The U.S. has proposed removing Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terror if a referendum for Southern Sudanese independence is conducted transparently and on time. Yet, with oil and territory on the line, Sudan has so far not taken the bait.
Sudan still would face comprehensive sanctions in response to government participation in the massacres in Darfur even if the U.S. removes it from the terror list.
The January 2011 referendum may detach the primarily Christian and animist South from the Islamic north of the country, in compliance with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The CPA ended a war that lasted over 20 years and claimed at least 2 million lives. The American proposal follows years of monitoring Sudanese governmental compliance with international agreements to root out domestic and foreign terrorists, to stop government sponsorship of foreign terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda, and to strengthen laws against terrorists.
The offer, proposed by Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., is part of an attempt to provide incentives for successful resolution of conflicts about Southern independence. A vote endorsing independence is highly likely, but the delineation of the borders between Sudan and the new country remains elusive. In particular, the oil-rich region of Abyei, water rights, and defining citizenship stand in the way of a smooth transition to independence.
Sudan was originally placed on the list of terror sponsoring nations in 1993, when al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was invited to take up residence by Sudanese leaders. However, by 2005, US government officials suggested that there had not been a sponsored al-Qaeda presence since 2000 although concerns remained over the number of Sudanese fighters joining the Iraqi insurgency.
The government's position remained consistent through the latest report in August 2010, with no none governmental contacts with al-Qaeda and most other terrorist organizations. However, Sudan does not consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization and has permitted fundraising by the group. There is also a growing influence of Sudanese who participated in the Iraqi insurgency and the presence of Sudanese fighters in Somalia.