New U.S. sanctions on Sudan: A small, late step in the right direction

President Bush's announcement that he is imposing new sanctions to increase pressure on Sudan to end the war in Darfur is a step in the right direction, but the sanctions need to be fortified by more sweeping and aggressive measures.

The sanctions against three individuals and 31 countries were imposed after months of debate within the administration and between the U.S. and the United Nations.

On the negative side, the sanctions are limited, late and unilateral, without support, so far, from European or other nations. On the face of it, the sanctions don't seem onerous enough to force the government of Sudan to meet the administration's five goals. The U.S. wants Sudan to:

- Stop bombing and other aerial attacks in Darfur.

- Accept deployment of a large peacekeeping force in Darfur that would triple the size of the 7,000 African Union peacekeeping force. While most of the new peacekeepers would be from the African Union, they would be supplemented by UN advisers and police from other countries.

- Support a peace process started by the UN and the African Union.

- Implement fully a March agreement to expand humanitarian access in Darfur.

- Disarm the Janjaweed, local troops that Khartoum has armed and directed to do much of the killing and forced relocation in Darfur.

Since February 2003, some 400,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced in Darfur by fighting between government-backed forces and rebel groups. President Bush has accused the government of Sudan of committing genocide in Darfur, yet he has been slow and, so far, ineffective in his efforts to stop the fighting.

On the positive side the sanctions are designed to hurt the pocketbooks of the government, two of its top officials and a rebel leader. They indicate a renewed American determination to marshal economic and diplomatic power to end the fighting. Yesterday, administration officials made it clear that they are prepared to augment the sanctions, if necessary.

In recent months the government of Sudan has blatantly disregarded U.S. warnings about the consequences of continued violence in Darfur. President Bush alluded to this yesterday, noting that he outlined the sanctions of April 18, but said he would delay to give Sudan a chance to reach an agreement with the UN to stop hostilities.

"One day after I spoke, the military bombed a meeting of rebel commanders designed to discuss a possible peace deal with the government," Mr. Bush said, also complaining that Sudan had continued to attack civilians in Darfur.

Yesterday's action will bar three individuals and 31 companies from interacting with the U.S. financial system, which could make it difficult for them to engage in any transaction denominated in dollars.

The individuals include two government officials -- Ahmad Muhammed Harun, the State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, and Awad Ibn Auf, the head of Sudan's military intelligence and security -- who acted as liaisons between the government and the Janjaweed militias, according to a statement from the Treasury Department, which administers the sanctions. The third man covered by the sanctions is Khalil Ibrahim, the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement, a rebel group that has been particularly resistant to peace efforts, the Treasury said.

The 31 companies covered by the new sanctions, include Azza Air Transport Co., charged with breaking an arms embargo, and 30 companies whose business help fund the military acts in Darfur, the U.S. said.

In addition to announcing the sanctions, the U.S. said it would seek a new UN Security Resolution seeking once more to stop offensive air operations in Darfur and impose an embargo on arms shipments to the large region in western Sudan.

Ken Bacon is the President of Refugees International.