Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Somalia: A Recipe for Regional War?

When former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticized the U.S. military invasion of Iraq as an "illegal" act, neoconservatives in the United...

When former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticized the U.S. military invasion of Iraq as an “illegal” act, neoconservatives in the United States blasted him.

Annan was implicitly accusing the administration of President George W. Bush of violating the UN charter because it did not receive Security Council authorization to launch a military strike on Iraq nearly four years ago.

The international community is now faced with a parallel situation following the Ethiopian military invasion of neighboring Somalia in December and the subsequent U.S. air strikes allegedly against al-Qaida targets this month.

But at a press conference last Thursday, the new UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, fast gaining notoriety for ducking politically sensitive issues, refused to sit in judgment of the Ethiopian and U.S. actions in the Horn of Africa. When he avoided answering two questions regarding his views on “the unilateral intervention by the Americans” in Somalia, a third reporter was more blunt. “One last try on Somalia,” he told the secretary-general. “Do you think-yes or no-that what the United States has done in bombing Somalia and having Special Forces on the ground is in any way in contravention of international law?”

Ban Ki-moon’s reply: “As a matter of principle, I will not answer anything in such a ‘yes or no’ manner. I think I have answered that question already.”

The only answer he gave was that he is closely following the situation in Somalia.

“I was simply concerned about the possibility of an impact on civilians and the reported loss of civilians,” Ban told reporters earlier. “I was hoping that-while I fully understand the necessity behind this attack-we should be cautious enough not to see this kind of situation lead to unwanted directions.”

He also said: “This situation only is a very stark reminder that we need to redouble our diplomatic efforts to have some political process for the realization of a peaceful resolution of this issue.”

The 15-member UN Security Council has been equally reticent in not conducting an open, full-scale debate on the situation in Somalia. “The Security Council, however, is not only silent, it is complicit in the new aggression in Somalia,” said Salim Lone, the former spokesman for the UN Mission in Iraq and a Nairobi-based columnist for the Daily Nation.

Last month, he said, the Council passed a resolution that was basically a recipe for war. “The resolution authorized a peacekeeping force to restore peace and stability in Somalia and to protect the Transitional Federal Government (in Baidoa) from the Islamic Courts Union (in Mogadishu), who control most of southern Somalia,” he added.

Before this resolution was passed, Lone said, the United States had been violating the earlier UN arms embargo by arming the warlords who were opposed to the Islamists, and Ethiopia had actually sent in thousands of troops, with U.S. backing, into the country in violation of that resolution.

The conflict in Somalia was triggered by a long-simmering dispute between Somalia’s transitional government in Baidoa and the Islamic force in Mogadishu. The United States has been providing support to the transitional government on the grounds that the Islamic force has ties to al-Qaida.

Bill Fletcher Jr., a visiting professor at Brooklyn College-City University of New York and past president of TransAfrica Forum, said that the Ethiopians need to withdraw and that there needs to be an African Union (AU) force there to help with reconstruction and reconciliation.

“The only way that the Transitional Government will succeed is if they broaden their base rather than relying on Ethiopian firepower,” he added. The United States, he said, should clearly stay out of Somalia. Fletcher also pointed out that Somalia has now become a site for a proxy fight between the two sides, with the Ethiopians supporting the Somali transitional government and the Eritreans allegedly supporting the Union of Islamic Courts. There is profound danger in this game of regional politics.

“The Ethiopians risk continental ostracism for getting involved in the internal affairs of Somalia. They are not there on behalf of the African Union or as a result of an agreed upon peacekeeping settlement,” he said.

He also said the Eritreans, by the same token, are playing with dynamite-much like the United States did when it supported the mujahideen in Afghanistan in their war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s-in that they may strengthen a very reactionary force that could influence the politics of the Horn of Africa, including within Eritrea itself.

Lone said that for 16 years, Somalia had been utterly lawless and violent under the rule of competing warlords but the United Nations stood by helplessly, having been driven out by these warlords after they killed U.S. and Pakistani peacekeepers.

“But six months after the Islamic Courts Union finally had brought peace to the country and developed great popularity, as reported even by an astonished Western news media, the United States asked the United Nations to, in effect, send in a force to topple the Islamists,” he said.

“The goal was to bring the transitional government, which was created outside Somalia by close U.S. allies Ethiopia and Kenya, to power even though it had so little support that it had been unable to move out of the small town of Baidoa for the two years of its existence,” he added.

