Author Topic: Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, et al, cf Yemen)  (Read 27934 times)

Crafty_Dog

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Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, et al, cf Yemen)
« on: November 18, 2008, 01:51:53 PM »
Oil Tankers and Pirates on the Open Sea
Stratfor Today » November 18, 2008 | 0006 GMT

KHALED FAZAA/AFP/Getty Images
The Japanese tanker Takayama, which was targeted by pirates in April 2008Summary
The U.S. Fifth Fleet announced Nov. 17 that pirates have hijacked the Sirius Star, an oil tanker en route from Saudi Arabia to the United States. Such a hijacking is very difficult and would indicate a significant increase in tactical capabilities of pirates. Not only is the ship massive and difficult to board, it also was far out at sea and hard to get to. The tanker was also carrying $100 million worth of crude, which could result in a very handsome ransom for the pirates — that is, if U.S. or other naval forces on patrol in the area don’t try to recapture the vessel.

Analysis
The Sirius Star, a United Arab Emirates-owned Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC), was hijacked Nov. 15 by pirates, probably Somalians, 520 miles southeast of Mombassa, Kenya. The ship, which is 360 yards long and sits about 11 yards above the water line, was carrying 2 million barrels of oil worth $100 million for delivery to the United States. It is now reported to be en route to Eyl, in the Puntland region of Somalia, where up to 11 other ships are being held while ransoms are negotiated. The largest ship ever hijacked, the Sirius Star will not be able to dock at Eyl, but the hijackers will do their best to hold on to it and demand a ransom for its return.

This is not the first time that pirates have targeted a tanker. In April, an attempt was made on the Takayama, a Japanese tanker, but it failed even though the pirates used rocket propelled grenades to try to intimidate the ship’s captain into letting them aboard. These scare tactics have typically been successful on small fishing boats or yachts, but VLCCs are high enough off of the water to repel pirate attacks if the pirates are spotted in time. Pirates face a disadvantage when they attempt to scale the face of a tanker because the crew can more easily disrupt their attempts with water hoses or even weapons. However, Somalian pirates are heavily armed and more practiced with their weapons than the typical tanker crew.

The location of this hijacking is far outside the range in which pirates are considered a threat. The world’s most active waters for piracy are in the Gulf of Aden, located along Somalia’s northern coast, south of Yemen. But the Nov. 16 attack was much farther south, closer to Kenya and Tanzania than Yemen. It was also much farther off shore than most pirate attacks, which typically poses a challenge because the boats are limited to how much fuel they can carry. Given pirates’ emerging new tactics and technologies — using “mother ships” to transport smaller attack boats out to sea, global positioning systems, satellite phones — it should be expected that the range of pirate activity will increase.

It is also possible that the Sirius Star, outside the traditional range of pirate attacks, had let down her guard. Given the location of the hijacking, it is likely that the pirates were trolling outside of their traditional waters as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and other NATO countries (as well as Russia) step up patrols and escorts in the Gulf of Aden. By expanding their range, pirates have managed to continue their operations despite increased policing of the gulf. This could, in turn, increase the range of antipiracy efforts that are currently constrained to the gulf and Somalian waters.

Of course, the pirates would be happy to return the ship for the right amount of money. The highest ransom reportedly collected by Somalian pirates was $3 million, and pirates are currently asking for $20 million to release the MV Faina, a Ukrainian ship that was delivering tanks and light arms to Kenya.

Now that the Sirius Star is captured, it will be interesting to see how the international naval contingent patrolling the waters of Somalia will respond. Stratfor has contended that piracy is being made easy and profitable by a lack of international interest in the welfare of ocean-going vessels, since most that have been hijacked belong to countries that lack the capability to take them back by force. But the United States certainly has an interest in the Sirius Star — and the capability to recapture the ship. And French special forces have demonstrated that if French citizens are in harm’s way, as they were when the Le Ponant was hijacked April 4 in the Gulf of Aden, it is possible to take back a ship by force. Britain also has an interest in Sirius Star — two of its 25 crewmembers are British
— as well as the capability to deploy special forces to capture a VLCC.

Nevertheless, taking down a ship is very risky — especially such a large ship in hostile territory. If no country is willing or able to retake the Sirius Star, Vela International, the ship’s owner, may find itself in ransom negotiations for the ship’s cargo and crew. This kind of brazen hijacking will give the United States, Britain and other countries with a naval units operating off the coast of Somalia a chance to prove how committed they are to stopping piracy.

