From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-ussudan11jun11,1,595982,full.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

U.S. relies on Sudan despite condemning it

The nation accused of aiding the killings in Darfur provides spies in
Iraq. In return, it gets access in Washington.

By Greg Miller and Josh Meyer, Times Staff Writers  /  June 11, 2007

WASHINGTON – Sudan has secretly worked with the CIA to spy on the
insurgency in Iraq, an example of how the U.S. has continued to
cooperate with the Sudanese regime even while condemning its suspected
role in the killing of tens of thousands of civilians in Darfur.

President Bush has denounced the killings in Sudan’s western region as
genocide and has imposed sanctions on the government in Khartoum. But
some critics say the administration has soft-pedaled the sanctions to
preserve its extensive intelligence collaboration with Sudan.

The relationship underscores the complex realities of the post-Sept.
11 world, in which the United States has relied heavily on
intelligence and military cooperation from countries, including Sudan
and Uzbekistan, that are considered pariah states for their records on
human rights.

“Intelligence cooperation takes place for a whole lot of reasons,”
said a U.S. intelligence official, who like others spoke on condition
of anonymity when discussing intelligence assessments. “It’s not
always between people who love each other deeply.”

Sudan has become increasingly valuable to the United States since the
Sept. 11 attacks because the Sunni Arab nation is a crossroads for
Islamic militants making their way to Iraq and Pakistan.

That steady flow of foreign fighters has provided cover for Sudan’s
Mukhabarat intelligence service to insert spies into Iraq, officials
said.

“If you’ve got jihadists traveling via Sudan to get into Iraq, there’s
a pattern there in and of itself that would not raise suspicion,” said
a former high-ranking CIA official familiar with Sudan’s cooperation
with the agency. “It creates an opportunity to send Sudanese into that
pipeline.”

As a result, Sudan’s spies have often been in better position than the
CIA to gather information on Al Qaeda’s presence in Iraq, as well as
the activities of other insurgent groups.

“There’s not much that blond-haired, blue-eyed case officers from the
United States can do in the entire Middle East, and there’s nothing
they can do in Iraq,” said a second former CIA official familiar with
Sudan’s cooperation. “Sudanese can go places we don’t go. They’re
Arabs. They can wander around.”

The officials declined to say whether the Mukhabarat had sent its
intelligence officers into the country, citing concern over the
protection of sources and methods. They said that Sudan had assembled
a network of informants in Iraq providing intelligence on the
insurgency. Some may have been recruited as they traveled through
Khartoum.

The U.S.-Sudan relationship goes beyond Iraq. Sudan has helped the
United States track the turmoil in Somalia, working to cultivate
contacts with the Islamic Courts Union and other militias in an effort
to locate Al Qaeda suspects hiding there. Sudan also has provided
extensive cooperation in counter-terrorism operations, acting on U.S.
requests to detain suspects as they pass through Khartoum.

Sudan gets a number of benefits in return. Its relationship with the
CIA has given it an important back channel for communications with the
U.S. government. Washington has also used this channel to lean on
Khartoum over the crisis in Darfur and for other issues.

And at a time when Sudan is being condemned in the international
community, its counter-terrorism work has won precious praise. The
U.S. State Department recently issued a report calling Sudan a “strong
partner in the war on terror.”

Some critics accuse the Bush administration of being soft on Sudan for
fear of jeopardizing the counter-terrorism cooperation. John
Prendergast, director of African affairs for the National Security
Council in the Clinton administration, called the latest sanctions
announced by Bush last month “window dressing,” designed to appear
tough while putting little real pressure on Sudan to stop the militias
it is widely believed to be supporting from killing members of tribal
settlements in Darfur.

“One of the main glass ceilings on real significant action in response
to the genocide in Darfur has been our growing relationship with
authorities in Khartoum on counter-terrorism,” said Prendergast, a
senior advisor to the International Crisis Group. “It is the single
biggest contributor to why the gap between rhetoric and action is so
large.”

