The Future of Iraq
By Joseph Puder
FrontPageMagazine.com | 8/23/2007
On September 15, 2007, General David Petraeus is scheduled to deliver his report on Iraq to the U.S. Congress. President Bush has stated that he would follow General Petraeus recommendations. According to the Times of London (8-16-07) Petraeus “would recommend troops reductions by next summer, but cautioned against a significant withdrawal.” The Times reported that Petraeus qualified his remarks, saying that the “U.S. footprint in Iraq would have to be a good bit smaller by next summer.” At the same time Petraeus also signaled “the surge would continue into next year” and, he gave warning against a quick and hefty withdrawal that “would surrender the gains we have fought so hard to achieve.”
The German weekly Der Spiegel reported on Aug. 18, 2007 that a new study released last Wednesday in Berlin on the Iraqi situation concluded that Iraq’s future is “not too bright,” and that “already today, the main priority is to prevent Iraq from breaking apart completely.” The study concluded that there is little hope of a centralized power in Iraq and that the country’s future depends on walking the fine line between decentralization of power and a civil war.” Guido Steinberg, a terrorism and Middle East expert authored the study titled Iraq Between Federalism and Collapse, published by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.
Steinberg’s basic assumption is “that a federalist solution will be the only possibility to maintain Iraq as a single country. The most important role (for) German and European policies should therefore be that of supporting steps toward a peaceful federalist solution.” If federalism fails, Steinberg asserts, “the result would be devastating, including the possibility of full scale civil war complete with foreign intervention.”
General Petraeus’ report notwithstanding, the current Iraqi government of Nuri al-Maliki is dysfunctional, and the likelihood that Maliki will be able to create a viable government is in doubt. The recent withdrawal of Sunni cabinet members has basically sealed the fate of the Mailiki government. Of the 18-benchmarks set up for the Iraqi government to act upon, key ones have been ignored or remain unfulfilled.
A unitary government in Iraq is a pipe dream that the Bush administration will be compelled to abandon sooner or later – preferably sooner. Like Humpty Dumpty, Iraq – once broken cannot be put together again. Under the cruel and punishing rule of Saddam and his Baathist predecessors, Iraq trudged through by force. The minority Sunni-Arabs lorded over a majority of Shiite and Kurds since 1932. And now the Iraqi Army is gone, as is the Baathist fear apparatus. No mechanism currently exists that could compel the Kurds and the Shiites to be subjugated once again to a Sunni minority rule. The Sunnis however, believe in their “right” to rule Iraq, and will never allow Iraq to be dominated by the Shiites – whom they consider heretical.
Winston Churchill contributed a great deal to the survival of democracy and the defeat of Nazism. He was perhaps the greatest statesman of the 20th century. But even Churchill made fatal errors. One of them being the arbitrary and irrational creation of Iraq – an inorganic mix of disparate and antagonistic groups that he hoped would allow British interests control over oil in the Kurdish north and the Shiite south.
The Kurds, who had sought independence from Ottoman/Turks, Arab, and Iranian rule, were promised autonomy in the Treaty of Sevres (1920), but had their rights to any form of self-determination squashed when the Allies signed the Treaty of Lausanne in1923. The British ignored their rights as well as those of the majority Shiite Arab population.
Today, the Kurds with their capital in Erbil, are conducting themselves as an independent state. The regional government of Kurdistan has its own assembly, flag, army, and constitution and serves as the best example of a functioning state and a nascent democracy. The Shiites in Southern Iraq are also building their own state institutions, albeit, an Islamic state modeled after the theocracy in Iran. The Sunni Arabs remain uncompromising in their quest for reversing reality. Arrangements for a fair distribution of oil revenues might help persuade the Sunnis to join in a federated Iraq, which might create a measure of stability and eventually end the current Sunni insurgency against the Shiite dominated government.
The argument for a multi-religious and/or multi-ethnic federalized Iraq is however weakened by the Yugoslav experience. Held together by its strongman Josip Broz Tito until 1980, the federation unraveled within a decade of his death, coinciding with the end of Soviet domination over the East/Central European states (former Soviet Bloc) and the emergence of nationalism and democracy. In Yugoslavia, it culminated in a series of wars between the Serbs (Orthodox Christians) and the Croats (Catholic), and between the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims in Bosnia. The wars led to the independence of all the components of former Yugoslavia.
While Iraq’s prospects as a federal state are still unclear, there are visible indications that the Kurds and the Shiites are opting for independence. Justice requires that the Kurds be granted the right of self-determination. America owes the Kurds much more than the Palestinians (the Bush administration is currently pushing for an independent Palestinian state), and a free and democratic Kurdistan would leave the Bush administration with a proud legacy.
As hopeful as General Petraeus’ report might be, it will not change the political realities in Iraq. Neither the U.S. government nor General Petraeus will be able to accommodate the demands of the three main groups that make up the current Iraq: Shiite Arabs, Sunni Arabs, and non-Arab Kurds. To prevent an Iranian takeover (perhaps unavoidable in the Shiite south) of Iraq or interference by outside forces, the U.S. might consider stationing its reduced troop levels in friendly and pro-America Kurdistan (despite the fact that the Bush Sr. administration abandoned them to Saddam Hussein’s genocide after encouraging them to rebel).