G M

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Re: Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, et al, cf Yemen)
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2008, 02:19:07 PM »
Test run, or part of an AQ operation rather than ordinary piracy?

Crafty_Dog

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WSJ
« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2008, 06:46:21 AM »
On Saturday, off the coast of East Africa, pirates seized their largest catch ever: a giant Saudi-owned oil tanker called the Sirius Star. The brazen attack came on the heels of the capture of a Ukrainian vessel (loaded with armaments destined for Kenya) by Somali pirates in September. Humanitarian food shipments into Somalia have had naval escort for nearly a year -- evidence of how much the security of sea-lanes has eroded. Media reports suggest that Somali pirates have already attacked more than 80 ships in 2008.

 
Chad CroweThese are unprecedented and dangerous developments. Suppressing piracy and the slave trade, accomplished by the last quarter of the 19th century, were among mankind's great civilizing achievements. These were brought about by major maritime powers such as Great Britain and the United States. Indeed, in the American republic's earliest days, President Jefferson dispatched the infant U.S. Navy to confront the Barbary pirates, both on shore and at sea.

By the 1970s, as a part of a growing chaos in parts of Africa and Asia, incidents of piracy began to pick up. But it was not until the 21st century that piracy has experienced a meteoric rise, with the number of attacks increasing by double-digit rates per year. Last year, according to the International Maritime Bureau, 263 actual and attempted pirate attacks took place. Large maritime areas have now become known as pirate heavens, where mariners can expect to be routinely molested. The Victorian self-confidence that drove pirates from the seas is gone.

Twenty-first century economics being what they are, the pirates have been more interested in the payment of ransom by anxious owners and insurers than in the vessels or their cargoes. Piracy is nonetheless a vicious and violent activity that exposes the world's merchant mariners to additional risk of death or injury. Even more fundamentally, the dramatic surge in piracy is, like terrorism, part of a broad challenge to civilization and international order.

Experience -- especially that of colonial America -- suggests that a few sporadic antipirate efforts will not be enough to solve the problem. Only a dedicated naval campaign, along with a determined effort to close the pirates' safe havens, will succeed in sending piracy back to the history books.

There has been some progress on this front. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has dispatched a formidable multinational force -- including British, Italian and Greek ships -- to join the American, French, Canadian and Danish vessels already cruising off Somalia's vast coastline. France has also aggressively pursued pirates, freeing captured vessels and hostages.

Capturing pirates is not the critical problem. Rather, the issue is how to handle those in captivity. Traditionally, pirates fell within that category of illegitimate hostiles that once included slave traders, brigands on the roads and, in wartime, unprivileged or "unlawful" enemy combatants. As Judge Nicholas Trott, presiding over a pirate trial, explained in 1718: "It is lawful for any one that takes them, if they cannot with safety to themselves bring them under some government to be tried, to put them to death." This law, of course, has changed since the 18th century. Pirates, brigands and unlawful combatants must now be tried before they can be punished.

One solution would be for the capturing state to press charges based on the much misunderstood and abused principle of "universal" jurisdiction. This is the notion that any state may criminalize and punish conduct that violates certain accepted international-law norms. Although its application in most circumstances is dubious -- there is very little actual state practice supporting the right of one state to punish the nationals of a second for offenses against the citizens of a third -- piracy is one area where a strong case for universal jurisdiction can be made (if only because piratical activities often take place on the high seas, beyond any state's territorial jurisdiction).

Moreover, given the nature of naval operations, discerning who is a pirate is usually a much easier task than separating Taliban and al Qaeda members from innocent bystanders. This fact, all things being equal, should make the task of prosecuting captured pirates an easier process, both from a legal and public-relations perspective.

key problem is that America's NATO allies have effectively abandoned the historical legal rules permitting irregular fighters to be tried in special military courts (or, in the case of pirates, admiralty courts) in favor of a straightforward criminal-justice model. Although piracy is certainly a criminal offense, treating it like bank robbery or an ordinary murder case presents certain problems for Western states.

