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Washington has too many cooks in the kitchen

Special envoys, ambassadors and still more special envoys confuse relations abroad.

Anyone aware of recent history should know that presidents and prime ministers have been trooping into Bashir’s office since 2003, when the carnage in Darfur began, only to hear hollow promises issued through a Cheshire grin. Gration propounded the idea of meeting with Bashir’s deputies. How far are these people going to go without gaining Bashir’s approval? So what’s the point?

Problems in Darfur are growing worse. Poor harvests and weakening security are leading to thousands of additional deaths due to violence and malnutrition in the camps where most Darfurians now live. But Gration is promoting the notion that Washington should focus most of its attention on the north-south elections set for January. Residents of southern Sudan are to vote on whether to seek independence, and already the government is trying to sabotage the election.

While Gration is directing American eyes toward that problem, serious as it is, the Sudanese government took the opportunity to put forward its own plan for Darfur, called “domestication” — sending the 2.5 million people who live in refugee camps, under the protection of U.N. forces, back home to their villages, where they are to be “protected” by the very Sudanese forces that have been slaughtering them for the last seven years. Gration is said to have endorsed that idea. After all, last year he said Darfur was experiencing only “the remnants of genocide,” earning another rebuke from Washington.

By all accounts, Gration is not working out.

Last week the Obama administration announced its solution.

The State Department is sending another special envoy to Sudan, former Ambassador Princeton Lyman. He “joins a robust U.S. leadership team” in Sudan, the department said. “He will join Special Envoy Gration in Sudan for meetings this week.”

Now who represents Washington in Khartoum?