226. Telegram 2100 From the Embassy in Sudan to the Department of State1 2


  • Further US Policy Toward the Sudan


  • State 169610

1. Summary: Eleven weeks have passed since the Sudanese released the Palestinian terrorists and Ambassador Brewer was recalled in consequence. With the Ambassador now completing home leave, Dept will presumably be reviewing decisions described in reftel, including question of Ambassador’s return to post. This message attempts to assess the effectiveness of our policy to date and advances suggestions for possible future steps. In brief, Ambassador’s return to Khartoum should be preceded by, and conditioned upon the results of, a meeting between Charge and a senior Sudanese official. Alternatively, Ambassador could return for exploratory talks himself. In either case, we should now openly discuss our problems. US must decide whether its interests are served by maintaining its current posture. End summary.

2. If the policies as laid out in State 169610 were fully appropriate to the circumstances, the manner in which we communicated them to (or in fact concealed them from) the Sudanese makes it difficult to weigh their impact. We have certainly kept them guessing. Several diplomats [Page 2] have probed about Ambassador Brewer’s return and about the future of US assistance here. Some of them undoubtedly acting on behalf of the Sudanese. In response to questions, Charge has said that the Ambassador’s future is still subject to review and that assistance is compatible with neither the decision to release the convicted murderers of US diplomats nor the manner in which it was made.

3. Our only talks with Sudanese officials on US-Sudanese relations were reported in Khartoum 1795 and 1926. If we expected expressions of overwhelming remorse or apology, none were forthcoming. Instead, officials explained their position in the following terms: the decision to release the terrorists was painful and in no way diminished Sudanese horror and sorrow over the murders or their respect and admiration for the victims; political imperatives inseparable from participation in the Arab world compelled Nimeiri to take the decision he did; and imprisonment of the terrorists would surely have led to a further loss of lives through retaliation. These officials and diplomats friendly to the Arab cause pled for understanding on the part of the US and noted that the Sudan was not alone in having been pressured into releasing terrorists. Another common theme has been the claim that the Khartoum terrorists did not go totally unpunished, having been detained for sixteen months pending a trial in which they were found guilty and severe penalties were imposed. This has been pictured as Sterner treatment than that meted out by other governments with captured terrorists on their hands. Finally, as dept aware, Sudanese distinguish between the judicial process, which they say was carried to its conclusion, and the executive action taken by Nimeiri.

4. We have of course had no contact with Foreign Minister Khalid since Ambassador Brewer’s meeting with him prior to the latter’s recall. If we are to credit the story given Charge by the Iranian Ambassador (Khartoum 1865), Khalid is not inclined to convey any particular regret over the release of the terrorists. [Page 3] according to a more recent but unsubstantiated report, Khalid was anoyed upon learning that ExIm would not further finance imports in which Sudanese are vitally interested (Boeing 7378 and GE locomotives). Khalid allegedly were toying with the idea of asking the Saudis to convey Sudanese displeasure to US officials. He in fact did visit Jidda on August 27–28, and Nimeiri received the new Saudi Ambassador on August 27, both events occurring shortly before the Saudi Foreign Ministers went to Washington, but we have no information here to indicate that the Saudis agreed to act as a conduit.

5. The only hard fact to be gleaned from the foregoing is that Khalid did get the message about the ExIm cutoff. This would explain the end of earlier optimistic, or trial balloon, press reports concerning US business activities in the Sudan and ExIm financing (Khartoum 1819 and 1826). As of August 26, however, two local Ambassadors had to charge that the Sudanese were wondering whether President Ford would reply to Nimeiri’s letter of congratulations (Khartoum 1853) and, if not, why. (Nimeiri’s letter received wide press coverage here.) Finally, as Dept. will recall, on August 1 the Foreign Ministry without blinking requested agreement to the appointment of a new Ambassador to Washington (Khartoum 1796).

6. The nearest thing we have in the way of Sudanese recognition that something more is required of them comes from a talk we had on Sept. 5 with the director of Church World Service Africa (Van Hoogstraten), who said he has informally explored with the Minister of Information and Vice President Alier how US-Sudanese relations might be put on a better footing. Reportedly, the Sudanese officials agreed that the next move was up to them but were at a loss as to what to do, although there surfaced the idea, not further pursued, that Alier could go to Washington for talks with US officials.

7. In the absence of unforeseen follow-up to this vague proposal, all of the above suggests that we can expect little more in the way of apology, explanation or expressions of [Page 4] contrition on a purely voluntary basis. Sudanese officials believe that the release of the terrorists was politically necessary and provided needed insurance against Palestinian reprisals. With that decision made, they surely calculated that informing Xi in advance of the release would have subjected them to the strongest counter-pressures. They may have also made a judgment that US-Sudanese relations would suffer less in the aftermath of release than from drastic threats from a forewarned US government. In any event, we can assume they decided that they could not get along without the Arabs; US friendship and cooperation were comparatively, but only comparatively, expendable.