The Kurds would welcome American bases in Kurdistan as protection from the Turks (who have threatened invasion if they declare their independence) and for economic reasons. U.S. bases in Kurdistan would keep our troops safe while within striking distance of all points in Iraq, Iran and Syria.
German government warns Australians to stay away. New “Al Qaeda In The Lands Of The Villains” cell expected to strike soon.
A sort of terror fever is sweeping Old Europe. Betting money is on an attack in the next 90 or so days.
Given that their governments would be changing hands in the coming weeks, both England and France were bracing for a nasty call from Al Qaeda. Well once staunchly anti-Jihadi, anti-Muslim Street Gang politician Sarkovy was elected its President, France has been all but assuming that it will be hit in the weeks ahead, especially because…
…a very disturbing new tape, featuring a new European branch of Al Qaeda called “Al Qaeda In The Lands of The Villains” started making the international rounds on May 1. May Day. The tape features armed gangs practicing assaults on everything from buses to military installations, and lots and lots of IED making. Topographical analysis indicates it was shot in Eastern Europe, perhaps Chechnya.
The tape’s narrator lays out three specific priorities for Al Qaeda in Europe
1. A general worldwide jihadi recruitment campaign extolling the fun and virtues of killing Americans in Iraq, Jews in Palestine, Hindus in India. In other words, off-continental killing.
2. The training of believers to fight the infidels, namely the Christians and Jews living in Europe.
3. The establishment of separate Muslim states-within-states in Europe, ie the strongest admonition against culturally integrating into Western Societies. The need to remain both separate and jihadi in preparation for the ultimate conquest of the continent.
Al Qaeda has only released tapes revealing new cells if those cells are about to launch attacks. In addition, Al Qaeda chatter in Spain is currently “off the charts”, and has been for the last two weeks. And the G8 Summit goes down in Germany next month, which resulted in a series of raids which just started today ( the growing links between American/European socialists and Islamic terrorists is also disturbing. This alliance is in fact the very lifeblood of George Soros and Moveon.org, and their puppet entity, the Democrat political party. Soros’ direct communication with terrorists is currently under both official and private surveillance and review ) As a result, the governments of all nations concerned consider May, June and July to be critical.
And also just in tonight:
Australian travellers are being warned to exercise caution if travelling to
Germany, which may be at an increased risk of a terrorist attack.The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade tonight reviewed its travel
advice for Germany, alerting travellers that the German government had
warned terrorist attacks might be possible.
“German government public statements continue to note the possibility of
terrorist attacks in Germany,” DFAT said on its website.
“The German Interior Ministry has said the threat has become more serious.
“On 20 April 2007, the United States Embassy issued a warden message
advising that US diplomatic missions and installations are increasing
security in response to the heightened terrorist threat.”
U.S. Gunship Strikes Two Suspected Terror Targets in Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia — A U.S. airstrike hit targets in southern Somalia where Islamic militants were believed to be sheltering suspects in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies, Somali officials and witnesses said Tuesday. Many people were reported killed.
Monday’s attack was the first overt military action by the U.S. in Somalia since the 1990s and the legacy of a botched intervention — known as “Black Hawk Down” — that left 18 U.S. servicemen dead.
Helicopter gunships launched new attacks Tuesday near the scene of the U.S. airstrike, although it was not clear if they were American or Ethiopian aircraft, and it was not known if there were any casualties.
Two helicopters “fired several rockets toward the road that leads to the Kenyan border,” said Ali Seed Yusuf, a resident of the town of Afmadow in southern Somalia.
The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower arrived off Somalia’s coast and launched intelligence-gathering missions over Somalia, the military said. Three other U.S. warships are conducting anti-terror operations off the Somali coast.
U.S. warships have been seeking to capture Al Qaeda members thought to be fleeing Somalia after Ethiopia invaded Dec. 24 in support of the government and drove the Islamic militia out of the capital and toward the Kenyan border.
The White House would not confirm the attack, nor would the Pentagon.
But a U.S. government official said at least one AC-130 gunship was used. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the operation’s sensitivity.
AC-130 gunships have elaborate sensors that can go after targets day or night. They are operated by the Special Operations Command and have been used heavily against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The airstrike occurred Monday evening after the suspects were seen hiding on a remote island on the southern tip of Somalia, close to the Kenyan border, Somali officials said. The island and a site 155 miles north were hit.
The main target was Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who allegedly planned the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed 225 people.
He is also suspected of planning the car bombing of a beach resort in Kenya and the near simultaneous attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner in 2002. Ten Kenyans and three Israelis were killed in the blast at the hotel, 12 miles north of Mombasa. The missiles missed the airliner.
