Sudan: Trump’s Iran Hostage Moment
Right now, before he takes office, President-elect Trump can do more than Barack Obama accomplished in eight years, and send a message to radical Islamists around the world that “America is back.” Here’s how:
The Republic of Sudan has been dominated by a brutal, autocratic regime since 1989. The ruling National Congress Party (NCP), which was formally called the “National Islamic Front,” is led by President Omar al Bashir, the only sitting president under indictment by the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Unpunished Author of Anti-Christian Genocide
Bashir’s human rights track record is abysmal. Not only is he the main culprit in the 23-year genocidal war against South Sudan, which killed more than 2 million indigenous Christian and animists and displaced another 5 million from their homes. Bashir is also the architect of the infamous Darfur Genocide. More recently in 2011, Bashir has taken his brutal tactics to the contested Nuba mountain and Blue Nile regions where a total blockade, combined with an aerial terror campaign which targets civilians, is threatening 2 million more lives.
Bashir’s government is on the verge of bankruptcy, with a suffocating debt of more than $60 billion which it cannot repay. Sudan’s currency has collapsed, there are shortages everywhere, and recent “austerity measures” have led to thousands of Sudanese taking to the streets in protest. More than a half-dozen opposition political parties have called for Bashir to step aside and allow for multi-party elections.
America Can Stop Sudan’s Islamists without Firing a Shot
For Bashir to avoid a total collapse of his government, he desperately needs to “normalize” relations with the U.S. (and consequently with the international community). The U.S. has economically kept Bashir’s government at arm’s length.
In 1997, the Clinton Administration slapped Sudan with economic sanctions, which were later expanded under President George W. Bush. Following 9/11, the Bush administration played a key role in helping to facilitate the end of conflict in what is now South Sudan, and the Nuba mountains region in the north. The genocide in Darfur was largely neglected, but a young Senator from Illinois pledged to address it by ratcheting up sanctions, and putting a robust UN force on the ground to stop the killing.
That young senator was later elected president, and proceeded to do next to nothing.
Obama Abandoned Sudan’s Helpless Civilians
President Obama’s Sudan policy has been one of moral abdication and abandonment. Sudan expert Eric Reeves summed it up by saying that Obama “has offered Sudan nothing but hypocrisy and bad faith. His shame will far outlive his presidency.”
Due to America’s abdication of its critical role in pressuring Bashir to stop targeting and persecuting ethnic and religious minorities, Sudan has continued its cycle of endless internal wars, massive humanitarian crises, and destabilization of the whole region.
In the contested areas of the Nuba mountains and the Blue Nile, Bashir’s government has doubled down on its policy to Islamicize all of Sudan. Since 2011, it has blockaded Christian regions. Journalists are prohibited. The Nuba, which is home to Sudan’s largest Christian community, has especially been hit hard by ground attacks and aerial terror, which targets market places, schools, hospitals, and churches.
Sudan’s largest Christian community has especially been hit hard by ground attacks and aerial terror, which targets market places, schools, hospitals, and churches.
The brazen war crimes Bashir continues to commit have brought new charges by Amnesty International of the use of chemical weapons against civilians.
Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, sees almost daily routine abuses such as seizing newspaper runs, shutting down broadcasting networks, arbitrary arrests, tortures, detentions, mysterious disappearances and deaths.
Obama Played Footsie with Islamists
Yet the U.S. State Department continues to flirt with the NCP, softening sanctions, and publicly praising the regime for its cooperation in “sharing intelligence” to fight the war on terror. But there is very little evidence to show that Sudan has provided much more than useless “faux intelligence,” even as it continues to harbor and host many of the allies and assets of ISIS and Al Qaeda in Khartoum!
Sudan’s ruling elite is comprised of the same stripe of extreme Islamist radicals we are up against in Syria and Iraq.
Philosophically and practically, the NCP elite is comprised of the same stripe of extreme Islamist radicals we are up against in Syria and Iraq. Sudan’s recent decision to break with Iran and pursue closer engagement with Saudi Arabia was motivated primarily by finances, netting Bashir $5 billion in military aid and another $10 billion in direct investment.
Sudan has been a hot-house, incubating extremism since its independence in 1955. The only real difference between ISIS and Bashir’s NCP regime is that Sudan has a seat at the UN. Religious persecution and the aerial terror campaign against Darfur, plus the Nuba and Blue Nile regions, were among the stated reasons for President Bush’s decision to continue sanctions against Sudan.
Christians Rotting in Sudan’s Jails
Right now, four Christians are languishing in a Sudan prison under false charges of espionage, intelligence gathering, war against the state, and several other manufactured “crimes.” At least five of the charges carry the death penalty or life imprisonment. Two of the men are Nuba pastors. One is a Darfur convert. The last is a European missionary and aid worker.
Petr Jasek has been separated from his family for one year. He was arrested a full year ago, on December 9th, 2015, while on a trip to visit with Sudanese Christians to offer medical and other humanitarian assistance. The other prisoners were apparently detained and jailed for meeting and speaking freely with Mr. Jasek about the oppression and persecutions they had experienced at the hands of their own government. Jasek spent eight months in prison before he was even brought to court, in clear violation of Sudanese law.
Another reason Sudan is targeting Jasek is for his work as a humanitarian and past affiliation with two American charities which have been active in providing humanitarian assistance to the Nuba people: Voice of the Martyrs and Persecution Project Foundation.
American Volunteers are Making a Difference
U.S. organizations and citizens have played a major role in thwarting Bashir’s effort to (in his words) “take out the garbage” in the Nuba region. The main doctor at the primary referral hospital in the Nuba is celebrated American missionary Tom Catena. The primary embedded news source in the Nuba was founded by American missionary and former Samaritan’s Purse field director Ryan Boyette, who led the effort to rebuild more than 200 Nuba churches destroyed by Bashir’s forced Islamization and Arabization policies.
All of these organizations are collectively supported by millions of Americans. While the Obama Administration has been playing diplomatic footsie with Islamists in Sudan and around the world, millions of private Americans have been confronting extremism through compassion towards its victims.
Trump Can Face Down Extremists and be a Hero
President-elect Trump has a real opportunity to bring American policy towards Islamists in line with the actions and desires of the American people, and his campaign promises to take on the forces of radical Islam.
And this worries President Bashir. Consequently, he’s turned on the charm and tried to flatter President Trump:
[W]e can deal with double-faced people, but here we have a person with a clear line … I am convinced that it will be much easier to deal with Trump than with others because he is a straightforward person.
Bashir is right that President-elect Trump is a straightforward person. And America has endured eight years of morally confused, counter-productive, and indecisive weakness in dealing with radical Islam. We desperately need a leader who can tell the good guys from the villains.
Lets hope that under a bold new Trump Administration, America will take the lead again in standing against terrorism and suppression of religious freedom and basic human rights.
America must no longer deal with Islamist bullies as the moral equivalent of normal, democratic leaders. President-elect Trump should send a firm message to President Bashir: “Thanks for the compliments. You’re right: I will draw the line. And you are on the wrong side of it. America is an ally of all those who struggle for the same basic freedoms of worship, association and expression that every American enjoys. Our friendship is with the victims of oppression, and not the perpetrators of war crimes and genocide.”
Trump should not entertain talk of “normalized relations” while Sudan continues to be led by a step-child of the Muslim Brotherhood, a man who is one of the oldest allies of international terror — who wages terror against his own people, and colludes with those who practice it abroad.
A strong message to the Sudanese government even before Trump takes office could set many prisoners free, including Mr. Jasek, and put Islamists around the world on notice that America is back.
This is Mr. Trump’s “Iran Hostage Moment” and he should seize it.