare foreign policy for Washington while the need to address Darfur's lingering crisis is failing to attract proper attention from the international community.

What would have happened, had Washington directed its regime-change mantra in different, more pressing directions like Khartoum, will never be known. But in first waiting till the new UN Secretary General was comfortable in his seat and then going ahead with sanctions, the US is raising a sterner voice than ever.

The first order of business must deal with finding ways of halting the genocide in Darfur. Few expected the limp African Union force of a few thousands to deal with a crisis involving approximately 200,000 killings, 2.5 odd million displacements and innumerable incidents of torture, rape and other crimes. That is why the Security Council-endorsed proposal of a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force merits attention. But that, in turn, opens the gates to Chinese involvement, with its massive dependence on Sudan's oil, its investments there and its veto power at the UN that keeps the Al Bashir dispensation's worst fears comfortably at bay. Already, Beijing's concerns about the US sanctions signal great difficulty ahead for the desired UN consensus. The Chinese may be right about the new sanctions further complicating matters, but it cannot be denied that Sudan's corrupt and notorious companies would find trading difficult when deprived of the greenback. And since the restricted money supply will put bottlenecks in arms procurement, a well-timed deployment of the proposed AU-UN force could come in handy for exploiting the momentary instability in the regime's excesses.

Therefore, the time is ripe for the international community to move pieces on the Sudan chessboard for the final checkmate combination. For that, America has rightly forwarded the first piece. It is now for other players to influence events (read pressure China) to make the combination a success. China is a rising economic power and geo-political concerns have put yet another test of maturity in international politics in its way. It is sincerely hoped that the Sudan urgency will prompt pragmatism to prevail, and the needless violence will be brought to an end soon.

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