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Event: Ambassador Donald Petterson

Type of Event: Interview
Date: September 30, 2003
Special Access Issues: Treated as---5£CRET-
Prepared by: Niki Grandrimo
Reviewed by: Scott Allan
Team Number: Three (Counterterrorism Policy)
Location: 2100 K St.
Participants: Niki Grandrimo, Scott Allan & Doug MacEachin

Interviewee Background ,/9/11 Personal Privacy

As a career Foreign Service Officer, Ambassador Petterson served at various State

Department posts including: US Ambassador to Somalia,)978-1982; US Ambassador to
Tanzania, 1986-1989; Acting Deputy Assistant Secretaryof State for African Affairs,
1990; Charge d'Affaires of the US Embassy in Zimbabwe, 1990-1991; and US
Ambassador to Sudan, 1992-1995. Following his-post in Sudan, Ambassador Petterson

retired from the Foreign Service. In 1998, he .: called out of retirement to take charge
of the US Embassy in Liberia and retired .~iin in 1999. [U]

Ambassador Petterson is the author of'two books, Inside Sudan: Political Islam,
Conflict, and Catastrophe (l999)..and Revolution in Zanzibar: An American's Cold War
Tale (2002). In 1997, he beganto work pro-bono as a part-time consultant on Sudan for
the Steeplechase Group, which is a consulting firm that strives to end the war in Sudan
and improve relations between the US and Sudan. The Group was established by
Sudanese businessman, Anis Haggar. In 2000, Ambassador Petterson started receiving a
retaineroq lPermonth from the Steeplechase Group. [U]

US Government ("USG") Priorities in Sudan: 1992-1995

During Ambassador Petterson's tenure in Sudan, usa priorities included: terminating

the Government of Sudan's ("GOS") support for international terrorism; improving
human rights; ending the devastating war and restoring democracy; and encouraging a
more reasoned approach to international affairs. Within these priorities, urging the GOS
to take active steps to combat terrorism was the highest. [U]

One year prior to Ambassador Petterson's arrival at post, the USG had increased its
diplomatic representations to the GOS about the presence of terrorist organizations in
Sudan. Such organizations included Hezbollah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad ("PIJ"), the
Egyptian Gama'a al-Islamiyya ("IG"), HAMAS (the "Islamic Resistance Movement"),

Abu Nidal, the Armed Islamic Group ("OIA"), and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad ("ElJ").
These groups went to Sudan because of its "no borders for good Muslims" policy.


• Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Bob Houdek, traveled to Sudan
in order to make clear to the GOS that it would face serious repercussions from the usa
if the GOS did not stop harboring these organizations. Ambassador Petterson said that
the USG did not make any distinction between actively promoting acts of terrorism and
providing safehaven to terrorists. The GOS always denied that terrorists and terrorist
training camps were in Sudan. J.St
On several occasions, the GOS offered to allow US officials to view what the US had
identified as terrorist training camps in an attempt to persuade USG officials that terrorist
training was not being conducted in Sudan. Such officials included those stationed at
Embassy Khartoum and Congressional delegations. However, on all occasions, the
camps were "sanitized" and only local militias were being trained. Ambassador
Petterson never viewed these camps because he did not want to lend credence to the
fa~ade. r
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Ambassador Petterson believed that having a US Embassy in Khartoum was critical to

the USG's counterterrorism efforts des ite the threat to Embass Khartoum and its

• Usama bin Laden ("UBL") in Sudan

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UBL arrived in Sudan in 1991 before Ambassador Petterson arrived in country; therefore
Ambassador Petterson was not aware of the USG's reaction to UBL's move to Sudan.
Ambassador Petterson stated that UBL was involved in a number of different business
enterprises in Sudan including construction. UBL's money ingratiated him to the GOS.
When asked if Ambassador Petterson was aware that Hasan al- Turabi, leader of the
National Islamic Front ("NIF"), sent a delegation to Afghanistan in 1989 to contact UBL,
Ambassador Petterson said that he did not know about it at the time. [U]

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Am bassador Petterson never heard the name "aI

Qaida" and he be ieves that if al Qaida was highly important as Chief of Mission he
would have known.

