The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum hosted an event last night with Susan Rice, which was billed as a conversation about genocide prevention and timed to the one year anniversary of a high-level report on the topic. The Q and A was not earth-shattering, but her fluid articulation of the challenges facing the United Nations and the United States in confronting genocide and mass atrocity did re-enforced every positive bias I have toward my UN Ambassador.
I do think that those who follow the Darfur situation closely will be intrigued by the following exchange in which Michael Abramowitz, Rice’s interlocutor for the evening and the the director of the museum’s Committee on Conscience, presses Rice to elaborate on the set of incentives and pressures the Obama administration is willing to use to secure the Sudanese government’s cooperation on Darfur and South Sudan. You’ll remember that last week, U.S. Sudan Envoy Scott Gration denied that such a list even existed. Well, not only does Rice say that the list exists, but that the President himself has signed-off on benchmarks by which all parties to the conflict will be held.
MICHAEL ABRAMOWITZ: Do you think there have been any consequences for the perpetrators in Darfur?
SUSAN RICE: Not enough. I mean, there’s an ICC arrest warrant for the president of Sudan, Bashir, whom we and others believe to have been complicit in crimes against humanity — we say genocide — and yet he continues to govern. He travels relatively freely. And the only indicted war criminal to submit to justice in the context of Darfur has been one of the rebel leaders, who voluntarily showed up in The Hague. So I think there’s no question that there has not been accountability for them.
Now, will there be consequences? The United States has imposed in the past sanctions on Sudan, not only for what has transpired in Darfur, for its support for terrorism, for its atrocities and human rights abuses in — in the context, the longstanding context of the North-South conflict.
And the president’s new policy for Sudan highlights, first of all, the importance he attaches to effective action. It balances three very important and simultaneous priorities: one, ending mass atrocities, killings, violence, genocide in Darfur; two, effectively implementing the North-South peace agreement, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, so that the final stage of a just and fair referendum can occur and the people of Southern Sudan can determine their own future; and preventing Sudan from again serving as a safe haven for international terrorists, like Al Qaida.
Those are three important core goals that are essential to our interests to regional peace and security. And we have clearly defined in each of those three areas specific benchmarks against which the behavior of the parties will be measured. We will review progress in achieving those benchmarks at a high level, interagency, on a quarterly basis. And we will assess, as the president set…
MICHAEL ABRAMOWITZ: So there are benchmarks in…
SUSAN RICE: Absolutely, very specific benchmarks.
MICHAEL ABRAMOWITZ: … that have been agreed to by the senior officials in the government?
SUSAN RICE: By the highest officials, including the president of the United States, and by us at the principals level. And those benchmarks relate to very specific in each of those three areas. We have…
MICHAEL ABRAMOWITZ: Have you communicated those benchmarks to the Sudanese government?
SUSAN RICE: We have communicated our expectations to all the parties involved, including the government of Sudan. But if I might just continue for a second…
MICHAEL ABRAMOWITZ: Please. I’m sorry.
SUSAN RICE: … then we have also, very specifically, outlined both the incentives we are prepared to deploy for positive behavior and positive progress, measurable, tangible, not rhetorical, but practical progress for steps along those benchmarks, as well as the pressures, sanctions, and punitive measures that we would be prepared to take for — and this is important — for the status quo persisting, because the status quo is inherently unacceptable, and/or for backsliding by the parties with respect to those benchmarks.
And we’ll have this quarterly review, and we will take decisions in light of the facts on the ground, as to how to proceed. And, in fact, if you look at the president’s speech in Oslo today, he — he spoke about this, not only in the context that you highlighted, of human rights abuses or cases of Darfur, Burma, Zimbabwe, but he explained that this approach of engagement and pressure for which there’s no magic formula, no cookie-cutter model, is, in fact, the basis of our approach in many complex situations, from Iran to Zimbabwe or Burma.