Tuesday, July 19, 2011
The Birth of South Sudan: And the Challenge
Sudan’s “Two-State Solution” -Barry Rubin
Good news from the Middle East is that rarest of all things. Solutions to conflicts there is equally rare. That’s why the creation of a new country, South Sudan, is so significant after years of strife between the northern and southern parts of that country due largely to their religious and racial differences.
This development also leads to an interesting question: will south Sudan be a purely African-oriented state or will it play some part in the Middle East?
Note that most of the population of south Sudan is Christian. The Muslim north decided to get rid of the region so that it could pursue its Islamist ambitions more easily and focus on repressing tribes (also Muslim) in the west.
None of the news reports on south Sudan, however, pointed out the earthshaking aspect of its creation. After all, this is a state that has come into existence because it is Christian, a sort of parallel to Israel. It is too poor, remote, and non-Arab for Islamists and Arab nationalists elsewhere to care about and they are preoccupied with other things right now.
Yet to the north, in Egypt, Christians are facing growing persecution. Will the rest of the Middle East ignore south Sudan or will it become a target in future for jihad and hatred, as an illegitimate entity allegedly created by Western imperialism that must be destroyed?
Another interesting question is whether Christians elsewhere will show any interest in the new country and try to help it survive and prosper. Western Christians spend much of their time either supporting or bashing Israel. The beleaguered Christians of Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, and Pakistan are ignored. Now that there’s what is in effect a state created as a safe haven for Christians will that change any attitudes?
Finally, the Obama Administration probably deserves a large measure of credit for the Sudan solution. It cozied up to the dictatorship but in this case, a contrast to other situations, actually achieved some positive result.