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When asked whether VBL had acquired chemical weapons capability in Sudan,
Ambassador Petterson said that he had no knowledge of UBL acquiring such a capability
in Sudan. Ambassador Petterson also commented that he believes that in August 1998,
the USG made a mistake in bombing a pharmaceuticals plant thought to be producing
chemical weapons in Sudan in retaliation for the bombing of two US Embassies in East
Africa. Ambassador Petterson stated, "In order to commit an act of war, you need to
have hard evidence" and the USG did not havehard evidence that the plant was
producing chemical weapons. [U]

Likewise, Ambassador Petterson said that he had no first-hand knowledge of any GOS
offers to expel UBL from Sudan. He stated that he heard that expulsion offers existed;
however, he cautioned that he was retired from the USG at the time that the alleged offers
occurred. [U]

The GOS as a State Sponsor of Terrorism

Ambassador Petterson believes that the GOS became involved in terrorism because of the
financial gain, which resulted from VBL's contributions to Sudan, and the ideological

affinity of Turabi and others with the aims of Islamic terrorist organizations. Turabi
conducted Pan-Arab Islamic Conferences in which he brought to Khartoum reputable
Islamic scholars as well as supporters of terrorism. Turabi had visions of a resurgent

Islam and thought that he and Sudan would playa key role. Ambassador Petterson said
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Sudan was placed on the State Department's list of State Sponsors of terrorism in 1993.1
This designation came after repeated demands to the GOS to end its support of terrorism
and an incident in which the Sudanese Security Forces executed four Foreign Service
Nationals who were caretakers of the US Agency for International Development
("USAID") facility in Juba. Washington was outraged at the incident and determined to
take action. Ambassador Petterson said that at this point, the USG felt that the GOS
would not any of the USG's concerns regarding terrorism and responded by
listing them as a State Sponsor. [UJ

Ambassador Petterson was on home leave when the determination to list Sudan as a State
Sponsor was made and initially, he did not believe that the USG had enough evidence to
warrant designation. However, information provided to him before returning to Sudan
convinced him that the designation was appropriate. Ambassador Petterson asked that
the USG wait until he returned to Sudan to notify the GOS of its designation. By the
time he returned, the story had leaked and so the GOS was not surprised when

I The law establishing the "State Sponsors" list states that, "The US may not provide assistance to any
country that the Secretary of State determines that the government of that country has repeatedly provided
support for acts of international terrorism (22 USC 2371). [U]


• Ambassador Petterson delivered the message. Nevertheless, the GOS, he said, was
angered and outraged. The GOS organized demonstrations outside of Embassy
Khartoum and Am bassador Petterson's residence to protest the designation. However,
Ambassador Petterson said he did not feel that Embassy staff was in danger. [U]

Around the same time, the USG received jntel1jgence from a SQurce detaWog a plot to
harm American citizens in Sudan. I 9/11 Classified Information lAs a
result, the USG ordered the departure of non-essential personnel at Embassy Khartoum.
After the Embassy began to draw-down its staff, the usa received another threat report
of a similar nature. Although those reports were later determined to be false, the US
suspended Embassy operations in 1996 due to the threat to Americans in Sudan. ~.

In 1997, the State Department was going to re-open the Embassy in Khartoum.
However, Congress and the NSC objected so the State Department had to revise its
objective. Ambassador Peterson said that the decision to re-open Embassy Khartoum
was political and therefore was delayed for several years. [U] .