Fazul, 32, joined Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and trained there with Usama bin Laden, according to the transcript of an FBI interrogation of a known associate. He came to Kenya in the mid-1990s, married a local woman, became a citizen and started teaching at a religious school near Lamu, just 60 miles south of Ras Kamboni, Somalia, where one of the airstrikes took place Monday.
Largely isolated, the coast north of Lamu is predominantly Muslim and many residents are of Arab descent. Boats from Lamu often visit Somalia and the Persian Gulf, making the Kenya-Somalia border area ideal for him to escape.
President Abdullahi Yusuf told journalists in the capital, Mogadishu, that the U.S. “has a right to bombard terrorist suspects who attacked its embassies.” Deputy Prime Minister Hussein Aideed told The Associated Press the U.S. had “our full support for the attacks.”
But others in the capital said the attacks would only increase anti-American sentiment in the largely Muslim country.
“U.S. involvement in the fighting in our country is completely wrong,” said Sahro Ahmed, a 37-year-old mother of five.
Already, many people in predominantly Muslim Somalia had resented the presence of troops from neighboring Ethiopia, which has a large Christian population and has fought two brutal wars with Somalia, most recently in 1977.
The U.S. Central Command reassigned the Eisenhower to Somalia last week from its mission supporting NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, said U.S. Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Brown in Bahrain, where the Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based.
“Eisenhower aircraft have flown intelligence-gathering missions over Somalia,” Brown told The Associated Press.
The spokesman said the Eisenhower was the only U.S. aircraft carrier in the region. The vessel is carrying approximately 60 aircraft, including four fighter jet squadrons, he said.
Ethiopia forces had invaded Somalia to prevent an Islamic movement from ousting the weak, internationally recognized government from its lone stronghold in the west of the country. The U.S. and Ethiopia both accuse the Islamic group of harboring extremists, among them al-Qaida suspects.
Ethiopian troops, tanks and warplanes took just 10 days to drive the Islamic group from the capital, Mogadishu, and other key towns.
Ethiopian and Somali troops had over the last days cornered the main Islamic force in Ras Kamboni, a town on Badmadow island, with U.S. warships patrolling off shore and the Kenyan military guarding the border to watch for fleeing militants.
Witnesses said at least four civilians were killed in another attack 30 miles east of Afmadow town, including a small boy. The claims could not be independently verified.
“My 4-year-old boy was killed in the strike,” Mohamed Mahmud Burale told the AP by telephone. “We also heard 14 massive explosions.”
The AC-130 is armed with 40 mm guns that fire 120 rounds per minute and a 105 mm cannon, normally a field artillery weapon. The gunships were designed primarily for battlefield use to place saturated fire on massed troops.
“We don’t know how many people were killed in the attack but we understand there were a lot of casualties,” government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari said. “Most were Islamic fighters.”
U.S. officials said after the Sept. 11 attacks that extremists with ties to al-Qaida operated a training camp at Ras Kamboni and Al Qaeda members are believed to have visited it.
Leaders of the Islamic movement have vowed from their hideouts to launch an Iraq-style guerrilla war in Somalia, and bin Laden’s deputy has called on militants to carry out suicide attacks on the Ethiopian troops.
Somalia has not had an effective central government since clan-based warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other, sinking the Horn of Africa nation of 7 million people into chaos.
A U.N. peacekeeping force, including U.S. troops, arrived in 1992, but the experiment in nation-building ended the next year when fighters loyal to clan leader Mohamed Farah Aideed shot down a U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter and battled American troops, killing 18 servicemen.
At least 13 attempts at government have failed since then. The current government was established in 2004 with U.N. backing.
Ethiopia versus the Islamists
By Vance Serchuk
The Weekly Standard | January 9, 2007
After holding Mogadishu for six months, Somalia’s Islamists have been swept from power, ousted in a blitzkrieg attack by the Ethiopian military. The nature of the emerging political order in Somalia remains profoundly uncertain, with the retreating Islamists threatening to wage an Iraq-style insurgency, and the internationally recognized Somali government facing doubts about its popular legitimacy, internal cohesion, and ability to ensure even basic security. Still, the battlefield gains of the past two weeks have created a rare window of opportunity in this long-suffering corner of the Horn of Africa, as well as in the broader war on terror.The rout of the Islamists also represents a surprising success for the Bush administration, whose Somalia policy seemed hopelessly mired in interagency acrimony just a few months ago. Following the defeat of a coalition of CIA-backed “secular” warlords by the Islamists earlier this year, angry accusations flew from the State Department about Langley’s botched efforts, which seemed to have helped consolidate the very threat they were intended to preempt.
Yet ultimately, it was the behavior of the Islamists themselves, once established in power, that spurred key officials at Foggy Bottom to embrace a new, more aggressive set of policies. Prisoners to their ideology, the hardliners in Mogadishu failed to take the pragmatic steps that could have led to a rapprochement with the United States and allowed them to outflank the hapless “official” Somali government. Instead, the Islamists continued to shelter several known al Qaeda operatives, while welcoming other foreign jihadists into their ranks.
