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Creating new hotbeds of terror

india Updated: Jan 30, 2007 13:10 IST

The US 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 Americans message that no Arab or Muslim metropolitan has impunity unless it falls into step with the US vital regional interests.

The US 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 neighbouring country to contribute the backbone of the US-suggested and UN-adopted multinational foreign force for Somalia after the Ethiopian invasion, thus setting the stage for a widespread insurgency and creating a new violent hotbed of anti-Americanism.

The US-allied Ethiopian invaders have already taken 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 centres 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.

Eritrea accused the United States of being behind the war in Somalia. "This war is between the Americans and the Somali people," Eritrean Information Minister Ali Abdu told Reuters.

The US 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 US 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, who provided some social security and order under a semblance of a central government that made some progress towards unifying the country.

Pre-empting intensive Arab, Muslim and European mediation efforts between the UIC and the transitional government, Washington moved quickly to clinch the UN Security Council resolution 1725 on December 6, recognising the Baidoa government organised in Kenya by US regional allies and dominated by the warlords as the legitimate authority in Somalia.

Resolution 1725 also urged that all member states, "in particular those in the region," to refrain from interference in Somalia, but hardly 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.

The US succeeded 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 US 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 intervention to abort mediation efforts and national dialogue to solve internal conflicts peacefully.

In Somalia as in Iraq, Washington is also trying to delegate the mission of installing a pro-US regime - whose leaders were carried in on the invading tanks - to a multinational force in which the neighbouring 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, Syria in particular vis-à-vis the US-occupied Iraq.

The Bush administration has expressed understanding for the security concerns that prompted Ethiopia to intervene in Somalia. Regionally however the US 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.

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.

Internally, the successive regimes since Emperor 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 Ethiopians are now Muslims. Hence the realistic fears of the Ethiopian ruling elites from the emergence of a unified Somalia and the impetus it would give to the 1.5 million Muslim Somalis in Ogaden, occupied by Addis Ababa and led to the 1977-88 war between the two countries.

True the potential of infiltration by Al-Qaeda is highly probable, but it is 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.

Ethiopia's justification of its invasion by Washington's pretexts of its war on terror is misleading and encouraging Addis Ababa to justify its invasion by 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 "Muslim-Christian" war, which have more provocateurs in Addis Ababa than in Mogadishu.

The sectarian war among Muslims fomented by the US-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, a war that could drive a new wedge between Arabs and their neighbours, 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.

However this US-Israeli strategy is certain to backfire. Somalis could not but be united against foreign invasion in a country where Islamism 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 divisions; they are in their overwhelming majority Muslims with no divisive sectarian loyalties and no neighbouring sectarian- polarisation centre as it is the case with Iran in Iraq; the "Christian face" of the invasion would be a strong 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 Palestinian territories and can be contacted at nicolanasser @yahoo.com.

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