T-72s Were Indeed Being Sent to Sudan Rebel Army

Well it’s finally confirmed. Those mystery tanks discovered by pirates who commandeered the MV Faina back in late 2008 were indeed meant for the rebel government in southern Sudan.

It’s long been speculated that the cargo of 32 T-72 tanks, 150 grenade launchers and six antiaircraft guns were being shipped from the Ukraine to Sudan. Now, the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks (love em or hate em) definitively show the weapons were en route to the war torn nation. In fact, the tanks were just the latest shipment in a large-scale effort to arm the breakaway government with modern tools of war. An effort that the U.S. tacitly approved of and then changed its mind about when the Obama administration took charge.

Today’s New York Times describes the mystery as the partial result of a vague U.S. policy on how to handle the split up of Africa’s largest country:

According to several secret State Department cables made public by WikiLeaks, the tanks not only were headed to southern Sudan, but they were the latest installment of several underground arms shipments. By the time the freighter was seized, 67 T-72 tanks had already been delivered to bolster southern Sudan’s armed forces against the government in Khartoum, an international pariah for its human rights abuses in Darfur.

The breakaway government in the south and Khartoum signed a peace treaty in 2005 allowing the south to arm itself with some modern weaponry and paving the way for a referendum on southern independence scheduled for Jan. 9, 2011.

Naturally, the U.S. knew about the deal. It even helped the south buy communications gear and nonlethal weapons as well as provided “combat arms soldier training,” according to the article.

It goes on to say the U.S. found out about the shipments of heavy weapons in 2008 and wasn’t thrilled about them. But wasn’t exactly in the mood to stop them, either. The Bush administration basically asked everyone involved to keep it on the D.L. After all, the weapons were going to protect a people who had been repeatedly ravaged by the north.

Bush administration officials knew of the earlier weapons transactions and chose not to shut them down, an official from southern Sudan asserted in an interview, and the cables acknowledge the Kenyan officials’ assertions that they had kept American officials informed about the deal.

It adds later:

In a cable from Oct. 19, 2008, Alberto M. Fernandez, who served as the chargé d’affaires in Khartoum, reports that he told officials from southern Sudan that while the United States would prefer not to see an arms buildup in the region, it understood that the government there “feels compelled to do the same” as the north. He also cautioned the officials to take care, if there were future shipments, to avoid a repeat hijacking by pirates and “the attention it has drawn.”

However, once President Obama took office the State Department became concerned that the weapons were bound for a nation on the state sponsor of terrorism list; even if they were flowing to a U.S.-backed movement trying to secede from the state that sponsors terrorism.

Taking a stricter position than the Bush administration on the tanks, the State Department also insisted that the shipments were illegal, since Sudan was on the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Kenya, which has been holding the weapons since the pirates released the ship in 2009, was suddenly “confused.” It had gone along with earlier U.S. requests to keep the shipments quiet and told the world that it had bought the tanks from Ukraine.

Then the U.S. changed administrations and changed its mind on the shipments, condemning them and getting seriously pissed at Kenya for keeping up the ruse, even threatening sanctions.

“We also recognize that some members of your government informed some members of the USG that this deal was being prepared,” the cable, which was sent by Secretary Clinton, added. But the cable argued that southern Sudan did not need the tanks, they would be difficult to maintain and they would “increase the chance of an arms race with Khartoum.”

That did not appear to mollify the Kenyans. A cable on Dec. 16, 2009, recounted that the head of Kenya’s general staff told American officials that he was “very confused” by the United States position “since the past transfers had been undertaken in consultation with the United States.” According to the cable, the Kenyans asked whether the Obama administration was reconsidering whether to move forward with a referendum under the peace accord and whether it was “shifting its support to Khartoum.”

In recent months, the Obama administration quietly exempted Ukraine and Kenya from sanctions for the 2007 and 2008 shipments, according to government officials.

While Kenya has yet to ship those tanks to southern Sudan, U.S. lawmakers are now asking for the weapons to be released to the government there.

In what may be the best summation of the whole affair, the article quotes Rep. Donald Payne, D-NJ., chair of the House Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa as saying:

“Our government knew those tanks were being purchased,” he said in an interview. “The fact is the pirates’ seizure of the tanks is what made them change their policy. I don’t think the Obama administration has a clear policy on Sudan.”

The article makes it sound like some bureaucrats jumped into the middle of an arms race hoping to stop it without doing all of their homework on the situation. With these things, though, who knows the whole story?

Here’s the whole piece.

  • Greg

    I like Obama and all, but come on seriously are you going to stop arms going to the rebels who receive genocide after genocide. I thought we were supposed to help…Obama’s actions were either inept or suspect…either way that is no good.

