Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Dilemma of the 'Dish, Somalia - Jun 6

Or the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Sound confusing? It should. In 1991, Somali warlords were the problem. Now in 2006, they are seen as the solution to counter-act the jihadist threat. The warlords will, I believe, fail to take back their country. No doubt they will seek an agreement with their new masters for no other reason than to save their sorry hide. A tremendous step backward for American foreign policy and a step forward in Bible prophecy. The people of 'Put' and 'Cush' are those black Africans that have made the Horn of Africa home (see Ezekiel 38, 39). How Iran, Russia (Islam's biggest ally), Libya and others such as Turkey and Syria will react to this unexpected windfall is anybody's guess. Living in Israel just got a little more dangerous I'd say.

Mr. Johnny Cash

Stratfor -- Predictive, Insightful, Global Intelligence

Geopolitical Diary: The Dilemma of Mogadishu
Jun 06, 2006

The city of Mogadishu has fallen to Islamists, according to extensive media reports. Mogadishu is the capital of Somalia, where the United States intervened in 1991 and then withdrew after sustaining casualties. The Americans had intervened in an attempt first to alleviate a major food shortage -- and then, as the scope of the mission crept upward, they ended up fighting against the warlords who had precipitated the food shortage. After pulling out, the United States lost interest in Somalia until 9/11 -- when it developed an urgent interest in it, fearing that it would serve as a base for militant Islamists.

It is not clear how the Islamists will behave having won the city, but there is no reason to doubt their commitment to their cause, nor the possibility (or probability) that they would provide safe-havens to al Qaeda and other militant Islamists. The United States maintains a small force of U.S. Marines and special operations forces at a former French base in Djibouti, north of Somalia, and has been waging a quiet war throughout the region against Islamists. Somalia has been a critical piece of that war, both for its own sake and because it can affect the entire region, including Kenya, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Ironically, the United States has fought the war in Somalia through proxies -- the warlords it was fighting against in the early 1990s. There were few other options. Unless the Americans wanted to intervene directly -- and after the last experience no one was eager for that -- they would have to use surrogates, and the warlords were the only option. The proxies served their purpose over the five years of the U.S.-jihadist war, but now they appear to have buckled and lost the prize to the Islamists.

This is obviously bad news for the United States. As bogged down as the United States is in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has been able until now to claim that not a single Muslim government had been overthrown by Islamists, and that most governments were cooperating with the United States. It can be argued that the conquest of Mogadishu does not mean the Islamists will become the government of Somalia, and that no one was overthrown -- you don't overthrow anarchy and chaos. Those are good arguments, but at the end of the day it will be perceived in the region that the United States has lost an important fight. The argument that Iraq was a tactical problem but that the broad strategy was working has been undermined -- and as a result, so will be the psychological strength of the U.S. presence.

Psychology aside, the strengthening power of the Islamists in Somalia poses a direct threat to the United States. Right now, al Qaeda and related groups have sanctuary in areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, in parts of Iraq, and perhaps quietly in some other places -- but not in any country as a whole. That sort of sanctuary is what al Qaeda desperately needs, and if the Islamists can expand their victory to pacifying the country, that is exactly what they will have.

The obvious answer would be for the United States to intervene directly in Somalia. Had Iraq not turned out as it did, that might be an option; but under current international and domestic political circumstances, a new visit to the home of Black Hawk Down is not going to happen. That means the only option the United States has will be to increase aid to the warlords; but the problem there is not money, it is motivation and competence. Someone will reason that there is nothing there that a few more special operations forces wouldn't cure. But that alone won't work, and thus the Americans will be on the famous slippery slope once again. This time it is unlikely that they will start walking down.

This leaves the question of whether there will be space for militants in Somalia. Jihadists, both native and foreign, have in all likelihood been there for a while. But if there is a degree of stability and security, a place where training camps can start teaching the crafts needed for international operations, Somalia could allow a new generation of well-trained al Qaeda operatives to emerge in a few years, a generation quite different from the bumbling wannabes that currently pass for al Qaeda.

This is a serious event in the war, and Washington will have to take some action. The likely one will be increasing money and sending in some more advisers. The best the United States can hope for at the moment is to maintain a level of instability in Somalia that even al Qaeda would find unsuitable for training purposes. Just as important will be how this affects the Islamic world's psychology. Al Jazeera was trumpeting it all day as what it was -- a blow to the United States.

Copyright 2006 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.

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