The United Nations Security Council meets today (Monday) to discuss the situation in Darfur. News sources say the meeting is aimed at convincing Khartoum to accept the deployment of the UN peacekeeping force in Darfur. Sudan has said it does not want the force -- which one high-rankng Sudanese official last week referred to as a potential "occupation."
Eric Reeves is a full time researcher and analyst on Sudan at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. He told reporter William Eagle that he’s not optimistic that today’s meeting will bring about change: “There’s no evidence that the security council is prepared to exert the necessary pressure on those members whose requirement is essential to move beyond current stalemate. China has given no evidence it will be anything but firm backer of Khartoum."
In a recent column in the Washington Post newspaper, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Dole suggested the United States should call on the European Union to impose financial sanctions against the Sudanese leadership. They also suggested NATO should establish and enforce a no fly-zone over Darfur.
Professor Reeves agrees that Europe could use financial means – such as impeding debt relief to Sudan – to influence Khartoum. However, he calls the idea of a no fly zone a “red herring” in current discussions over securing the peace in Darfur:
“We must recognize that the Antonov bombers are the same aircraft used for humanitarian purposes to ferry food, medicine, and human workers into Dafur," he said. “We’re talking about a very difficult and dangerous task discriminating between Antonovs carrying bombs and those carrying humanitarian supplies and workers. The last thing we would want (and what Khartoum would want above all else) would be to see us shoot down as part of a no-fly zone protocol the wrong kind of Antonov.”
He adds that, “Helicopter gun ships (potentially flown by Khartoum or its allies), which are the other primary source of aerial military assault, can fly so close to the ground that without exceptional AWAC coverage over the ground, they would fly undetected. This leaves aside the difficulty of basing the AWAC aircraft and the at least two squadrons of jet fighters required to deploy quickly to the sites of the attack. The major offensive underway now is in north Darur and the airbase in El Fashr, the capital, is only 100 km from most of the targets. The idea of detecting and interdicting even helicopter gun ships flying 100 km from these attacks strikes me as not entirely feasible and would require a commitment of a lot of surveillance technology…. which would be much better deployed in supporting the AU (force) – which is desperate and crumbling -- or in moving more expeditiously to deployment of a UN force whenever that becomes possible.”
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