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8. Our policy in the future should perhaps be fashioned in answer to a different question: Do we want the Sudan to get along without us? Admittedly, the Sudan is in a way a half-breed poor boy of the Arab world, and it therefore will never have a loud voice in larger regional events of interest to the US. In that context, and in the absence of unexpected domestic upheaval or radical change wrought from without, the government will continue to (a) follow the moderate lead of Egypt rather than the revolutionary siren song of Libya, (b) stay on the good side of its oil-rich Muslim benefactors to the northeast, and (c) oppose communist influence at home and fear it elsewhere in the neighborhood. On the last point, they are undoubtedly wary of recent Soviet inroads in Somalia and reported Soviet and Chinese competition for the right to supply arms to Ethiopia, where internal events are themselves worrisome. It is our assumption that the US wants the Sudanese to keep thinking along these foreign policy lines.

9. Before posing some US policy options, we would point out that in one area the Sudanese have recently been of great assistance to us, and this assistance has survived the partial breach in bilateral relations brought on by the release of the terrorists. Without the intermediary and sometimes more direct role played by Sudanese officials, the impending release of the Tenneco and UN hostages held by the Eritrean Liberation Front in Ethiopia would be [Page 6] highly doubtful. Sudanese security services surfaced a major longstanding ELF source of information on matters of great importance to them in the interest of helping an American company and the Embassy negotiate the release. The source has been compromised, but the assistance continues. It is worth noting that first Vice President al-Baghir personally authorized Sudanese cooperation on this case and that Chief of Public Security Abdel Wahab keeps him and Nimeiri informed of progress on a regular basis. We will want officially (and privately) to express our gratitude at an appropriate level after the release takes place.

10. There are four possible policy options, listed below with probable Sudanese reactions.

A. Not satisfied with the Sudanese response, i.e., their failure to come forward with something better in the way of an explanation for their actions, we take additional steps to express our displeasure, e.g. announcement that the Ambassador will not return. The Sudanese probably feel the need to retaliate in kind and withdraw their request for agreement. Additional steps could be taken as well.

B. For the same reason, we maintain the status quo with no announcement and let our displeasure continue to sink in slowly. The Sudanese, who are aware that the Ambassador has been on home leave among other things and who expect him back, begin to realize how seriously we view matters but decide to wait us out for a few months.

C. The Ambassador returns to post empty-handed and with no publicity and informs the Sudanese of our position, i.e, we maintain our hold on aid and cooperation. The Sudanese first foresee a return to normalcy, then correct themselves and again wait it out.

D. The Ambassador returns, holds a round of talks with senior officials, and makes his recommendations to Washington. The Sudanese wait it out.

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11. Based on the situation and possibilities as seen from here (para 3–9 above), we believe that option D best serves overall US interests. Its drawback is that, faling a satisfactory response from Sudanese leaders to the Ambassador’s approaches, we would be left with the choice of withdrawing him again, with the probable counsequences of option A., or finding ourselves in the position pictured in option C., which we believe does not improve as option B.

12. As an alternative, in our view preferable, to the Ambassador’s return as in option D., and to avoid the pitfalls of that choice, the Charge could on instructions request an appointment with a senior official with the purpose of fully explaining our policy as stated in State 169610 and exploring Sudanese willingness to take appropriate measures prerequisite to the resumption of normal relations, including the Ambassador’s return. The best choices for such an approach would be Foreign Minister Khalid or first Vice-President al-Baghir. The latter is perhaps a better choice since it is he who is to be thanked for Sudanese assistance on the Tenneco case, if the Dept agrees such action on our part both is appropriate and should be taken in conjunction with a broader demarche.

13. Consideration of resumption of aid or exchange programs would of course have to follow a satisfactory resolution of the current impasse, and the following comments are purely preliminary. There are areas of cooperation where our interests are served as much as or more than the Sudanese interest, and it is here that we might first review our current stance: educational, cultural and informational exchanges, which expose the Sudanese to American values and views; participant training; for the same reason; trade and investment assistance that supports ventures that are of potential commercial benefit to American firms or that are advantageous from a BOP and balance of trade point of view; and training for carefully selected individuals in US security and military courses or schools. While the assignment of a defense attache would substantially increase our ability to keep tabs on the workings and policies of a military regime, it might be too attractive to the sudanese (Nimeiri in particular) to consider at an early stage. We strongly urge, however, that the new junior officer slot provisionally allotted to the Embassy be retained: it will go unnoticed locally but enhance our substantive capability considerably.

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14. This message is written without the benefit of recent hard information on three potentially important and relevant matters: the current location and condition of the Khartoum terrorists (see Khartoum 1974); the status of discussions with the Egyptians (if any) on that subject; and the current mood of Congress and the American public with respect to the Sudan’s release of the terrorists.

15. Country team concurs.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Africa, Box 6, Sudan, State Department Telegrams. Confidential; Priority; Exdis.
  2. Chargé Berlind assessed the effectiveness of U.S. policy toward Sudan since the release of the BSO terrorists and recommended that the return of Ambassador Brewer depend upon the results of a meeting between the Chargé and a senior Sudanese official.