Omar al-Bashir, president of the Republic of Sudan (AP Photo/Pete Muller)
On Jan. 9, South Sudanese citizens will head to the polls to vote on a referendum to determine if South Sudan will become a country independent from the rest of Sudan. That the southerners will overwhelmingly vote for independence is not in doubt -- the south fought a 20-year civil war against the Sudanese central government that ended in 2005. Popular sentiment is clearly in favor of autonomy.
What is still unknown is whether the central government in Khartoum will let the south go without a fight, which includes the specter of genocide. In February 2010, former U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair cited Southern Sudan as a place where "a new mass killing or genocide is most likely to occur."
In the coming weeks, Darfur will reach yet another crisis point when the International Criminal Court (ICC) issues an arrest warrant for President Omar al Bashir of Sudan. When this happens, President Bashir has all but promised retaliation -- against United Nations personnel in Sudan, against Darfuris, and against southern Sudanese separatists. This much we know. What is still unclear is how the Obama administration intends to respond.
By September, predicts Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Peter Pace, we may know whether or not the "military part" of the surge is working in Iraq. By then we may also learn whether another surge -- one that eclipses the 20,000 additional troops approved for Iraq in January -- has been successful as well.
In the last eight months, the demand for United Nations peacekeepers has increased by some 37,000 police and military personnel, a jump of nearly 50 percent in the total number of peacekeepers deployed around the world. But while the president is pressing Congress to pay for his Iraq surge, the same cannot be said of UN peacekeeping -- American arrearages to UN peacekeeping are now on pace to exceed $1 billion by year's end.
THE ICC WONT LET THEM BE. The International Criminal Court just issued its first arrest warrants for suspected war crimes in Darfur. Two people, a janjaweed commander and a Sudanese government official, are wanted for trial in The Hague. As the ICC does not have a Marshall Service of its own, whether or not these two face trial will depend on how strong the international community is willing to press Sudan on this issue.