Thus the longstanding Somalia problem came to metastasize over the past six months. No longer just a failed state that could be occasionally exploited by terrorists, it was turning into something more threatening: an active and steadfast ally of the global jihadist movement. In the face of this new and deepening danger, the State Department, it seems, tacitly decided it was time to give war a chance.
Equally important as Foggy Bottom’s willingness to accept Ethiopian military intervention, however, was the capacity of Addis Ababa’s armed forces to execute it effectively. In this regard, the swift rollback of the Islamists also offers something of a vindication of the Pentagon’s long-term strategy in the Horn of Africa, and its investments there.
The lead actor in this case has been Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, or CJTF-HOA. Headquartered at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti–a sweltering speck of a country wedged at the intersection of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and the Gulf of Aden–the U.S. military presence does not look like much: a rough and tumble collection of air-conditioned tents, prefab trailers, and plywood shacks, perched between the scruffy Djiboutian capital and a volcanic desert. A French colony until 1977, Djibouti remains home to Paris’s largest overseas military contingent. Foreign Legionnaires jog on the perimeter of the U.S. compound, while Mirage fighter jets fly overhead. (U.S. troops note their neighbors have a special fondness for buzzing low over Camp Lemonier early on Sunday mornings.)
CJTF-HOA–which constitutes the U.S. military’s first post-9/11 outpost in sub-Saharan Africa–has been at the epicenter of an ambitious effort by the Pentagon to bulk up the capabilities of indigenous militaries in the region. The task force provides training and equipment to key allies such as Ethiopia. CJTF-HOA has also been working extensively with the Ugandan army, which has announced it will contribute troops to the peacekeeping force being planned for Somalia. Although officials at Camp Lemonier insist they are not in the business of recreating the King’s African Rifles or other such native levies, the task force’s activities fit squarely with what last year’s Quadrennial Defense Review described as a “shifting emphasis” toward the use of “surrogates” in the war on terror.
Civil affairs is another focus of the task force. In December alone, CJTF-HOA troops airlifted food to flood victims in Ethiopia, treated livestock in Kenya, and refurbished an orphanage in Djibouti. The working assumption is that a recurring U.S. military presence in these areas makes it harder for extremists to operate openly in them, and that even modest outlays of aid can help win public support. Also, when it comes to gathering detailed information about these collapsed corners of the developing world, there’s no substitute for being on the ground.
The flood relief activities in eastern Ethiopia, for example, may have helped provide a screen for the U.S. military to conduct reconnaissance activities on the Islamists just across the border in Somalia. The Kenyan veterinarian program, meanwhile, took place in the Lamu archipelago, an island chain just south of Somalia that has been used in the past as a transit point by Islamic radicals moving along the Swahili coast. When one plots the U.S. military’s civil affairs presence on a map of the Horn, it is no coincidence that they follow a rough arc along the Somali border and other trouble spots that the United States has an interest in keeping an eye on.
Ironically, these sorts of missions were not what the Pentagon had in mind for CJTF-HOA when it was created in 2002. At that time, the concern was that large numbers of foreign jihadists would flock to the Horn of Africa from Afghanistan and the Middle East, drawn by its porous borders, weak governments, and large Muslim populations–and that the U.S. military needed to be ready to take direct action against them.
This was not an unreasonable calculus. Although Americans tend to think of Africa as a continent apart from the rest of the Muslim world, this division is more imagined than real. Shared waters bind together Arabia, South Asia, and the Horn. At the chokepoint where the Gulf of Aden meets the Red Sea, it’s only an hour’s ride on a speedboat between Djibouti and Yemen.
But not until the seizure of Mogadishu by the Islamists last year did the large-scale terrorist infrastructure that Pentagon planners had feared materialize. In the meantime, CJTF-HOA began emphasizing military training and civil affairs as a new justification for its existence. Not that Camp Lemonier was without its uses: For one thing, it provided a platform for unconventional operations against specific targets–most famously, the CIA’s use of a Predator drone to assassinate al Qaeda operative Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi in November 2002.
Regardless of its rationale, the reinvented task force has won some influential supporters, including retiring CENTCOM commander General John Abizaid, under whose authority the Horn of Africa falls. Abizaid has described CJTF-HOA as a “blueprint” for the future. “Dollar for dollar and person for person, our return on our investment out here is better than it is anywhere in the CENTCOM [area of responsibility],” he commented.
The task force has fewer than 2,000 U.S. troops, an economy of force that advocates like Abizaid argue keeps the U.S. military under the radar and prevents it from stirring up local or global resentments. In Somalia, this strategy seems to have worked: The U.S. military has provided training and support for the Ethiopian military, and it furnished Addis Ababa with intelligence before and during the invasion of Mogadishu, but the details of the Pentagon’s involvement passed largely unnoticed in the media.
This presents more reasons the use of the Ethiopians in Somalia was so appealing. U.S. land forces and political will had been tapped out by Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, any U.S. involvement in the Horn of Africa would stir up memories of “Black Hawk down.” Military operations by Ethiopia, by contrast, aren’t liable to provoke the kind of international outrage or diplomatic dislocations that a U.S. attack would elicit.
