By Paul Brandus
January 13, 2017 (WASHINGTON) - Pleased with the Sudanese government’s efforts in fighting terrorism, President Barack Obama - with just days left in his administration- is moving to loosen economic sanctions against it.
The president signed an executive order Friday easing - but not eliminating -sanctions, which would permit greater trade and investment between the two nations.
But the timing of Mr. Obama’s move pushes any final approval onto the incoming administration of Donald Trump, who takes office on January 20.
In announcing the move here Friday, the president, in a letter to Republican leaders in Congress, said "I have determined that the situation that gave rise to the actions taken in those orders related to the policies and actions of the government of Sudan has been altered by Sudan’s positive actions over the past six months.”
The lifting of sanctions would be delayed by 180 days, however. The delay is seen as a way of further encouraging the Sudanese government to continue its anti-terror fight—and to improve its record on human rights. The six month delay means that by July 12, U.S. government groups will confirm to the White House—which by then will be controlled by Trump—that Sudan has continued to be cooperative on both fronts.
The United States first imposed sanctions on Sudan in 1997, during the presidency of Bill Clinton. Those sanctions included a trade embargo and freezing of government’s assets, for what the U.S. called human rights violations and terrorism concerns. Additional sanctions were imposed in 2006, during the presidency of George W Bush, what the U.S. called complicity in violence that was occurring in the Darfur region of Sudan.
The move is not seen as unexpected, and follows a warming of relations between the two nations. But the U.S. will continue to label Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism, the White House emphasized.
Attention now shifts to the Trump administration. Neither the president-elect or any members of his staff have commented on their Sudanese views. One Trump official who asked not to be identified said that the issue of sanctions “is something that we are looking at,” adding that it is “too early to make any sort of determination about our future relationship.”
One U.S. official said the Obama administration has been pleased with Sudanese efforts to curb travel by members of the so called Islamic State (ISIS) through Sudan, and Khartoum’s crackdown on alleged shipments of Iranian weapons to anti-Israeli groups.
Friday’s White House announcement emphasized that sanctions being eased could easily be re-applied as needed in the future, if the Khartoum government’s actions deem such a reversal necessary.
One U.S. official compared Friday’s move to other American efforts to reach out to nations with him it has had bad—or nonexistent relations with, such as Iran, Cuba, and Myanmar.