Incentives, sanctions, and conditionalities were used by the international community primarily to achieve peacekeeping and protection objectives. During 2005-07, the UN Security Council was overwhelmingly preoccupied with this issue. Unilateral financial sanctions were announced by the US government in April 2007 on account of the Sudanese government's foot-dragging and opposition to UN troops. The negotiations between the international community (primarily the US, with the UNSC as a major instrument) and the Government of Sudan over peacekeepers relegated the parallel AU-led peace negotiations into a political sideshow. Perhaps most importantly, the timetable of the AU-led negotiations for a peace agreement in Darfur was determined by the progress of the diplomatic efforts to secure African, international and Sudanese governmental agreement to the dispatch of UN troops.
The US-Sudanese negotiations must be seen in the light of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in January 2005 to end the war between the Sudanese government and the SPLA, which is based primarily in southern Sudan. The US government strongly backed the CPA negotiations, indicating that once the deal had been signed, the US would move rapidly towards normalising relations with Sudan, including lifting long-standing bilateral sanctions, providing development assistance, and probably also bringing a US major oil company to Sudan and facilitating debt relief. However, the US did not deliver on these promises because of the enormous public outrage in America caused by the Darfur war.
Khartoum felt betrayed but understood that they needed to resolve the Darfur crisis before the US could deliver. It was this incentive, alongside the pressure of existing sanctions and ostracism, which made them agree to the AU ceasefire monitors and later to an expanded AU mission, to participate in the Abuja talks and to sign the DPA. Initially, the US focus was on how to achieve a peace agreement that did not contradict or undermine the CPA, but peace talks became increasingly ancillary to the US emphasis on introducing UN troops. Neither Khartoum nor the UN were happy for a UN troop deployment without a peace agreement.
Incentives, pressure and guarantees in Abuja
Some sanctions and conditionalities were exercised on the substance of the DPA negotiations. These included UNSC threats of sanctioning individuals seen to be obstructing the peace process (an exercise that did not go beyond drawing up lists of names because there was neither agreement nor energy among the international community for enforcement), insisting on compatibility with the CPA, and in the latter stages pressing for mechanisms for disarming the Janjaweed militias and integrating rebel combatants into the army. The principal incentive was the US promise of belatedly moving towards normalisation of relations when Darfur was settled. For this reason, Khartoum's delegation to the Abuja talks did very little serious negotiation with the rebels, but a considerable amount with the Americans – sometimes directly, sometimes using the AU mediation team as an intermediary. The US also pressured the leaders of the movements to sign the DPA, both by offering them political support during the implementation of the agreement and by threatening them with international ostracism should they fail to sign. The promised support included help to transform the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) into a political party, assistance with training and regularising the rebel forces, and monitoring the peace agreement. None of these promises were ultimately fulfilled, but in Abuja the approach worked on Minni Minawi (commander of one faction of the SLM) but not on Abdelwahid al-Nur (Chairman of the larger faction) or Khalil Ibrahim (President of the Justice and Equality Movement).
The issue of guarantees came to take on an important role in the Darfur peace process. Because of the international commitment to operationalising the 'Responsibility to Protect' through international forces, the Darfur armed movements came to use the term 'guarantee' to refer to direct security guarantees for the civilian population and the rebel forces, rather than to political guarantees embedded in the peace agreement and its monitoring. While the Sudan government distrusted any such direct security guarantees as an escalation of international demands, the armed movements took such guarantees as a precondition for signing an agreement – or in some cases, as a precondition for entering negotiations. Thus, Abdelwahid al-Nur refused to sign the DPA because it did not contain the cast-iron security guarantees he demanded, "like Bosnia." He wanted international forces to protect the people, protect his forces and enforce the agreement. When the US and other governments could not provide such guarantees, he walked away. Abdelwahid has subsequently demanded guaranteed security for Darfurian civilians before participating in a new round of peace talks.
Having directly negotiated with Khartoum, the US government also negotiated directly with the leaders of the movements, especially during the final days of the Abuja talks. The actual incentives provided to the armed movements for peace comprised the benefits of the agreement itself, namely power-sharing, wealth-sharing and arrangements for security. Most elements of the deal offered in the negotiating hall were accepted by the rebel movements. In the days following his refusal to sign, Abdelwahid articulated a narrow agenda of increasing compensation, taking a few more seats in state and local government, and ensuring that his troops were more closely integrated into local security measures. But the kinds of compromise positions on the table in Abuja were never commensurate with the rhetoric of western political leaders who had publicly pronounced on 'genocide' and the 'Responsibility to Protect'. Nor did they match the demands made by vocal Darfur activists in north America, who had succeeded in wringing a series of political concessions out of the US administration and who were in constant touch with many Darfurian rebel leaders.
Promises, pressure and personal relations
The signing of the DPA – with a number of provisions to which Khartoum strongly objected – did not bring the anticipated rewards. AU and US promises to move rapidly to implement the security arrangements (for example through expedited verification of the positions of the forces on the ground) were not fulfilled. To the contrary, the agreement was followed by an escalation of American threats against the Sudanese government on the basis of Khartoum's foot-dragging over UN troops. Pressure was sustained by keeping in place existing sanctions and raising the prospect of new ones, as well as threatening to deploy international troops without Khartoum's consent. UNSC Resolution 1706 of 31 August 2006 invited the consent of the Sudanese government to a UN mission, whereupon President al-Bashir promptly called the bluff of the international community by rejecting it. The UN did not make good on its implicit threat of a non-consensual deployment. In November, a compromise was agreed in the form of the consensual deployment of a hybrid UN-AU force, with two intermediate stages during which the UN would assist the existing AU force. Quibbling over details, Khartoum delayed the dispatch of the support packages, agreeing only on 16 April 2007. Two days later, President George W. Bush announced a long-prepared package of targeted economic sanctions against Sudan on account of this non-cooperation. Khartoum's interpretation of this was that the US had once again reacted to a concession by further raising the bar.
For most of 2004-05, there had been relatively good relations between Khartoum and Washington, but these relied heavily on a channel of communication between Vice President Ali Osman Taha and US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick. Taha had championed peace in the south and Darfur partly as a means of restoring normal diplomatic relations with the US. But when his star waned in late 2005, he could deliver on few of his promises. He remained in his post as vice president but several rivals within the ruling NCP showed they had comparable political muscle, and a year later Assistant President Nafie Ali Nafie was clearly in the ascendant. Nafie had always argued against making concessions, on the grounds that the US would simply snap these up and then ask for more.
Meanwhile, in August 2006 Zoellick left his post, whereupon communication between the two governments was reduced to reciprocal public posturing and second-guessing the other's real calculations. Gradually public rhetoric became real policy on both sides. The main US action was a range of financial sanctions targeted at specific corporations with close links to the NCP and security agencies, beginning in June 2007. Confounding many sceptics, by August these sanctions were having an appreciable impact on Sudanese government finances. Coming on top of a drop in oil production and a crisis in the banking sector, the inability of Khartoum to transact its oil sales through any international banks that used dollars (virtually all banks) led to a financial squeeze on the government budget. However, this financial pain has not yet resulted in a measurable impact on the government's conduct of the war. It is likely that the US will sustain this pressure, until UNAMID is fully deployed, and until whatever additional policy objectives introduced in the meantime have been achieved. At the time of writing, those objectives have not included specific political concessions towards a peace agreement – an effective tool has been used to narrow ends.