  • And what is terrible about this article, is that these tanks were probably purchased with tax payer monies. Typical American stupidity at its best. We need to start wasting money arming militaries and start focusing on the budget that the fools in Washington always want to either cut or spend and cut.

  • Lance

    Im glad southern Christians are getting weapons. But the T-72 is a disaster and is inferior to most other tanks. Why not send them some good T-84s?

  • Insomniac

    Northern Sudan is a known Al-Qaeda haven and has used rape, man-made famine, slavery, and genocide to destroy the south. They are motivated by religion and power and are really just not nice guys.

    Regardless of what religion each side is I think Obama’s decision was retarded. We could have had another ally in Africa if Southern Sudan was well armed and became a decent fighting force.

  • Henry Gurwood

    Obama is effectively a Muslim. You can see that because he is always on the side of the Muslims and against the civilised nations. It would be a cold day in hell that he’d let his jihadi buddies in Northern (muslim) Sudan get a thump on the nose from the Southern tribes they have been oppressing ever since the Brits left

  • Peter

    Obama administration would bicker about the armaments ship for those who simple want to defend themselves, and turn blind eyes to the aggressor who massed stockpile of weapon including air power. I will see he will get my vote this time again.

  • Someone leaks info on ship with tanks, pirates move IN, Odd.
    Inside job.

  • STemplar

    I don’t think we should be involving ourselves in every brush war in Africa. I do think we should probably pick a country or two or three with the best prospects for something resembling a decent government(s), and then arm and train them. Then use them to impose some order on the rest. We are having trouble pacifying Iraq and Stan, I hardly think we should directly take on an entire continent.

  • Jay

    It’s not a normal brush war, it’s a genocide conducted by North Sudan, which is controlled by religious extremists receiving arms and aid from rich arab countries.
    If the southern sudanese (who are christians, animists, shamanists, etc and therefore considered worthy of genocide by the north) don’t get any weapons they will be massacred.

    Self defense is a human right.

    • crackedlenses

      Right on…. I would compare this to our involvement in Nicaguara and Grenada…..

  • Peter

    You are right Jay. Selfdefend is human right indeed. To those who clain that those weapons were purchase with tax payers money. You are wrong. Southern Sudan bought those weapons wiht money from their OIL. Get it right. The deserve to protect themselves. Today, the Khartoum regime bombed villages in Southern Sudan. Where is the so Obama administration? Why haven’t they responded? People who died today as the result of bombardment have been killed by the Obama administration, because had the let Southern Sudan had those anti air craft, they could have brought those Chinese made jet down today and those inocent civilian could have been still alive.

    • elgatoso

      How many relatives have you in the military??? I have 2 nephews in Astan right now and I am not sure that I gonna see them again.Let our kids out of stupid brush wars.Or go yourself.

      • Belesari

        Seriously? I have friends who are, have served and are going back to afghanistan or Iraq. My step-dad, has served 1 term in Afghanistan as well as one in Iraq.

        So yes i can comment. He can comment.

        Dont wana go to war. Stay the frak out of the military.

        I guess i shouldnt give a damn about people i dont know. If you ever get attacked some day and then the gun is pointed at you remember that.

        And btw. That brush war see’s the dead, mutilated, rapped as well as the orphaned every year in the tens and hundreds of thousands if not millions.

        • elgatoso

          And why we need to be the cop world???

    • Caleb

      Conclusions no ever possible to be confirmed sir.

  • Kelly Q.

    South Sudan is not a rebel movement; it does not have a rebel government nor a rebel military. South Sudan is a legitimately-established autonomous government made possible by George W. Bush (one of the few good things he did), who helped to end Africa’s longest-running civil war. Come 2011 there will be a national referendum in which the South Sudanese will vote to legally separate from North Sudan – a vote that the government in Khartoum agreed to.

    The vote will affirm the South’s independence; the South will secede; the north will lose the oil revenues from the southern oil fields, which have enabled for decades the northern government to prosecute a genocide in Darfur against black Muslims, and a genocide/civil war in South Sudan against, like Jay stated earlier, predominately Christians and animists, as well as Muslim and an assortment of other religions.

    My point: the South needs all the tanks it can get.

  • steve

    When this ship was captured by the pirates and then taken back from them, ALL of this was a known factor, about the Tanks, and where the Tanks were going! The screw-up here was once again our news media failed to kept this story on the front burner. So really, there’s nothing new here except our current State Deaprtment has shoiwn their ignorance, and stupidity!!! When we play the Diplomatic Role, like a zipper on a sex offender, there’s bound to be wholesale confusion and disappointments??? Just take a good look