To begin with, common criminals cannot be targeted with military force. There are other issues as well. Last April the British Foreign Office reportedly warned the Royal Navy not to detain pirates, since this might violate their "human rights" and could even lead to claims of asylum in Britain. Turning the captives over to Somali authorities is also problematic -- since they might face the head- and hand-chopping rigors of Shariah law. Similar considerations have confounded U.S. government officials in their discussions of how to confront this new problem of an old terror at sea.

In the last few years, France determined to return its pirate prisoners to Somalia based on assurances of humanitarian treatment. The U.S. has, of course, rendered terror prisoners to foreign governments based on similar assurances, and only time will tell whether they are genuine. An equally important question is whether the transfer of captured pirates to local authorities will result in prosecution at all. In many areas, local governments may be subject to corruption or intimidation by strong pirate gangs.

One thing is certain: As in the war on terror, the new campaign against piracy will test the mettle of Western governments. It will also require them to balance the rights of lawbreakers against the indisputable rights of the law-abiding to not live their lives in danger and fear.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey are Washington, D.C., lawyers who served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
===============
The latest ship to fall into the hands of pirates off the coast of northern Africa is a Hong Kong-registered cargo vessel captured yesterday in the Gulf of Aden. The unfortunately named Delight is now steaming toward Somalia, where it presumably will be held for ransom. It joins the Saudi supertanker, Sirius Star, seized over the weekend.

 
AP
The MV Sirius Star.
The assault on the Delight is one of 90-plus attacks on ships this year by Somali pirates, more than double last year's tally, according to the International Maritime Bureau. It says that pirates are currently holding 15 ships and more than 250 sailors. That includes a Ukrainian ship carrying Russian tanks intended for southern Sudan; it was captured in September.

The pirates' headquarters is Somalia, whose dysfunctional government lacks basic law-enforcement agencies, on or off shore, to disrupt pirates. It has a 1,000-mile coastline along the Gulf of Aden, where marauders and their boats can hide easily. Yemen and Djibouti, which also border the Gulf of Aden, are more politically stable, but have few capabilities. The same is true for Kenya, off whose coast the supertanker was taken.

The pirates prey on commercial vessels, which in this computerized age usually carry small, mostly unarmed, crews; the Sirius Star, three times the size of an aircraft carrier, is run by a crew of just 25. The pirates are equipped with modern weapons and high-tech devices such as GPS trackers and satellite phones. Three years ago they used rocket-propelled grenades against a cruise ship carrying 150 American, Australian and European passengers. The ship managed to outrun the pirates.

As Somalia falls apart and the pirates proliferate, it's been left to the U.S. and the rest of the civilized world to police them. The main vehicle for doing so is a global maritime effort called Combined Task Force 150. It was set up after 9/11 by the Bush Administration and falls under the aegis of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. Commanders have hailed from France, Britain, the Netherlands, Canada and Pakistan. The current commander is a Commodore of the Danish Royal Navy.

CTF 150 has 2.5 million square miles to patrol. Fighting piracy poses knotty legal problems too, as David Rivkin and Lee Casey describe here, not least what to do with captured pirates. Build a Captain Jack Sparrow wing at Guantanamo to contain them?

Antipiracy efforts are working elsewhere in the world. Pirates thrived in the Strait of Malacca, which is transited annually by 60,000 ships, but last year there were only 73 pirate attacks, down from 276 five years earlier. The decline is the result of a coordinated policing effort by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, with help from the U.S., which provided training and equipment. Captured pirates are tried in local courts. They aren't treated lightly.

That's Asia. What remains to be seen is how the U.S. and Old Europe deal with this escalating assault. The world has been here before, circa 1805. That was the year of the Battle of Derne, the first fight on foreign soil of the new United States of America. It is recorded in the Marine Hymn's famous line about the "shores of Tripoli." President Thomas Jefferson ordered the Marines into action against the Barbary Coast pirates, who had been exacting ransom from the major maritime powers in return for seized ships and kidnapped citizens.

This problem obviously spills into the lap of the newly arriving President. Though relatively small, the pirates are a challenge to established authority in a way understandable to all. If the high seas are allowed to degrade into a no-man's land, the world's thugs will notice and press forward elsewhere. It's going to require an exercise of U.S. power to push back, or allow global piracy to flourish.