That’s not to say there aren’t still risks. If the invasion turns into a quagmire, the media–not to mention our African partners–are sure to start placing quite a bit more emphasis on the Bush administration’s role (as happened after the collapse of the CIA-supported warlord coalition earlier this year). Relying on proxies may afford greater freedom of action initially, but spectacular failure is still likely to boomerang back onto Washington.
And even when the media are looking the other way, our enemies are not. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s number two, has already issued a recording calling Somalia “one of the crusader battlefields that are being launched by America … against Islam,” a message that will no doubt resonate in the Muslim world.
The use of proxy forces involves other, more fundamental, risks–foremost, a lack of control over agents, often when it matters most. The United States can offer an impressive range of inducements to make the Ethiopians do what they otherwise might not desire to do, but they retain control over their army in Somalia. They decide where they will deploy, whom they will empower, when they will leave, and how they will behave while there. As the United States should have discovered at Tora Bora in 2001 and in Baghdad in 2005, this reliance can create dangers that should at least caution against any surfeit of confidence in our allies.
Alas, the United States has a recurring habit of allowing its strategic thinking to get clouded, if not wholly captured, by its client states–seeing its allies as it wishes them to be, and not as they are. This problem is sharply reflected in CJTF-HOA’s civil affairs projects, which soldiers dutifully insist are intended to support the host government in whose territory they are undertaken. This line may make a certain amount of sense in Iraq or Afghanistan–where the U.S. intervention stands or falls with the national leadership we have helped install–but in many parts of Africa, the appeal of U.S. aid stems directly from the deliberate neglect and dis regard of the regime for its people. This suggests the need for a more nuanced approach in these places, in which the United States would achieve its maximum advantage only by adroitly navigating among national leaders, local elites, and the general public.
This, of course, requires detailed local knowledge, individual contacts, and a long institutional memory–none of which CJTF-HOA is designed to possess. Rather than designating a particular group of units to rotate through the Horn of Africa–thus allowing a body of soldiers to grow familiar with its languages, cultures, politics, and personalities–CJTF-HOA has often ended up with whoever wasn’t bound for Iraq or Afghanistan. Despite Abizaid’s praise, the task force does not appear to be a Pentagon priority. Until recently, in fact, “it was four years’ worth of six-month or one-year rotations,” one military official in Djibouti told me, frustrated. “There was no institutional memory.”
Any solution to these institutional problems will, of course, come too late for the opportunity now presented in Somalia. What’s required there, and immediately, is a military force that can restore order to Mogadishu. While many Somalis seem genuinely relieved to be rid of the Islamists and their prohibitions against foreign music and movies, the return of warlords, militias, and rampant banditry to the capital city must be confronted at once. As one resident told the Washington Post, “Now has come a problem bigger than not being able to watch a film. Now, you could lose your life.”
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer has been in Addis Ababa this past week, helping to lead diplomatic efforts to cobble together the 8,000-strong African peacekeeping force to follow the Ethiopians into Somalia, as endorsed by the U.N. Security Council. The Bush administration has also deployed ships on the Somali coast to block the escape of jihadists and has pledged $40 million to aid the reconstruction of the government. Until peacekeepers arrive, the United States should press the Ethiopians to provide elementary security–despite concerns that their presence might stoke Somali nationalism. It should also be ready to lend additional military assets to the peacekeeping effort–in particular, airlift, intelligence sharing, basic supplies, as well as the humanitarian resources of CJTF-HOA.
It is far too soon to judge whether any combination of diplomacy and resources will produce anything that resembles success in Somalia. But while there is no room for complacency, there may be–for the first time, in a long time–a slim cause for hope in this long-suffering country.
Vance Serchuk, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, traveled in Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya last summer.
Freedom’s Successes in 2006
By Joseph Klein
FrontPageMagazine.com | January 3, 2007
In our ongoing war against the enemies of freedom, 2006 ended on a fairly bright note. But we must remain vigilant. 2007 will be a year of challenge and opportunity in a struggle that is of historic and global proportions.
The Islamic fascists have just suffered a humiliating defeat in Somalia. Ethiopia demonstrated what the Left in this country needs to understand – sometimes only a military solution will work to bring the bad guys to account. While “it ain’t over until it’s over,” as Yogi Berra once said, it certainly is better to have the Islamic fascists on the run, rather than allowing them to run Somalia as a strategically located African sanctuary for al-Qaeda. In short, this was a swift and devastating loss for the jihadists. As with the Taliban fundamentalists in Afghanistan, we can expect pockets of insurgency from the Somali Islamists and their al-Qaeda allies. However, we remain the winners as long as they remain out of power and deprived of a safe base from which to conduct their ‘holy’ war.
