Diplomatic Games in Khartoum

So we’ve already had one round of punch and counter punch with the ICC’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir followed by his (and I’m told it came directly from the president) expulsion of 13 international charities. Now we are into round two. Even as wiser heads counselled against further action, the Americans have begun winding down operations at their embassy. As Reuters reports…

The U.S. embassy in Khartoum has authorised the voluntary evacuation of non-essential staff after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s president over Darfur, an embassy official said on Tuesday.

"This is one step down from an ordered evacuation of non-essential staff," the official told Reuters, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue. The official said the decision was partly a diplomatic move in reaction to Sudan’s expulsion and harassment of aid groups.

The statement included a reference to security risks but don’t be fooled. This is the end of any pretence that there could be business as usual with a head of state indicted for war crimes.The question now is what Sudan will do in response. I’m told more aid agencies are being "investigated" for colluding with the ICC and more expulsions are expected. The diplomatic community is also braced for receiving its marching orders. France, America and Britain are the most likely to be targeted and it seems that the US is getting in its retaliation early.

Things can only get worse from here.