Why Khartoum’s Permission is Required

Writing in The New Republic, Tim Fenholz asks whether Security Council Resolution 1706 is enough to stop the genocide in Darfur. The short answer is “no,” but not because the resolution is feckless — it is actually quite ambitious and calls for a robust peacekeeping force for Darfur. Rather, the U.S.- U.K. sponsored resolution is failing Darfur because it is currently in a holding pattern while the Security Council awaits Khartoum’s consent.

Given Khartoum’s intransigence, Fenholz concludes, “Only a Western-led intervention force–whether under the auspices of NATO, the United Nations, or some coalition of willing countries–can put a stop to the genocide.” That may be true, but a Western-led intervention is not coming anytime soon. Even in the midst of a bloody new offensive in Darfur, there is little to suggest that the Western powers of which Fernholz speaks have the will to intervene outside United Nations auspices. This leaves the United Nations route–which requires Khartoum’s consent to a peacekeeping force–as the last reasonable chance for Darfur. Morally, securing Khartoum’s consent should not be a factor upon which the international community decides to intervene in Darfur. Neither is Khartoum’s consent a legal requirement before peacekeepers can deploy to the region.

Rather, Khartoum’s acquiescence to a peacekeeping force in Darfur is mandatory for basic logistic reasons. The 17,000 troops called for in the resolution would somehow need to get to landlocked Darfur; the United Nations cannot parachute them to Darfur guns-a-blazing. Peacekeepers are not Marines. They can be well trained, highly professional soldiers, but they are not war fighters. Further, when troops arrive in Darfur, they would need to be supported with constant shipments of fuel, food, and equipment. For this, the United Nations would need access to Sudanese ports and airfields.

Securing Khartoum’s permission may not feel right, but it’s the only hope for Darfur at this point.