Just after the invasion of Somalia, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi assured outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the military attack was a “limited operation.” Zenawi said that between 3,000 and 4,000 Ethiopian troops had “broken the backs” of Islamic forces. But he gave no indication when his troops will withdraw.

Standing behind this entire mess appears to be the United States, said Fletcher: “The Bush administration is concerned about the rise of the Union of Islamic Courts and, having branded them as al-Qaida-lite, wishes to see this movement blocked, if not destroyed.”

It appears that the Ethiopian government, led by a regime that at one point claimed to be anti-imperialist, has chosen to serve the interests of the United States in this case, he added.

“Thus, not only does Ethiopia face the prospect of a deadly, long-term conflict to its south, but the USA faces the prospect of potential involvement, should the conflict evolve either into another Ethiopian/Eritrean War, or should the Union of Islamic Courts gain public sympathy because they are seen as victims of the one global superpower,” Fletcher declared.

Early this month, a divided UN Security Council discussed a draft resolution calling for “all foreign forces [to] immediately withdraw from the territories of Somalia and cease their military operations inside Somalia.”

But that paragraph was in dispute because of opposition, primarily from the United States and most members of the Council.

The draft, with strong support from the League of Arab states, was the brainchild of Qatar, a non-permanent member and current president of the Security Council.

Thalif Deen is a writer for the Inter Press Service.

 

Citations

Thalif Deen, "Somalia: A Recipe for Regional War?" Right Web Analysis (Somerville, MA: International Relations Center, January 18, 2007).

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Update was slow, but still no lag in the editor window, and footnotes are intact.     This has been updated – Bernard Lewis, who passed away in May 2018, was a renowned British-American historian of Islam and the Middle East. A former British intelligence officer, Foreign Office staffer, and Princeton University professor, Lewis was…


Bernard Lewis was a renowned historian of Islam and the Middle East who stirred controversy with his often chauvinistic attitude towards the Muslim world and his associations with high-profile neoconservatives and foreign policy hawks.


John Bolton, the controversial former U.S. ambassador to the UN and dyed-in the-wool foreign policy hawk, is President Trump’s National Security Adviser McMaster, reflecting a sharp move to the hawkish extreme by the administration.


Michael Joyce, who passed away in 2006, was once described by neoconservative guru Irving Kristol as the “godfather of modern philanthropy.”


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Michael Flynn is a former Trump administration National Security Advisor who was forced to step down only weeks on the job because of his controversial contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Trump is not the problem. Think of him instead as a summons to address the real problem, which in a nation ostensibly of, by, and for the people is the collective responsibility of the people themselves. For Americans to shirk that responsibility further will almost surely pave the way for more Trumps — or someone worse — to come.


The United Nations has once again turn into a battleground between the United States and Iran, which are experiencing one of the darkest moments in their bilateral relations.


In many ways, Donald Trump’s bellicosity, his militarism, his hectoring cant about American exceptionalism and national greatness, his bullying of allies—all of it makes him not an opponent of neoconservatism but its apotheosis. Trump is a logical culmination of the Bush era as consolidated by Obama.


For the past few decades the vast majority of private security companies like Blackwater and DynCorp operating internationally have come from a relatively small number of countries: the United States, Great Britain and other European countries, and Russia. But that seeming monopoly is opening up to new players, like DeWe Group, China Security and Protection Group, and Huaxin Zhongan Group. What they all have in common is that they are from China.


The Trump administration’s massive sales of tanks, helicopters, and fighter aircraft are indeed a grim wonder of the modern world and never receive the attention they truly deserve. However, a potentially deadlier aspect of the U.S. weapons trade receives even less attention than the sale of big-ticket items: the export of firearms, ammunition, and related equipment.


Soon after a Saudi-led coalition strike on a bus killed 40 children on August 9, a CENTCOM spokesperson stated to Vox, “We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the U.S. sold to them.”


The West has dominated the post-war narrative with its doctrine of liberal values, arguing that not only were they right in themselves but that economic success itself depended on their application. Two developments have challenged those claims. The first was the West’s own betrayal of its principles: on too many occasions the self interest of the powerful, and disdain for the victims of collateral damage, has showed through. The second dates from more recently: the growth of Chinese capitalism owes nothing to a democratic system of government, let alone liberal values.


RightWeb
share