sudan sanctionsDiplomatic relations between United States and the Sudan were as normal as they could be following Sudan’s independence in 1956. The only time they ties were severed was in 1967 – the result of the war between Egypt and Israel. Relations were once again restored in 1972, but have steadily deteriorated since June 1989.

So it’s accurate to say that U.S.-Sudan relations in the last twenty years have been through turbulent times, starting with a premature “sigh of relief” and continuing on a roller coaster trajectory. In 1993, Sudan was included in the list compiled by the U.S. of states sponsoring terrorism. In 1996,   U.S. embassy operations in Khartoum were suspended.

A year later,  the U.S. imposed comprehensive economic, trade, and financial sanctions against Sudan. And in August 1998, in the wake of the East Africa embassy bombings, the U.S. launched cruise missile strikes against Khartoum.

Relations were partially restored in 2002. Following 9/11, the administration in Washington followed what they called a “behavior changing” mode of diplomacy, primarily to end the war in South Sudan.

In 2001, the Secretary of State Colin Powell said about the war in Sudan: “There is perhaps no greater tragedy on the face of the earth today.” After the crisis in Darfur, President Bush imposed new economic sanctions on Sudan in May 2007.

But how did we get to this point?

In reaction to the military coup of June 30, 1989 in Sudan, Herman Cohen, who served as the U. S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs from 1989 to 1993, wrote in his book, Intervening in Africa: Superpower Peacemaking in a Troubled Continent, that “An audible sigh of relief rippled through the Africanist community in the U.S. government, welcoming the departure of  (Prime Minister) Sadiq’s hopelessly inept regime.”

The author’s statement revealed an interesting take on democracy by the U.S. administration, taking their cue from their trusted allies north of the border. The Egyptian head of intelligence, General Amin Namr, assured the Americans that the political change in Sudan “would be good for Sudan, for Egypt, and for Western interests”, and they believed him.

Less than six weeks later, following the dramatic political change in Sudan, Herman Cohen arrived in Khartoum and met with Omar al-Bashir, on August 6, 1989. He reflected on that meeting and wrote: “My meeting with Bashir was friendly. As he sat manipulating his Muslim prayer beads, he told me (in Arabic through an interpreter) that the RCC’s [The Revolutionary Command Council] highest priority was to end the war in the south.”

Read the full opinion piece at

AfricaEgyptIsraelKhartoumPresident bushSudanUnited states

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