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The Mess in Sudan and Zimbabwe

With the world suspicious of American motives in world crises, U.S. policy toward Sudan and Zimbabwe is raising hackles.
 
 
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There's no defense for the ugliness in Sudan and Zimbabwe. But US policy in connection with those two problematic nations is running into a buzzsaw. In both cases, the United States is acting clumsily, and it is facing stiff opposition from Russia, China, and many African nations.

Two obvious conclusions: the Bush Administration's muddled pursuit of democracy-by-force has made the entire world suspicious of America's motives in world crises, especially when they're tied to possible armed intervention. And confronting nations' real-world strategic interests, such as China's interest in Sudan, under the guise of humanitarian concerns won't fly, after Iraq.

First, there's the indictment of Sudan's President Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Hague-based body that was rejected by the Bush Administration but is now embraced by Washington over Sudan. The indictment, not a surprise, was widely feared by world diplomats, who concluded that the consequences of indicting the Sudanese president were unpredictable and probably both dangerous and counterproductive.

It's the first indictment of a sitting head of state since the ICC was founded in 2002. But Bashir will resist the charges, and no one is going to charge into Sudan to arrest him. Meanwhile, UN diplomats and peacekeepers worry that Sudan will react forcefully, making the situation in Darfur in southwestern Sudan worse. The African Union issued a statement over the weekend warning against "the misuse of indictments against African leaders" -- perhaps thinking, too, of Zimbabwe. Both Russia and China (which has close economic ties to Sudan and its oil) were against the indictments, too.

Australia is already reconsidering its planned deployment of peacekeepers to Sudan, fearing greater violence. The Arab League is having an emergency meeting over the crisis.

Then, Zimbabwe. Over the weekend, Russia and China cast a double veto against proposed economic sanctions against Robert Mugabe's government. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilizad, the one-man wrecking ball and neocon strategist who represents the United States at the UN, blasted Russia for its veto. "The U-turn in the Russian position is particularly surprising and disturbing," said Zal-Khal. "They decided to make a point on this issue, to say nyet. Something happened in Moscow." Zal-Khal also accused South Africa's President Mbeki of trying to start fake negotiations to bring about a coalition government in Zimbabwe. Fake or not, the talks are stalemated, but continuing.

Russia has flatly denied making any "U-turn." And Russia's top diplomats are blistering Khalilzad. Not a good omen.

Robert Dreyfuss is the author of " Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam " (Henry Holt/Metropolitan Books).