Instruments Used With the GOS

Ambassador Petterson noted that demarches and sanctions were used with the GOS in an
attempt to garner its support in fighting terrorism. Ambassador Petterson constantly

demarched the GOS regarding their continued harboring of terrorists. In addition,
Ambassador Petterson speculated that sanctions placed on Sudan, as a result of its being
listed as a State Sponsor, over time may have contributed to the GOS's desire to improve
the conditions that contributed to its listing. The GOS wanted improved relations with
the US because good relations would bring US financial assistance and access to
international financial institutions. However, by the time Ambassador Petterson left
Sudan, the GOS still had not taken any steps towards improvement. [U]

USG Policy Towards Sudan: 1995-1998

Ambassador Petterson said that during the mid-late 1990's, the USG was focused on the
Middle East. Sudan was not a priority. He said that at this time, the USG "took an
increasingly negative cast towards Sudan because of the growing prominence of slavery
and the belief by American Christians that the GOS was engaged in an Islamic Jihad
against Southern Sudanese Christians." However, he noted that the USG' s focus on
human rights and the plight of the Christians in the South did not reduce terrorism as a
priority. [U]

Ambassador Peterson did not believe that domestic political groups were constraining the
USG's policy options. He never felt that human rights or American Christian groups
. played a significant role in shaping US policy towards Sudan. The groups made it more
difficult to change the hard-line position that the usa had already taken with Sudan
however, these groups did not persuade the USG to ado t a more strin ent lie. B the

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Ambassador Petterson said that the USG did not consider giving aid to the Sudan
People's Liberation Army ("SPLA") or the Sudan People's Liberation Movement
("SPLM") to be a good idea. He stated that the SPLA's human rights record was
appalling. The usa knew that providing clandestine assistance to an organization, which
was fighting a legitimate African government would sour relations with other African
countries. [U]

When asked about the mid-1990's Frontline States Policy, which involved providing non-
lethal assistance to Uganda, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, who would in tum provide assistance
to the SPLA, Ambassador Petterson said that the usa provided assistance to Uganda to
help the SPLA. He stated that the usa had good relations with Eritrea and Ethiopia but
the USG was not involved in providing indirect assistance to the SPLA through those
countries. [U]

When asked if any policy options existed that the USG should have tried but did not,
Ambassador Peterson said, "Probably not." At one time, he suggested inviting high-level
GaS officials to Washington to meet with officials within the USG and Congress to
discuss the USG's issues of concern. However, the GOS constantly conducted itself in a

way that made such visits politically impossible. Ambassador Petterson stated that even
if such visits had occurred, they probably would not have produced significant results
because officials in the GaS were not interested in making the necessary changes. He
believed that the GOS was not feeling the effects of the sanctions enough and was too
concerned about political issues within its own country. Ambassador Petterson said that
the USG could have tried harsher sanctions such as quarantining Port Sudan and banning
international flights. However, Washington did not support such a large undertaking and
success would ultimately depend the USG's ability to gamer international support for and
compliance with this effort. [U]

In providing his opinion on the USO's policy towards Sudan in the mid-late 1990's,
Ambassador Petterson said that he believed that the isolation policy espoused by
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Susan Rice, and Special Advisor to Ms.
Rice, John Pendergast, was not achieving its goals. As a result, Ambassador Petterson
felt that the USG needed to try a different approach. In addition, he believed that the US
needed to re-establish its Embassy in Khartoum not only to improve relations with the
OOS, but also to "get eyes on the ground" to obtain first-hand knowledge of the situation
within Sudan. Ambassador Petterson also believed that the US needed to intervene in
Sudan's war. He felt that the US could have played a key role in bringing peace to
Sudan, which would then allow the GaS to focus on the issues of concern to the US. [U]

2 Ambassador Peterson noted that his knowledge about USG·GOS relations during this time period is based
on communications with friends at the State Department and within the interagency and academic
communities. [U]

• Although Ambassador Petterson believed that a change in US foreign policy was
warranted, he stated that the isolation policy "was not unreasonable." He said that all
USG efforts in the past had been rebuffed. Over time, the USG became so frustrated with
these GOS practices that it was reasonable for the USG to believe that engaging the GOS
would not effectuate change. [U]

