Like any progress toward ending the genocide in Darfur, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1769, which authorizes a joint United Nations-African Union force for western Sudan, is welcome news. It's important that the Security Council was able to pass a unanimous resolution, even a diluted one.
U.S. economic sanctions were essential to really putting the pressure on Sudan. That China, which has previously provided diplomatic cover to Khartoum, voted in favor of this resolution could be seen as a new willingness in Beijing to bend to international pressure. Beijing may be concerned about the possibility of protests at the 2008 Olympics and may have come to the realization that its multibillion-dollar investments in Sudan are threatened by ongoing violence. Most likely, however, is that China signed on because the toughest parts of the resolution, such as sanctions for non-compliance, were left out.
The resolution has other shortcomings as well. Most distressing is that U.N. peacekeepers will not be authorized to disarm the murderous janjaweed militia.
Despite its drawbacks, if the AU/U.N. "hybrid" force could be put on the ground in Darfur promptly — with a command-and-control structure on the ground by the end of October, 5,000 new personnel by the end of the year and the rest of the force soon to follow — the Security Council's action will improve humanitarian conditions. Peacekeepers would be authorized to protect both themselves and civilians. Fewer than 30,000 troops can't be expected to secure an undeveloped area roughly the size of France, however, and a political solution between rebel fighters and the Sudanese government will be needed. U.S. special envoy to Sudan Andrew Natsios spoke optimistically last week about the chances for such a settlement, but continued fighting is a reminder of the difficulties that process faces.
Mobilizing the full force of approximately 26,000 peacekeepers envisioned by the Security Council will prove extremely difficult, however, if Sudan continues to demand that the force be comprised entirely of African soldiers. If Khartoum does not accept a force that includes non-African peacekeepers, the United States should make good on its promise to pursue further sanctions.
If Sudanese President Omar Bashir will be able to stall deployment in other ways, like arguing over logistics, the U.N. will have difficulty redressing Khartoum's obstructionism. Again, should the Sudanese regime attempt to stall, another round of sanctions will be necessary.