Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the division of Sudan into two countries "inevitable" with the coming January referendum, which will allow the country's long besieged but oil-rich South to vote on secession. However, Clinton also warned the vote was a "ticking time-bomb" that will force Sudan, and the world, to address the African nation's modern history of war and genocide. This April, Sudan's first election in 24 years led many observors to warn that the country is on the path to division, war, or both. What can the U.S. do for Sudan?

  • U.S. Must Convince North Sudan to Go Along  Hillary Clinton explained in a recent address, "If you're in the North and all of a sudden, you think a line's going to be drawn and you're going to lose 80 percent of the oil revenues, you're not a very enthusiastic participant, what are the deals that can possibly be made that will limit the potential of violence? And even if we did everything perfectly and everyone else – the Norwegians, the Brits, everybody who is weighing in on this – did all that they could, the reality is that this is going to be a very hard decision for the North to accept. We've got to figure out some ways to make it worth their while to peacefully accept an independent South and for the South to recognize that unless they want more years of warfare and no chance to build their own new state, they've got to make some accommodations with the North as well. So that's what we're looking for."
  • All About the Oil  Reuters reports, "Analysts say southerners overwhelmingly want independence and there is a risk of a return to conflict if the north tries to delay or obstruct the vote to keep control of the south's oil. ... Rabie Abdelati, from the north's dominant National Congress Party (NCP), told Reuters on Thursday Clinton was 'incorrect' and that Sudan would reject any foreign attempts to interfere in the poll. ... Northerners and southerners remain split on how they would divide oil revenues after the vote -- most of the country's crude reserves lie in the south but the north has the bulk of the infrastructure." Northern political leaders insist that unity is the way to go.
  • For U.S., Sudan Is Crucial Global Challenge  The Washington Times' Eli Lake writes, "Sudan has bedeviled recent presidents. As the north-south war raged in the mid-1990s, the country played host to Osama bin Laden. After a government shake-up in Khartoum and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sudan's intelligence relationship with the U.S. warmed considerably. Yet even as the north and south laid down their arms, a separate war in the western region of Darfur threatened to undermine international good will. The problem now rests with President Obama. Sudan is strategically located between Africa's Horn and Sahel, regions of increased activity by militant radicals, and policy analysts fear a renewed war would destabilize the region and flood it with new weapons and bad actors."
  • Without U.S. Action, War Will Return  John Prendergast writes in the Wall Street Journal, "For a second-tier foreign policy issue, Sudan has seen its share of first-tier finger-pointing over the last decade. Congress has blamed the White House, administrations have blamed activists and Congress, and everyone has condemned the Chinese whose multibillion dollar oil investment underwrites the Khartoum regime's war policies in Darfur and the South. But if the current U.S. policy gridlock remains, the next round of Sudanese bloodletting could be the worst yet. The country is 128 days away from a contentious referendum to split it in two, and a return to war between the North and the South seems evermore likely."
  • China's Interest  The Guardian's Simon Tisdall writes, "China has more to lose than most if things fall apart in Sudan this winter, where a potentially explosive national referendum on southern independence is due in January. Beijing is the country's biggest investor while for its part, Sudan is a significant oil supplier. Renewed instability could also adversely affect China's expanding interests in neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia, Chad, Libya and Egypt." This could be a moment for rare U.S.-China cooperation on an international issue.