Obama won’t charge Blackwater with violation of Sudan sanctions

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Blackwater tried — but failed — to secure a defense contract with Southern Sudan while the country was under U.S. economic sanctions, and now the big news is that Obama won’t charge Blackwater for violating those sanctions:

Perhaps the most unique character in the story is Bradford Phillips, a Christian evangelical activist and former congressional aide who runs the Persecution Project Foundation, a Culpeper, Virginia nonprofit that works to publicize and alleviate the plight of Sudan’s Christians.

At Prince’s request, Phillips called on the government of Southern Sudan and recommended Blackwater’s protective services. He helped set up meetings between Kiir and Prince in Africa and Washington. The Washington session took place in November 2005 at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, a few blocks from the White House, the documents show.

The chief salesman to the Sudanese during the Washington meeting appears to have been Cofer Black, a former top CIA and State Department official who in 2001 famously demanded that a CIA subordinate kill terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and deliver his head in dry ice.

Southern Sudan had emerged in 2005 as an autonomous region after a U.S.-brokered peace deal ended a 22-year war with the North. Weeks after he took the helm of the new Southern Sudan government, Kiir’s predecessor, John Garang, was killed in an unexplained helicopter crash, and Blackwater’s sales pitch to the Bush administration was that protecting the new leader would support U.S. policy objectives.

The company, however, also saw huge potential profits.

After negotiating a $2 million draft contract to train Kiir’s personal security detail, Blackwater in early 2007 drafted a detailed second proposal, valued at more than $100 million, to equip and train the south’s army. Because the south lacked ready cash, Blackwater sought 50 percent of the south’s untapped mineral wealth, a former senior U.S. official said.

In addition to its well-known oil and natural gas reserves, Southern Sudan has vast untapped reserves of gold, iron and diamonds.

“Most people don’t know this stuff exists. These guys did,” said a second former senior official who saw the document, which apparently was never signed.

Ultimately, though, Blackwater’s venture in Southern Sudan foundered, U.S. officials said.

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