In an interview, Sudan’s ambassador to the United States, John Ukec
Lueth Ukec, suggested that the sanctions could affect his country’s
willingness to cooperate on intelligence matters. The steps announced
by Bush include denying 31 businesses owned by the Sudanese government
access to the U.S. financial system.

The decision to impose financial penalties “was not a good idea,” Ukec
said. “It diminishes our cooperation. And it makes those who are on
the extreme side, who do not want cooperation with the United States,
stronger.”

But White House and U.S. intelligence officials downplayed the
prospect that the intelligence cooperation would suffer, saying that
it was in both countries’ interests.

“The No. 1 consideration in imposing stiffer sanctions is that the
Sudanese government hasn’t stopped the violence there and the people
continue to suffer,” said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the
National Security Council. “We certainly expect the Sudanese to
continue efforts against terrorism because it’s in their own
interests, not just ours.”

Sudan has its own interests in following the insurgency because
Sudanese extremists and foreign fighters who pass through the country
are likely to return and become a potentially destabilizing presence.

Sudan’s lax controls on travel have made it, according to one
official, a “way station” for Islamist militants not only from North
Africa, but also from Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states.

Some former U.S. intelligence officials said that Sudan’s help in Iraq
had been of limited value, in part because the country accounts for a
small fraction of the foreign fighters, mainly at lower levels of the
insurgency.

“There’s not going to be a Sudanese guy near the top of the Al Qaeda
in Iraq leadership,” said a former CIA official who operated in
Baghdad. “They might have some fighters there, but that’s just cannon
fodder. They don’t have the trust and the ability to work their way
up. The guys leading Al Qaeda in Iraq are Iraqis, Jordanians and
Saudis.”

But others say that Sudan’s contributions have been significant
because Sudanese frequently occupy support positions throughout Arab
society – including in the Iraq insurgency – giving them access to
movements and supply chains.

“Every group needs weapons. Every group needs a meeting place,” said
another former high-ranking CIA official who oversaw intelligence
gathering in Iraq. “Sudanese could get involved in the support chain
or smuggling channels from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.”

A State Department official said Sudan had “provided critical
information that has helped our counter-terrorism efforts around the
globe,” but noted that there was an inherent conflict in the
relationship.

“They have done things that have saved American lives,” the official
said. “But the bottom line is that they are bombing their people out
the wazoo [in Darfur]. Dealing with Sudan, it seems like they are
always playing both ends against the middle.”

The CIA declined to discuss any cooperation with Sudan.

“The agency does not, as a rule, comment on relations with foreign
intelligence organizations,” CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said.

Ukec, the Sudanese ambassador, said “the details of what we do in
counter-terrorism are not available for discussions.” But he noted
that the U.S. State Department “has openly said we are involved in
countering terrorism,” and that the assistance his country is
providing “is not only in Sudan.”

In the mid-1990s, the CIA’s relationship with Sudan was severed. At
the time, Sudan was providing safe harbor for Osama bin Laden and
other Al Qaeda leaders. But ties were reestablished shortly after the
Sept. 11 attacks, when the CIA reopened its station in Khartoum.

Initially, the collaboration focused on information Sudan could
provide about Al Qaeda’s activities before Bin Laden left for
Afghanistan in 1996, including Al Qaeda’s pursuit of chemical,
biological or nuclear weapons and its many business fronts and
associates there.

Since then, Sudan has moved beyond sharing historical information on
Al Qaeda into taking part in ongoing counter-terrorism operations,
focusing on areas where its assistance is likely to be most
appreciated.

“Iraq,” a U.S. intelligence official said, “is where the intelligence
is going to have the most impact on Americans.”

In 2005, the CIA sent an executive jet to Sudan to fly the country’s
intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Salah Abdallah Gosh, to Washington for
meetings with officials at agency headquarters.

Gosh has not returned to Washington since, but a former official said
that “there are liaison visits every day” between the CIA and the
Mukhabarat.

{greg [dot] miller [at] latimes [dot] com / josh [dot] meyer [at] latimes [dot] com}