Where is the White House on Darfur (II)?

I noted yesterday that the President’s Special Envoy for Sudan Scott Gration seemed to speak off a different set of talking points than UN Ambassador Susan Rice when it came to addressing the “genocide” question. Well, John Norris notes that this was not the only miscue from Gration during his first press availability.

The second linguistic thicket into which Gration wandered was the expulsion of humanitarian aid groups. Gration noted that we have “three new aid groups returning to Sudan” – something of an oxymoron. Are they new aid groups, or are they returning aid groups? As has always been clear, Khartoum was willing to let three of the 13 groups return to work if they were rehatted under new names, a charade the international community apparently was willing to accept. Now Khartoum is expecting credit for its willingness to partially address a humanitarian crisis which it manufactured itself. Gration also insisted that aid capacity in Darfur was back up to nearly 100 percent of what it had been before Khartoum put so many lives at risk through its callous decision to expel aid groups. Lots of analysts, including the humanitarian chief at the U.N., have suggested that we are still well short of restoring previous aid capacity, and most aid groups still face a maze of restrictions that allow Khartoum to turn aid on and off at will.

For more on how the message on Darfur is being hashed out in the inter-agency process, see Colum Lynch in today’s Washington Post. He reports what I speculated yesterday: the National Security Council has yet to reach a consensus decision on what to do about Darfur.