U.S. foreign policy
blundering has created a new violent hotbed of anti-Americanism in the
turbulent Horn of Africa by orchestrating the Ethiopian invasion of another
Muslim capital of the Arab League, in a clear American message that no Arab or
Muslim metropolitan has impunity unless it falls into step with the U.S. vital
Ethiopian invasion of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Dec. 28 is closely
interlinked in motivation, methods, goals and results to the U.S. bogged down
regional blunders in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Sudan as well as in Iran and
Afghanistan, but mainly in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
Mogadishu is the
third Arab metropolitan after Jerusalem and Baghdad to fall to the U.S.
imperial drive, either directly or indirectly through Israeli, Ethiopian or
other proxies, and the fourth if the temporary Israeli occupation of Beirut in
1982 is remembered. The U.S. endeavor to redraw the map of the Middle East is
reminiscent of the British-French Sykes-Pico colonial dismembering of the
region and is similarly certain to give rise to grassroots Pan-Arab rejection
and awaking with the Pan-Islamic unifying force as a major component.
The U.S. blunder in
Somalia could not be more humiliating to Somalis: Washington has delegated to
its Ethiopian ally, Mogadishu�s historical national enemy, the mission of
restoring the rule of law and order to the same country Addis Ababa has
incessantly sought to dismember and disintegrate and singled Ethiopia out as
the only neighboring country to contribute the backbone of the U.S.-suggested
and U.N.-adopted multinational foreign force for Somalia after the Ethiopian invasion,
thus setting the stage for a wide-spread insurgency and creating a new violent
hotbed of anti-Americanism.
manipulation is there for all to see; a new U.S.-led anti-Arab and anti-Muslim
regional alliance is already in the works and not only in the making. The
U.S.-allied Ethiopian invaders took over Somalia after the withdrawal of the
forces of the United Islamic Courts (UIC), who rejected an offer of amnesty in
return for surrendering their arms and refused unconditional dialogue with the
invaders. The withdrawal of the UIC forces from urban centers reminds one of
the disappearance of the Iraqi army and the Taliban government in Afghanistan
and warns of a similar aftermath in Somalia in a similar shift of military
strategy into guerilla tactics.
The UIC leaders who
went underground are promising guerilla and urban warfare; �terrorist� tactics
are their expected major weapon and American targets are linked to the
Ethiopian invasion. It doesn�t require much speculation to conclude that the
Bush administration�s policy in the Horn of Africa is threatening American
lives as well as the regional stability.
According to the
Council on Foreign Relations in New York, �Because the United States has
accused Somalia of harboring al-Qaeda suspects, the Ethiopian-Eritrean proxy
conflict increases the opportunities for terrorist infiltration of the Horn and
East Africa and for ignition of a larger regional conflict,� in which the
United States would be deeply embroiled.
Eritrea accused the
United States on Monday of being behind the war in Somalia. �This war is
between the Americans and the Somali people,� Eritrean Information Minister Ali
Abdu told Reuters.
administration found no harm in keeping the divided country an easy prey for
the warlords and tribal bloody disputes since 1991, probably finding in that
status quo another guarantee-by-default for U.S. regional interests. It could
have lived forever with the political chaos and humanitarian tragedy in one of
the world�s poorest countries were it not for the emergence of the indigenous
grassroots UIC, which provided some social security and order under a semblance
of a central government that made some progress towards unifying the country.
intensive Arab, Muslim and European mediation efforts between the UIC and the
transitional government, Washington moved quickly to clinch UN Security Council
Resolution 1725 on Dec. 6, recognizing the Baidoa government organized in Kenya
by U.S. regional allies and dominated by the warlords as the legitimate
authority in Somalia, after sending Army Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S.
Central Command, to Addis Ababa in November for talks with Prime Minister Meles
Zenawi on bailing out the besieged transitional government by coordinating an
Ethiopian military intervention.
also urged that all member states, �in particular those in the region,� to
refrain from interference in Somalia, but hardly had the ink of the resolution
dried than Washington was violating it by providing training, intelligence and
consultation to at least 8,000 Ethiopian troops who rushed into Baidoa and its
vicinity before the major Ethiopian invasion, a fact that was repeatedly denied
by both Washington and Addis Ababa but confirmed by independent sources.
To contain the
repercussions, Washington is in vain trying to distance itself from the
Ethiopian invasion. U.S. officials have repeatedly denied using Ethiopia as a
proxy in Somalia. Moreover, they are trying to play down the invasion itself:
�The State Department issued internal guidance to staff members, instructing
officials to play down the invasion in public statements,� reads a copy of the
guidelines obtained by The New York Times.
Accomplished,� Addis Ababa's Daily Monitor announced when the Ethiopian forces
blitzed into Mogadishu, heralding a new U.S. regional alliance at the southern
approaches to the oil-rich Arab heartland in the Arabian Peninsula and Iraq. In
2003, the same phrase adorned a banner behind President George W. Bush as he
declared an end to major combat operations in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
All facts on the ground indicate that the U.S. mission in Somalia won�t be less
a failure than that in Iraq, or less misleading.
U.S. foreign policy
has sown the seeds of a new national and regional violent hotbed of
anti-Americanism in the Arab world, the heart of what Western strategists call
the Middle East, by succeeding in Somalia in what it failed to achieve in
Lebanon a few months ago: Washington was able to prevent the United Nations
(UN) from imposing a ceasefire until the Ethiopian invasion seized Mogadishu;
the Lebanese resistance and national unity prevented the Israeli invaders from
availing themselves of the same U.S. green light to achieve their goals in Beirut.