« Last Edit: November 19, 2008, 06:49:19 AM by Crafty_Dog »

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, et al, cf Yemen)
« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2008, 06:28:25 PM »
Certainly on point with regard to piracy, as well as , , , other matters. :wink:  Note the date.
=======
http://www.house.gov/paul/congrec/congrec2001/cr101001.htm

AIR PIRACY REPRISAL AND CAPTURE ACT OF 2001 -- HON. RON PAUL (Extensions of Remarks - October 10, 2001)



HON. RON PAUL
OF TEXAS
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Mr. PAUL. Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce the Air Piracy Reprisal and Capture Act of 2001 and the September 11 Marque and Reprisal Act of 2001. The Air Piracy Reprisal and Capture Act of 2001 updates the federal definition of ``piracy'' to include acts committed in the skies. The September 11 Marque and Reprisal Act of 2001 provides Congressional authorization for the President to issue letters of marque and reprisal to appropriate parties to seize the person and property of Osama bin Laden and any other individual responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11. Authority to grant letters of marque and reprisal are provided for in the Constitution as a means of allowing Congress to deal with aggressive actions where a formal declaration of war against a foreign power is problematic, Originally intended to deal with piracy, letters of marque and reprisal represent an appropriate response to the piracy of the twentieth century: hijacking terrorism.

All of America stood horrified at the brutal attacks of September 11 and all of us stand united in our determination to exact just retribution on the perpetrators of this evil deed. This is why I supported giving the President broad authority to use military power to respond to these attacks. When Congress authorized the use of force to respond to the attacks of September 11 we recognized these attacks were not merely criminal acts but an ``unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security.''

Congress must use every means available to fight the terrorists behind this attack if we are to fulfill our constitutional obligations to provide for the common defense of our sovereign nation. Issuance of letters of marque and reprisal are a valuable tool in the struggle to exact just retribution on the perpetrators of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In fact, they may be among the most effective response available to Congress.

Since the bombing there has been much discussion of how to respond to warlike acts carried out by private parties. The drafters of the Constitution also had to wrestle with the problem of how to respond to sporadic attacks on American soil and citizens organized by groups not formally affiliated with a government. In order to deal with this situation, the Constitution authorized Congress to issue letters of marque and reprisal. In the early days of the Republic, marque and reprisal were usually used against pirates who, while they may have enjoyed the protection and partnership of governments, where not official representatives of a government.

Although modern America does not face the threat of piracy on the high seas, we do face the threat of international terrorism, Terrorism has much in common with the piracy of days gone by. Like the pirates of old, today's terrorists are private groups operating to assault the United States government as well as threaten the lives, liberty and property of United States citizens. The only difference is that while pirates sought financial gains, terrorists seek to advance ideological and political agendas through terroristic violence.

Like the pirates who once terrorized the high seas, terrorists today are also difficult to punish using military means. While bombs and missiles may be sufficient to knock out the military capability and the economic and technological infrastructure of an enemy nation that harbors those who committed the September 11 attacks, traditional military force may not be suitable to destroy the lawless terrorists who are operating in the nations targeted for military force. Instead, those terrorists may simply move to another base before our troops can locate them. It is for these reasons that I believe that, were the drafters of the Constitution with us today, they would counsel in favor of issuing letters of marque and reprisal against the terrorists responsible for this outrageous act.

Specifically, my legislation authorizes the President to issue letters of marque and reprisal to all appropriate parties to capture Osama bin Laden and other members of al Qaeda or any other persons involved in the September 11 terrorist attacks. The President is also authorized to use part of the $40 billion appropriated by this Congress to respond to the attack, to establish a bounty for the capture of Osama bin Laden. My legislation singles out Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda because the information available to Congress and the American people indicates bin Laden and his organization were responsible for this action. By vesting authority in the President to issue the letters, my legislation ensures that letters of marque and reprisal can be coordinated with the administration's overall strategy to bring the perpetrators of this outrageous act to justice.

Letters of marque and reprisal resolve one of the most vexing problems facing the country: how do we obtain retribution against the perpetrators of the attacks without inflicting massive damage on the Middle East which could drive moderate Arabs into an allegiance with bin Laden and other terrorists. This is because using letters of marque and reprisal shows the people of the region that we are serious when we say our quarrel is not with them but with Osama bin Laden and all others who would dare commit terrorist acts against the United States.