Iraq, of course, is a far more complicated situation. There are no clear-cut winners or losers. It has become a quagmire, with our military fatalities reaching the symbolic 3,000 mark at the end of 2006. However, it was also a year that captured for the history books the image of Saddam Hussein’s lifeless body swinging at the end of a rope that will be the companion piece to the humiliating image of Saddam being pulled out of a hole by his American captors. At least Saddam was accorded a full trial and judged by his fellow Iraqi citizens, a modicum of justice that he never accorded to his enemies while he and his dead sons were in power.
We are also rid of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda terrorist from Jordan whom Saddam’s regime harbored prior to the American liberation of Iraq and who remained behind in Iraq as bin Laden’s chief lieutenant. Zarqawi took pleasure in killing innocent people of all faiths – including Muslims who happened to be Shiites. Indeed, that is what he and Saddam had in common. Zarqawi set in motion the chain of mosque bombings and killings that have brought the country to the brink of civil war. While his demise has done nothing to stem the sectarian violence in the short term, it has removed an implacable foe of any political solution.
That said, 2007 will be a very challenging year for us in Iraq. But it can also be a year of opportunity if we play our cards right. A temporary troop surge would be a mistake, providing only the illusion of security even if it were to provide a brief respite from the violence. As soon as our troop levels revert to their prior levels, the seething sectarian hatreds will boil over again into new violence. Embedding our military advisors with Iraqi security forces, while pulling back our active combat troops, would also be a recipe for disaster since our advisors will be left unprotected if the Iraqis should decide to turn on the outnumbered American advisors with the help of the insurgents.
The best option for the United States in 2007, among a set of bad options, is to let the civil war in Iraq play out and let the extremists from both sides kill each other. Saudi Arabia – whose own fundamentalists have provided funding to al-Qaeda – cannot afford to allow militant Shiite expansion on its border. Iran cannot afford an embarrassing loss to its partisans, nor risk the havoc that a mass influx of Iraqi refugees may cause to its fragile economy. So let the insurgent Sunnis and their al-Qaeda brothers fight it out with the militant Shiites and their Iranian brothers, while we cheer both sides’ passage to martyrdom and their reward of 72 virgins. There will be a tragic loss of innocent lives, as in any civil war, but this would occur whether we remain actively engaged or not. We might as well avoid being a part of the inevitable carnage and putting our soldiers in harm’s way in the service of no clear, winnable objective. However, this does not mean the kind of cut and run policy that is the Left’s answer to all messy problems. Instead we can concentrate with deadly force on targeting the al-Qaeda leaders and Iranian revolutionary guard forces we are able to track down in Iraq. We can also reposition some of our troops near the Iranian and Syrian borders to stem the flow of arms and foreign personnel into Iraq and Lebanon. When all is said and done, the civil war will most likely end in a stalemate, with an exhausted country perhaps more ready at that time to reach some sort of political coalition solution. The point is for us to retain a sufficient presence in the area to influence the ultimate outcome without becoming embroiled in the daily sectarian fighting.
Iran itself presents the most serious challenge of all because of its regional ambitions and fanatical zeal combined with oil revenues paying for its nuclear programs, but there are some encouraging signs there as well. With all of his bluster, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was running into some serious headwinds of his own as 2006 drew to a close. The U.N. Security Council finally backed up its words against Iran’s nuclear enrichment program with some sanctions, even if the sanctions were about as mild as they can be. At least, the Security Council did go on the record endorsing a path toward isolation of Iran, which the United States has had some success in accelerating through public and private pressure on foreign banks and other firms to cease doing business with Iran or suffer the consequences of lost business opportunities in the United States. Iran’s oil revenues are down, its infrastructure is in disrepair, and its economy is in serious jeopardy of collapse. Ahmadinejad’s loyalists lost some key local elections and Iranian students are more boldly protesting his oppressive regime. Facing increasing economic isolation for his foolhardy nuclear ambitions and draining needed resources at home to diversions in Iraq and Lebanon, Ahamadinejad’s regime is on the brink of imploding without our having to fire a shot. Our challenge, which is also an opportunity if handled right, is to help Ahmadinejad destroy himself and bring down the fanatical mullah theocracy that is the source of his power. To convince the Iranian people who aspire to freedom that we support their aspirations, the last thing we should do is to legitimize the present regime by ‘negotiating’ with them.
Finally, the end of 2006 saw the end – finally – of Kofi Annan’s disastrous tenure as UN Secretary General. Right to the end, Annan blamed everyone but himself and his UN cronies for the UN’s litany of failures during his watch, including the horrendous oil-for-food scandal that involved some of his top deputies. This was also a man who went out of his way to placate terrorists and their sponsoring states, while during his final days in office he unleashed a barrage of criticisms against the United States and Israel. Blinded to any sense of reality, one of his last pronouncements in the midst of Ethiopia’s rout of the Islamic fascists was to urge foreign forces – presumably the Ethiopians – to leave Somalia and respect its ‘sovereignty.’ What Annan never understood is that the Islamic fascists are the ones who have no respect for the aspirations of the people whom they seek to rule. They are cancers metastasizing in every body politic they are able to infiltrate.
