Sunday, April 22, 2012

No Blood for Oil

Well, not much blood, anyway. South Sudan has pulled back from confronting Sudan over oil fields both claim:

Sudan and South Sudan both claimed to be in control of a contested oil town near the countries' ill-defined border on Friday after the south said it was withdrawing its troops to avert a return to war.

Last week, South Sudanese troops took over the border town of Heglig, which they call Panthou, sending Sudanese troops fleeing and sparking condemnation from the U.N., America and Britain. This time, Sudan sent South Sudanese in headlong flight, Sudanese officials said.

Facing international condemnation, the spokesman for South Sudan's President Salva Kiir announced Friday that the south would withdraw its forces within three days but still believes that the town of Heglig is a part of South Sudan. Kiir said he expects its final status to be determined by international arbitration.

South Sudan is very weak compared to Sudan, and attempting to settle the dispute with armed force is folly. While the good will of the international community and your own resources will help you get what you want, South Sudan doesn't have the latter. So it doesn't hurt to at least have the former. Now at least, South Sudan's friends can point out that Sudan really is an evil state:

"In parallel, we're also calling on the government of Sudan, as we have regularly, to halt their own cross-border attacks, particularly the provocative aerial bombardments, so that we can get back to a place where these two sides are working together," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington.

And the Darfur genocide stuff, you know.

And it isn't just about one oil region. If shooting starts in earnest over where that border is, fighting could easily spread:

The stage is set for a wider war in east Africa if the Sudan-South Sudan War continues. The war would also involve numerous rebel groups and militant tribal militias operating throughout Sudan and South Sudan.

Then there are the ethnicity and religion factors. Sudan considers itself Arab and Moslem. Sudan actually considers itself an Islamic republic (religious dictatorship). South Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda are all largely Christian and black African. The animosity between black Africans and Arabs is thousands of years old and still active. It means that the Arab world will hold their nose and support Sudan in their war against the "blacks". Sub-Saharan (black) Africa will support South Sudan. It's an old war and it's not just about Sudan.

Israel has supported South Sudan in the past, too.

Strategypage also sketches the armed forces of both sides.

Who knows what could happen? But one thing that won't happen is a deep bout of "why do they hate us?" hand-wringing in the black African states as they ponder another fight with Moslem Arabs. I guess they may not have much else, but they do have self respect.

UPDATE: Hatred in Sudan seems to be a way of life:

A Muslim mob has set ablaze a Catholic church frequented by Southern Sudanese in the capital Khartoum, witnesses and media reports said on Sunday.

A lovely bunch of people, there, no? But at least Sudan has China in their corner. Another lovely bunch of people, it seems.

UPDATE: China is caught between standing support of Sudan and a desire to secure oil supplies form South Sudan, too. Hey China, isn't being a global power fun?