Mr, Speaker, I ask that my colleagues join with me in providing the additional ``necessary weapon of war'' and to help defend our fellow citizens, our sovereign nation, and our liberty by cosponsoring the September 11 Marque and Reprisal Act of 2001 and the Air Piracy Reprisal and Capture Act of 2001.



****************************************************************************************************************************
Text of H.R. 3076 [107th]: September 11 Marque and Reprisal Act of 2001

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h107-3076

Body-by-Guinness

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UN Logo Vehicles Used in Suicide Bombings
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2009, 09:24:11 AM »
Suicide bombers used U.N.-logo vehicles to strike peacekeepers in Somalia, African Union says
Posted: 04:25 PM ET
(CNN) — Suicide attackers breached security at the African Union base in Somalia’s capital by using vehicles with United Nations logos to carry out a deadly double car bombing, the organization told CNN.

“The vehicles had U.N. logos on them and they entered inside the headquarters and then exploded,” said Gaffel Nkolokosa, spokesman for the African Union mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM. “We do not know if they were, in fact, U.N. vehicles.”

Jean Ping, chairman of the African Union Commission, issued a statement strongly condemning the attack on the base in Mogadishu, saying it had killed “a number of peacekeepers.” It was unclear how many casualties were caused by the twin suicide car bombs, Nkolokosa said.

The two cars packed with explosives rammed into a building housing peacekeepers from Burundi and Uganda, Ping said. Al-Shabaab, the Islamist militia with ties to al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the midday attack, he said.

http://cnnwire.blogs.cnn.com/2009/09/17/suicide-bombers-used-u-n-logo-vehicles-to-strike-peacekeepers-in-somalia-african-union-says-2/

Crafty_Dog

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The Tao

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Re: Saracen Intl deal in Somalia
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2011, 12:53:17 PM »


http://www.warisbusiness.com/2637/features/deal-of-the-month/saracen-international-somalia/

Guro Crafty, thank you.

I am looking into this quite a bit, especially over the next month or so. I'll see if I can't provide something of substance in the near future in regards to them and their operations in the autonomous region of Puntland and some other places that I will be.

ccp

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millions at risk of starvation
« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2011, 04:41:25 PM »
One million starved in 1985 in Ethopia.  More at risk in the horn now.  Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, Djibouti, Eritria.

The WTC death toll is peanuts compared to these events.

http://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images?_adv_prop=image&fr=yfp-t-701&va=famine+horn+of+africa

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, et al, cf Yemen)
« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2011, 04:46:05 PM »
 :cry: :cry: :cry:


With the world in such good and stable shape I guess we can cut the US military $500b :roll:

G M

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Re: Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, et al, cf Yemen)
« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2011, 04:49:10 PM »
:cry: :cry: :cry:


With the world in such good and stable shape I guess we can cut the US military $500b :roll:

See, all you do if you suddenly need cutting edge weapon systems and highly skilled troops is just go down to Walmart and get some. It's not like you need a decades long R&D or something....

Hello Kitty

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Re: Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, et al, cf Yemen)
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2011, 12:30:43 PM »

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Israel and Iran in East Africa
« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2012, 05:45:44 AM »
Eastern Africa: A Battleground for Israel and Iran
 

October 29, 2012 | 1016 GMT

Summary
 


Iranian Navy Commander Admiral Habibollah Sayari in December 2010
 


Whether an Oct. 24 explosion at a Sudanese arms factory with suspected ties to Iran was the result of an Israeli attack, the incident highlights Iran's maneuvers and Israel's concerns in eastern Africa. Tehran has sought to establish land routes for weapons trafficking from the Indian Ocean and Red Sea into Gaza and Israel in order to support militants in the region -- particularly Iranian proxy militant groups on Israel's borders and in the Levant. This, along with the importance of the maritime route through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden to the sustainability of these land routes, has made Sudan and the Red Sea part of a secondary battleground between Iran and Israel.
 


Analysis
 
Iranian naval forces are key to maintaining and expanding Tehran's weapons smuggling routes. In 2007, Tehran restructured the Iranian navy and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps navy, putting the corps' naval focus on the Strait of Hormuz, Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. This allowed the more traditional Iranian navy to focus on blue-water efforts that would expand Tehran's naval influence, specifically in the triangle connecting the Strait of Hormuz, the Strait of Malacca and the Bab el Mandeb strait. Bab el Mandeb is of great importance to Iran, because it is a natural choke point between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.
 
