In Search of Peace

This week begins a crucial chapter in furthering a necessary response to the genocide in Darfur. The U.S. House and Senate will hold four hearings on Wednesday and Thursday of this week -- undoubtedly, the most consequential in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, where U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan General Scott Gration will testify on a comprehensive strategy for Sudan. We are hopeful that General Gration will demonstrate that the Obama administration is serious about completing its long running policy review and soon announce its strategy for promoting peace.

In thinking about what that strategy should look like, it's useful to recall what led to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended decades of conflict between Khartoum and south Sudan in 2005: a sustained investment in diplomacy, led in part by the United States, supported by relevant regional and international powers, and backed by significant incentives and pressures. The United States has another opportunity to provide strategic leadership to help create a space for the Sudanese themselves to resolve the country's interlocking crises.

To be effective, there are four key components for U.S. Sudan policy, explained at greater length in the Blueprint for Peace that we published with our partners at the Enough Project and Genocide Intervention Network:

Comprehensive Strategy

The administration's strategy for peace in Sudan must work for an inclusive Darfur peace process that includes an opportunity for civil society voices to be heard. It must revitalize implementation of the CPA and the dangerously neglected Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement. And it must end Sudan's proxy war with Chad. A strategy that fails to address all of these issues is unlikely to succeed in contributing to a sustainable peace for all Sudan. But the strategy also has to recognize that these issues are interconnected - and are rooted in the vast disparity in power and wealth between the center and the periphery.

Multilateral Strategy

The United States cannot succeed alone. It's vital that the administration work closely with other governments in dealing with Sudan; a reliance on bilateral diplomacy will provide Khartoum the opportunity to play one party off the other, as it has historically done with great success. Among the key actors are China, Egypt, the United Kingdom, and France as well as the African Union and the Arab League. The United States can play a strategic leadership role in building a multilateral coalition of countries with the needed leverage.

Balance of Incentives and Consequences

If the benefits and consequences for warring parties in Sudan are meaningful, the chance for peace increases dramatically. Without real sticks and carrots, the parties in Sudan will remain focused on military confrontation. The United States should work multilaterally to change the incentive structure in Sudan from war to peace. The basic structure should be to offer a choice:

Behind Door One/Carrots: If Sudan permits unrestricted humanitarian access, secures peace in Darfur, fully implements the Comprehensive Peace Agreement for South Sudan, ensures free and fair elections in Sudan, and removes the indicted President, a clear process toward normalization of relations with the U.S. will be mapped out.

Behind Door Two/Sticks: If President Bashir and his party fail to meet humanitarian commitments and continue to undermine efforts at peace, they will face diplomatic isolation, targeted multilateral economic sanctions and an effective multilateral arms embargo.

Presidential Leadership

Finally, even if a comprehensive peace strategy contains the first three components, the implementation of the plan depends on personal leadership from President Obama. He must make this a priority for his administration and lend his personal engagement in building the multilateral coalition needed to achieve peace. As a candidate, President Obama promised to work with unstinting resolve to bring peace to Sudan, and a large constituency is calling on him to fulfill that promise. More than 110,000 Americans signed a petition asking him to roll out a strategy along the lines described above, and it's time for him to seize the opportunity.