Annan’s successor, South Korean Ban Ki-Moon, has to be an improvement, and signs so far are somewhat encouraging. His immediate focus, he said, will be to improve the internal operations and ethics of the U.N bureaucracy – a daunting task in itself that Annan never took seriously. Coming from a country that has prospered economically but continues to live in the shadow of the nuclear threat from North Korea, Ban Ki-Moon knows first-hand the value of freedom and the sacrifices required to preserve it. We may finally have someone we can trust running things at Turtle Bay. We’ll have to wait and see.
The year ahead will have its share of tribulations, disappointments and tragedies. But our future still remains in our hands. With courage, wisdom and patience, we can continue to win the war against the enemies of freedom so long as we remember who those enemies truly are.
A victory for the free world, and for Somalia — if they can make it stick. By Mohamed Olad Hassan for Associated Press:
MOGADISHU, Somalia – Jubilant Somalis cheered as troops of the U.N.-backed interim government rolled into Mogadishu unopposed Thursday, putting an end to six months of domination of the capital by a radical Islamic movement.Ethiopian soldiers stopped on the outskirts of town, after providing much of the military might in the offensive that shattered what had seemed an unbeatable Islamic militia. Islamic fighters fled south vowing to continue the battle.
“We are in Mogadishu,” Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Gedi declared after meeting with local clan leaders to discuss the peaceful hand-over of the city.
Despite the celebrations in the streets, worries about the future were widespread in a country that hasn’t had an effective national government since clan warlords toppled a longtime dictator 15 years ago.
Many in overwhelmingly Muslim Somalia are suspicious of the transitional government’s reliance on neighboring Ethiopia, a traditional rival with a large Christian population and one of East Africa’s biggest armies. Witnesses said crowds threw rocks at Ethiopians troops on the city’s northern edge.
Somalia’s complex clan politics also are a big worry, having undone at least 14 attempts to install a central government in this violent, anarchic nation.
Gedi’s government, set up in 2004 with U.N. backing, is riddled with clan rivalries, most notably between the young prime minister and elderly president.
“The future of Somalia is very bleak and Somalis will share the same fate with Iraq and Afghanistan,” a Mogadishu resident, Abdullahi Mohamed Laki, told The Associated Press. “The transitional government has no broad support in the capital.”
Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, the executive leader of the Council of Islamic Courts, said he had ordered his forces out of Mogadishu to avoid bloodshed in the capital. Residents living south of Mogadishu said they saw convoys of Islamic fighters driving south.In Mogadishu, gunfire echoed through the streets and hundreds of gunmen, who had fought for Koranic rule just hours earlier, took off their Islamic uniforms and submitted to the command of clan elders who ruled the capital before the Islamic courts took over in June.
The city of two million was reported to be in a state of chaos and panic as clan militia began looting Islamic courts’ bases and buildings belonging to Islamic courts officials, witnesses said.
The scene was reminiscent of the anarchy 15 years ago that led to an unsuccessful UN intervention in which 18 US troops were killed.
Clan leaders were due to meet last night to discuss throwing their support behind the Government. Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Ghedi, speaking from his base in Baidoa, called on Islamic militias to withdraw to bases outside the city and allow traditional elders to maintain security.
President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed was expected to hold a press conference late yesterday to offer moderates a truce.
Government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari said talks for the peaceful surrender of Mogadishu were under way.
“We will not attack Mogadishu,” Mr Dinari said. “Islamic courts militias are already on the run and we hope that Mogadishu will fall to our hands without firing a shot.”
On the outskirts of Mogadishu, government forces took over the northern town of Balad and were just outside the western town of Afgoye, cutting off the seaside capital to the north and west, residents and government officials said.
Government forces also took control of Baledogle airport, the country’s most important airfield.
Leaders of the Council of Islamic Courts issued a statement yesterday which said they would maintain security in Mogadishu and allow the people to decide who they want to rule them.
“The (council) allows that Somalis should have the option to determine their future and would be ready for taking over the responsibility,” the statement, signed by the courts’ top three leaders, said.
The Islamic courts captured Mogadishu in June and went on to take much of southern Somalia, often without fighting. The council’s fortunes started to reverse on Sunday, when Ethiopia sent reinforcements across the border to help the internationally recognised Government.
Somalia’s complex clan system has been the basis of politics and identity here for centuries. But because of fighting, the country has not had an effective government since 1991, when clan-based warlords overthrew a dictator and then turned on one another.
Two years ago, the UN helped set up the interim Government. It has been unable to assert much authority, in part because it has been weakened by clan rivalries.
The conflict in Somalia has drawn concern in the US, which accuses the Islamists of harbouring al-Qa’ida terrorists, and has given its tacit support to Ethiopia’s involvement.
The African Union and the Arab League called on Wednesday for all foreign forces to withdraw from Somalia, and for the Government and Islamic courts to return to peace talks.
The Organisation of the Islamic Conference urged parties to spare Mogadishu because of the potential for “enormous human losses”.
The UN Security Council failed yesterday for a second time to agree on a statement calling for an immediate ceasefire.