Iran's focus on expansion in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea serves several purposes. First, it establishes an Iranian presence along a key transportation route where Iran can protect its vessels from Somali pirates. Second, it is a military tactic, giving the Iranian navy influence outside the Persian Gulf -- something Tehran believes is necessary for its success as a regional power. As Iran attempts to move its navy toward a blue-water capability, the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea will be where developments occur first. Finally, it supports Iran's goals in eastern Africa. Iran's navy is not advanced enough to challenge other navies in the region, but the maritime presence in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea allows the Iranians to provide cover for their weapons smuggling routes to the north.
 
Diplomacy on the Southern Red Sea Coast
 






.
 

Tehran uses its naval presence in the region as a form of soft diplomacy to maintain good relations with Eritrea and Sudan (and, to a lesser extent, Djibouti) all while supporting its onshore goals in the region. Iranian tankers and other vessels, including military vessels, frequently dock at the Eritrean ports of Massawa and Assab and at Port Sudan. In 2008, Eritrean opposition figures even claimed that Eritrea had allowed Iran to establish a naval base at Assab, near the entrance to the Bab el Mandeb strait. Tehran has also used its relationship with Eritrea to aid Yemen's al-Houthi rebels who, like the Iranians, are Shia (although the Yemeni rebels belong to a different sect).
 
Port Sudan's proximity to Gaza, Egypt and Israel make it an excellent location for smuggling arms northward. In 2009, Israel launched three airstrikes against weapons shipments in Sudan that were believed to be from Iran heading toward Gaza. In 2011, Khartoum blamed Israel for another strike on Port Sudan that killed two people. Leaked cables also indicate that the West warned Khartoum not to allow Tehran to arm Hamas militants during the 2008-2009 Gaza War.
 
Since Tehran's relations with Saudi Arabia and Yemen -- on the northern coastlines of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden -- are sour, these ties to countries on the southern coastlines have become a strategic necessity for Iran's ambitions beyond the Persian Gulf. Iran has been able to deploy more ships farther from the Gulf since 2007. For example, in 2011, for the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iranian naval vessels passed through the Suez Canal. With Egypt's new Islamist president seeking to work with Iran on a solution for Syria, Iran could gain greater access to Egyptian waters, especially as Cairo attempts to use Tehran as leverage to manage Israel.
 
Iran's navy cannot project enough power to control key shipping lanes, but Tehran has emphasized its presence around Bab el Mandeb as a possible means of disrupting global trade in the event of an attack on Iran and a key point for negotiations in the future, much like the Strait of Hormuz.
 
Iran's maritime presence also helps support anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and northwestern Indian Ocean. Iran's navy has been a successful interdictor of Somali piracy since 2008, when Somali pirates hijacked an Iranian chartered cargo ship off the Yemeni coast. While countering piracy protects Iranian trade vessels from Somali pirates, it also provides a rationale for the Iranian navy's presence off the coast of eastern Africa, allowing it to discreetly augment Iran's activities on land, such as weapons trafficking through Sudan.
 
Iran's Land-Based Operations in Africa
 
Iran has used not only the Sudanese coastline but also Eritrea and possibly Djibouti or Somalia to smuggle arms onto land before shipping them to their destination. Eastern Africa’s porous borders make smuggling along land routes relatively easy.
 
Tehran uses the land routes in eastern Africa to smuggle weapons and stage anti-Israeli attacks. The Yarmouk factory in Khartoum, where the explosion occurred Oct. 24, is believed to manufacture ammunition and rocket artillery destined for Gaza and the al-Houthi rebels in Yemen. The factory is thought to have ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and is said to be staffed by Iranians. In June, two members of the corps' Quds Force were arrested in Kenya and were found in possession of the explosive RDX. The RDX could have been bound for a smuggling route, or it could have been meant for use in an attack on Israeli interests in Kenya. In Mombasa, Kenya, in 2002 an Israeli-owned hotel was bombed and two surface-to-air missiles were fired at an Israeli chartered jet in attacks believed to have been conducted by al Qaeda's East Africa branch.
 