He noted that Turabi was upset with the USG for this belief, especially after the GOS
rendered to the French Carlos the Jackal, one of the world's most notorious terrorists of
the 1970's and 1980's. Ambassador Petterson told Turabi that the GOS did not deserve

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USG Policy Towards Sudan: 1998-Present

Ambassador Peterson stated that terrorism was less of an issue of concern for the USG
today because of increased cooperation with the GOS since September 11, 2001. He
noted that the USG was not completely satisfied with the GOS, but the USG has received
enough cooperation to alleviate its concerns of insincerity by the GOS. When asked
whether he thought Sudan should be removed from the State Sponsors list, Ambassador

Peterson replied, "Yes." [U]

Vanity Fair Article

The article in Vanity Fair referenced meetings that occurred in late 1995 between
Ambassador Petterson and Turabi and Bashir at which Ambassador Petterson delivered a
note saying that the USG was aware of Sudan's involvement in terrorist plots against the
US and warned that if such plots came to fruition there would be serious consequences.
Ambassador Petterson said that he had received instructions from Washington to meet :
with Bashir and Turabi and present them with a non-paper detailing the actions that the
usa would take if Americans were harmed. Bashir was misinformed by his Minister of
Affairs that Ambassador Petterson was going to present a positive message from
. President Clinton. Instead, Ambassador Petterson issued the ultimatum to Bashir stating
that should Americans be harmed, the USG would take military action and institute a
policy of international isolation that would result in the destruction of Sudan's economy.
To ensure that the GOS did not misunderstand what was said, Ambassador Petterson
gave the non-paper to Bashir. Bashir was furious and as a result, Ambassador Petterson's
access to Bashir was barred for several months. The GOS later gave this non-paper to the
author of the Vanity Fair article, David Rose. [U]

Ambassador Petterson commented that the author of the article "had an ax to grind" and
was simply gathering evidence to prove his case against President Clinton. The author
took Ambassador Petterson's words out of context. He noted that Ambassador Tim

• 3 Ambassador
Peterson noted that his knowledge is based on communications
and within the interagency. [U]

with friends at the State

Carney, who succeeded AmbassadorPetterson in Sudan, also believed that the author
took their words out of context. Ambassador Petterson stated that the article's major flaw
was that the author overly depended on information from the GOS, which also has an "ax
to grind" with the Clinton Administration. [U]

Regarding GOS offers to assist the USG's counterterrorism efforts, Ambassador

Petterson said that he neither received any offers from the GOS to share intelligence with
the US nor arrest or render any terrorists/persons of interest to the USG. Ambassador
Petterson said any offers of assistance from the GOS in combating terrorism would have
been a significant change from previous statements in which the GOS denied that
terrorists were in Sudan. Ambassador Petterson said that he repeatedly asked the GOS to
do something about the terrorism problem in Sudan but the GOS never did anything.
Ambassador Petterson commented that, "you need to take information provided by the
GOS with a grain of salt." [U]


Ambassador Petterson said that failed states are breeding grounds for international
terrorism. As such more and better-designed aid should be dedicated to weak
governments in Africa to ensure that they do not degenerate into failed states. The USG
should recognize that such African countries are important to US national security
interests. Ambassador Petterson stated that only one-tenth of the US gross national
product is dedicated to foreign assistance. Of that one-tenth, only fourteen percent goes
to Africa. The USG needs to realize that improving the situation in African countries
provides significant national security benefits to the US. [U]

Ambassador Peterson believes that the US should redesign aid for health, education, and
basic services and revamp its trade policy towards Africa. He stated that trade is key to
progress in Africa. Regarding US public diplomacy efforts, Ambassador Petterson said
that, "The US can have all the public diplomacy in the world but it will not help unless
the US changes some of its fundamental policies. Until that time, the US will not be seen
as an even-handed government and will continue to be looked at as a bully." [U]

Finally, Ambassador Petterson recommended that the Commission interview former

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Tom Pickering. [U]