Over at Tapped, Josh Linden asks whether the American strategy of “weaponizing the IMF” through blocking a loan to Sri Lanka is enough to stop the ongoing crisis there.
The way I see it, the immediate concern should be two fold. 1) stop the government shelling of the densely populated warzone. 2) Let international humanitarian organizations into concentration camps that are holding many tens of thousands of Tamils who have managed to flee the conflict zone. (As it stands now, the military is running the camps and preventing the media and groups like the International Committee for the Red Cross from accessing the facilities. If you have any doubt about the deplorable state of these camps, see this Channel 4 report.)
The question is: how can these twin goals be achieved?
Military intervention is obviously out of the question. Security Council unity is also difficult to acheive on this issue because Russia and China are blocking efforts to even mention the crisis in formal council meetings. Other options need to be explored.
Advocacy groups like Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group and The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect seem to advocate going after the purse strings. Blocking the IMF loan was the first salvo of this diplomatic response. The next could be getting Japan–Sri Lanka’s largest creditor–to use its influence to try and reign in the government.
The point of this strategy is to present the Sri Lankan government with a clear choice. And if Columbo continues to treat IDPs as criminals and use hospitals for target practice then it should expect to be 1) without a stable source of credit 2) treated as a pariah on the international stage. These are the stakes.
One thing I would like to see is President Obama say something publicly about the situation in Sri Lanka. As I wrote in my TNR piece, American messaging on this has thus far been strong. Ambassador Rice and Secretary Clinton have been hitting the right notes. It’s time for their boss to join them.