I posted this article with the assistance of my young Ethiopian Orthdox Christian Zionist mentee, Laban Seyoum to elicit exactly the comments that it has recieved vis a vis the ‘faltering Olmert Kadima government.’ Go forth you sons if Gideon, be not afraid and crush the perpetrators of terror in Hamastan, meaning Gaza. End the ‘rain of terror’ from the Qassem rockets falling on and killing hapless Israelis in Sderot and hitting strategic facilities in Ashkelon. And that’s just for starters. The ‘cease fire’ or hudna is a farce. Only concerted action with the resolve of the people of Israel behind it will work. If the Ethiopians can do it in Somalia with minimal U.S. aid, Israel can do likewise without so much as a bye your leave from the Oval office in Washington. In fact there may even be some quiet applause inside and outside the White House.
By Jerry Gordon
Tonight as we write this, Ethiopia appears on the verge of ‘crushing’ the Council of Islamic Courts (CIC) militias as invading forces rapidly approach the major city of Mogadishu.
The Islamists dreams of the CIC of a ‘Greater Somalia’ under shari’a law has all but gone up in smoke in the wake of bombings of Mogadishu’s airport by aging Mig aircraft of the Ethiopian Air Force flying virtually unopposed.
Ironically, this may be payback for the failed ‘Black Hawk Down’ incident that saw 18 U.S. airmen, Delta and Ranger force soldiers killed, 73 wounded and one captured in an unsuccessful U.N. humanitarian raid against warlords in October, 1993 in Mogadishu. The U.S. State Department announced its support for the Ethiopian operation and our military in the region may be re-supplying the invading force.
According, to Reuters news reports advancing Ethiopian forces estimate that more than 1,000 Islamist fighters have been killed and thousands more captured including foreign fighters.
Clearly, the U.S. which has air, naval, marine and special force assets in the region in neighboring Djibouti gave Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi the ‘green light’ to attack the Islamist by defending the faltering secular Somalia government at the federal capital in Baidoa.
CIC leaders Sheikh Hassan Daahir Aweys and Sheikh Shariif Sheikh Ahmed. who were in Eritrea this weekend to ‘discuss’ strategy with allies there came back to Mogadishu, but with today’s developments their whereabouts are unknown,
Meanwhile the hunt goes on inside liberated Somalia for the three al Qaeda perpetrators of the 1998 Kenyan and Tanzanian U.S. Embassies bombings that killed more than 200 and injured thousands and the 2002 Kenyan Israeli owned Paradise hotel blast that killed 13 and injured more than 80. They had been given refuge in Somalia by the CIC.
But the tensions created by the Taliban-like CIC militia with its shari’a law agenda in Somalia is not over. There is still the matter of possible irredentism from the Somaliland district, the former British Somaliland protectorate, that may declare its full independence. The district has operated autonomously since the fall of the last central government in 1991.
Moreover, there is the question of whether Eritrea’s millitary support of the CIC rebels-they were alleged to have supplied 3,000 troops- might unleash a renewal of the conflict that resulted in a ceasefire reached in December,2000 with a buffer zone created 25 kilometers inside Eritrea with a 2000 person UN force that separates more than 500,000 Eritrean and Ethiopian troops straddling the border. Eritrea has been accused by the U.N. of breaching the 2000 Cease Fire agreement in October, 2006 by moving troops and equipment in the zone.
According to knowledgeable sources, Eritrea has given sanctuary to the CIC rebels. It is rumored that the CIC had received Egyptian, Libyan, Yemeni, Saudi, Syrian and Iranian intelligence and military support.
The question of Iran’s role in backing the Taliban like Islamist rebels. There were rumored deliveries of military equipment by Iran by aircraft in July to the CIC militia forces at Mogadishu.
Whether Somalia dissolves into irredentism or the resurgence of warlordism following the Ethiopian invasion in support of the beleaguered government in Baidoa, the reality is that in the war on Global Jihad, the Islamists may have been vanquished for once.
And this with a country, Ethiopia equipped with aging Soviet era Mig trainer bombers and SU-27 aircraft. Upwards of 10,000 Ethiopian troops were involved in what PM Zenawi called ‘a defensive operation.’ Call it what you may, Ethiopian deserves credit for the first punch in the Islamist nose in the Horn of Africa. The brief and successful military operation may send a stunning message to the ‘realists’ of the Baker Hamilton Commission and our State Department that appeasement doesn’t pay.
The irony is that Israel with its advanced military equipment and trained mainline and reserve forces could accomplish another similar victory in the war against Global Jihad by re-entering Gaza and rooting out the Hamas and al Qaeda cadres killing Israelis daily such as occurred in Sderot today -with the unabated rain of Qassem rockets.
What the sons of the Lion of Judah have shown in Somalia to the faltering Olmert Kadima government is that it might follow suit, if it had the resolve and the ‘green light’ from the White House. Time will tell. But it can’t come soon enough for many of us who support Israel.
Kol hakavod (all honors) to Ethiopia and PM Zenawi for this victory against the Global Jihadists.
Laban Seyoum assisted in the preparation of this article