Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sudan Attacks in North Darfur

CHINATOWN, New York (August 14, 2008) >> CENTCOMM: At The Front

The Sudan government is waging a fresh campaign to clear North Darfur of rebels. The May 10 assault on Khartoum was from Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) camps located in that region near the border convergence of North Darfur, Chad and Libya. Oil exploration activities have also begun in that area. A satellite view of the terrain shows a vast area of desert that could be a clip of Mars – endless rippled reddish-tan sand hills.

At least seven were killed in Tuesday's most recent attacks by Sudan in North Darfur. Purportedly between 100-270 vehicles and 500 mounted janjaweed on camels and horses were involved in the operational assaults. All the water has to be transported...hence the truck convoys and low numbers of attack troops riding in “technicals” and on camels and horses. The location of the attack was identified as a soda ash plant apparently occupied by Darfurian rebels. Exact location (according to Abdel-Wahid al-Nour, the chairman of the Sudan Liberation Movement) was proximate to the soda ash deposits of Jebel Atron. The area is south of the great Wadi Atron geo-physical feature (like a giant desert washed-out area or a river with no water). This is also – not coincidentally – in an oil development and exploration field identified as Block A12.

The Sudanese government fails to acknowledge that seismic activity is underway. However, Block A12 is operated by a “consortium led by the privately held Saudi Arabian oil company al-Qahtani” (BBC/Khartoum). Al-Qahtani & Sons is enormous in oil field services: and construction contracting; the company has a division specializing in anti-corrosive pipes. The region is one that Chinese companies are seeking to explore and Chinese workers have recently been moved there to look for oil in the remote area.

"Preparations are ongoing to launch a small campaign of 1,000 kilometers of seismic" works at Block 12A in Northern Darfur, Sudan's country manager at Ansan Wikfs, a partner of Sudan-owned Sudapet, Denis Rey told the Dow Jones at or around July 9. Company officials confirmed at that time that “state-linked Chinese oil services companies are in talks to help Sudan exploit its crude reserves in its troubled Darfur region with the Sudanese army providing security,”

The Darfur region of conflict now sprawls over four countries: Sudan, Chad, northern Central African Republic (CAR) and now cross-border retreats of rebels into Libya. At the core, the central factors of the overlapping conflicts are depleting water and developing oil.

The Sudanese offensive to clear Darfurian rebels out of north along Chad border is also a convenient place to park Sudan's anti-Chadian proxies. At the corner with the Libyan border are mountains to the west from there along northern Chadian border with Libya.

Sudanese Army and Chadian insurrectionists outweigh the Chad Army and Darfurian rebels many times. So Khartoum's strategy may be to lean on the Chad government and wait until they wear down or to diplomatically achieve what they want from Chad without a fight.

The Sudanese embassy in N'Djamena is set to re-open next week. A rapprochement with the Chad government of Idriss Deby (presently ranked as the world's most corrupt) includes side agreements for restoration of bilateral relations and cessation of negative media campaigns by the two governments. Libyan leader. Muammar Ghaddafi is also sponsoring a tripartite summit that the two presidents of Sudan and Chad have agreed to attend.

This regional campaign to clear the northern flank is in the context of the larger overall conflict over Darfur. In 2003, Darfurian rebels attacked Sudanese positions as push back on Arab herders displacing black African villagers in the massive region of Darfur (meaning "land of the Fur" tribe). Most are familiar with the Sudanese response of ferocious janjaweed irregulars engaging in brutal ethnic cleansing. According to the United Nations, over 300,000 have been killed and two million have been displaced with a substantial proportion of those falling into refugee status. ///

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