Earlier this month, Secretary Clinton waded into the oil dispute between Sudan and now one year old South Sudan.
Readers will recall that while the oil is mainly in the south, the pipeline and port to get it to market are in the north. This economic dependence would ensure peace -- at least that's what some thought.
But earlier this year, in a dispute over pipeline transit fees, South Sudan shut down oil production in protest -- rattling oil prices and leaving the government coffers of both Sudans empty. Meanwhile, the fighting and human suffering has continued, rightly leaving tight U.S. sanctions in place on Sudan.
Enter the State Department, which pressed for a deal under Secretary Clinton's premise that "a percentage of something is better than a percentage of nothing." So another North-South deal was struck: the south will pay the north about 10 bucks a barrel in fees and another $3 billion to help plug "the financing gap" resulting from its succession.
But it gets really intriguing when you consider the last leg of the deal: the U.S. will help facilitate the transfer of another $3 billion to Khartoum. According to the Financial Times, the U.S. will encourage China, Kuwait, Qatar and maybe others to foot the bill, and "would waive sanctions affecting dollar transfers." Khartoum no doubt hopes that U.S. complicity would help loosen the sanctions noose.
Sudan advocates are pretty upset by this scheme. They don't want a dime transferred to Khartoum until attacks on civilians in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur are stopped; humanitarian access is granted; and border lines are agreed to.
Remember, the regime in Khartoum is still wanted for war crimes and genocide. I wrote last year that Sudan president Bashir "has ruled for two decades because he's ruthless, not a peacemaker." Indeed, just a few months ago he was talking about the "insects" in the south and rallying his troops. His bombers are still flying.
This deal doesn't have the feeling of facilitating peace -- but subsidizing war - with billions.