In both cases,
Washington involved the UN as a fig leaf to cover the Israeli and Ethiopian
invasions, repeating the Iraq scenario, and in both cases initiated military
interventions to abort mediation efforts and national dialogue to solve internal
In Somalia as in
Iraq, Washington is also trying to delegate the mission of installing a
pro-U.S. regime, whose leaders were carried in on the invading tanks, to a
multinational force in which the neighboring countries are not represented,
only to be called upon later not to interfere in Somalia�s internal affairs, as
it is the case with Iran and Syria, in particular, vis-�-vis the U.S.-occupied
administration has expressed understanding for the security concerns that
prompted Ethiopia to intervene in Somalia. So once again U.S. pretexts of
Washington�s declared world war on terror were used to justify the Ethiopian
invasion as a preventive war in self-defense, only to create exactly the
counterproductive environment that would certainly exacerbate violence and
expand a national dispute into a wider regional conflict.
concerns of Ethiopia
U.S. pretexts used by Addis Ababa to justify its invasion could thinly veil the
land-locked Ethiopia�s historical and strategic aspiration for an outlet on the
Red Sea by using the Somali land as the only available approach to its goal
after the independence of Eritrea deprived it of the sea port of Assab.
peaceful arrangements with Somalia and Eritrea is the only other option that
would grant Ethiopia sea access -- whether to the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and
Bab el Mandeb or the Arabian Sea, and through these sea lanes to the
Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. This option was preempted by the dream of
Greater Ethiopia that tempted the successive regimes of Emperor Hailie
Selassie, the military Marxist rule of Mengistu Haile Mariam and the incumbent
U.S.-backed oppressive regime of Meles Zinawi, which were deluded by the
military means of the only country with a semblance of a nation state and a
military might in a regional neighborhood disintegrated into the poorest
communities of the world by tribal strife left over by the British, French and
Italian western colonialist powers; hence the Ethiopian wars with Eritrea and
The Eritrean fear
of an Ethiopian invasion of Assab via Somalia is realistic and legitimate,
given the facts that Ethiopia�s borders are, like Israel�s, still not
demarcated, its yearning for an access to sea as a strategic goal is still
valid and its military option to achieve this goal is still not dropped because
of the virtual state of war that still governs its relations with both Somalia
and Eritrea. Hence the reports about the Eritrean intervention in Somalia, denied
by Asmara, and the regional and international warnings against the possible
development of the Ethiopian invasion into a wider regional conflict that could
also involve Djibouti and Kenya.
Ethiopia, the successive regimes since Hailie Selassie were dealing with the
demographic structure of the country as a top state secret and incessantly
floating the misleading image of Ethiopia as the Christian nation it has been
for hundreds of years, but hardly veiling the independent confirmation that at
least half of the population is now Muslim, a fact that is not represented in
the structure of the ruling elite, but also a fact that explains the oppressive
policies of the incumbent U.S.-backed regime.
Here lies the
realistic fears of the Ethiopian ruling elites from the emergence of a unified
Somalia and the impetus it would give to the Ogaden National Liberation Front,
which represents the 1.5 million Muslim tribesmen of Somali origin who inhabit
the 200,000-square-kilometer desert region occupied by Addis Ababa and led to
the 1977-88 war between the two countries and that remains a festering hotbed
of bilateral friction.
independent Somalia and a liberated or revolting Ogaden would inevitably
deprive Ethiopia of its desert corridor to the coast and have at least adverse
effects on/or imbalance altogether the internal status quo in Addis Ababa. True
the potential of infiltration by al-Qaeda is highly probable with such a
development, but it is only too inflated a pretext for Addis Ababa to justify
its unconvincing trumpeting of the �Islamic threat� emanating from the
ascendancy of the UIC in Somalia.
justification of its invasion via Washington�s pretexts of the U.S. war on
terror is misleading and encouraging Addis Ababa to justify its invasion using
the �Islamic threat,� leading some UIC leaders to declare �Jihad� against the
�Christian invasion� of their country and in doing so contributing to turning
an Ethiopian internal and regional miscalculations into seemingly a �Muslim-Christian�
war, which has more provocateurs in Addis Ababa than in Mogadishu.
The sectarian war
among Muslims fomented by the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, within the context
of �divide and rule� policy, could now be coupled with a �religious war� in the
Horn of Africa to protect the U.S. military presence that is �defending� the
Arab oil wealth in the Arabian Peninsula and Iraq against a threat to its
mobility from the south; a war that could drive a new wedge between Arabs and
their neighbors, in a replay of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, and in tandem
with a 60-year old Israeli strategy of sowing divide between them and their
Ethiopian, Iranian and Turkish geopolitical strategic depth.
U.S.-Israeli strategy is certain to backfire. Somalis could not but be united
against foreign invasion in a country where Islam is the essence of nationalism
and where Pan-Arabism could not but be a source of support as the country is
too weak and poor to be adversely affected by Arab League divides; they are in
their overwhelming majority Muslims with no divisive sectarian loyalties and no
neighboring sectarian polarization center as it is the case with Iran in Iraq.
The �Christian face� of the invasion would be a more uniting factor and would
serve as a war cry against the new American imperialistic plans, because it is
reminiscent of earlier �Christian� European colonial adventures.
Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based
in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied territories. He is the editor of
the English Web site of the Palestine Media Centre (PMC).