Tehran has used the land routes not only to smuggle weapons and drugs into Gaza but also to move trafficked goods back to Iran. During the 2011-2012 Arab unrest, Libyan weapons were smuggled to Sudan, and Israel has said those weapons went back to Iran before they were sent to Hezbollah, likely through Syria.
 
As Israel's attacks on weapons convoys in Sudan illustrate, Israel is paying attention to Iran's smuggling routes in eastern Africa and attempting to interdict Tehran's weapons shipments to the north. Iran's use of additional smuggling routes in Kenya and Tanzania, south of the African horn, could limit Israel's ability to interrupt Iran's trafficking operations by spreading those operations across a larger area.
.

Read more: Eastern Africa: A Battleground for Israel and Iran | Stratfor

Crafty_Dog

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Iran-Sudan
« Reply #12 on: October 30, 2012, 10:33:04 AM »
Iran Naval Commanders Meet With Sudan Counterparts .
Article Stock Quotes Comments (1) more in AFRICA | Find New $LINKTEXTFIND$ ».
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By NICHOLAS BARIYO
KAMPALA, Uganda—Iranian naval commanders met Tuesday with their counterparts in Sudan to discuss joint training exercises in the wake of explosions at a weapons factory that was blamed on Israel.

The commanders from Iran were part of a delegation from two Iranian warships that docked at Port Sudan on Monday. The visit and the training exercise have been in the planning stages, and the ships departed from Iran in September. But the meetings have taken on a new significance after Sudan alleged that Israeli aircraft bombed a weapons factory in its capital Khartoum last Wednesday.

Sudanese army spokesman Sawarmi Khalid Saad told Suna, Sudan's state news agency, that the arrival of the warships is within the framework of "friendly relations and goodwill of naval forces" and they would support "strong political, security and diplomatic relations between the two states."

Wednesday's explosions rocked the Yarmouk Military Complex in Khartoum, killing at least two people and leaving the complex partially burnt. Sudan initially ruled out external aggression, blaming a fire on an internal explosion. Sudanese information minister Ahmed Bilal Osman later said Israel was suspected of hitting the plant with four fighter jets using hi-tech jamming devices.

Israel has declined to comment on the incident.

Rabie Abdelaty, the spokesman for Sudan's information ministry, said the arrival of Iran's ships will give Sudanese armed forces an opportunity to learn advanced naval warfare and air-defense technology in the wake of Israel's alleged attack. He declined to discuss details of the meetings between the Sudanese and Iranian naval officials.

"Sudan will confront the aggression started by Israel" Mr. Abdelaty said. Sudan has also called on the United Nations to condemn Israel over the attacks, he said.

Sudan and Iran have been steadfast military allies since the early 1980s. According to Swiss-based publication, Small Arms Survey, Iran remains a major supplier of weapons to Sudan.

In the past three years, Sudan has accused Israel of carrying out several air strikes inside its territory, the most recent one being in May, in which one alleged arms dealer was killed as he drove through the streets of Port Sudan.

On Monday, Sudan's foreign ministry denied that the bombed plant was being operated by Iran. Security officials in Kenya and Uganda say that the Israel intelligence believes that Yarmouk, one of two publicly known state-owned weapons factories in Khartoum, is the main source of missiles used by the militant group Hamas. The Sudanese government maintains that the plant produces "ordinary weapons."

U.S.-based Satellite Sentinel Project–which is a partnership between the Enough Project, a human-rights organization, and DigitalGlobe, DGI +2.00%a provider of imagery products and services—has since said that a detailed analysis of satellite images suggest the factory was hit by air-delivered munitions.

Iran's official news agency, IRNA reported Monday that the war ships arrived to "convey a message of peace and friendship" and "to provide safety at sea in light of increasing maritime terrorism." Iran has also deployed a navy fleet off the East African coast of Djibouti to fight piracy.

Israel accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons with the intention of striking Israel's nuclear facilities. Iran, which remains on the receiving end of a U.S.-led international condemnation, denies the accusations.

Meanwhile, Iran's regular army began a two-day ground and air military exercise aimed at upgrading its combat readiness and increasing its deterrence against possible attacks, according to The Associated Press.

Iranian state TV said the drills involve forces in a wide region in western Iran near the Iraqi border. It showed troops parachuting from helicopters near the towns of Sarpol-e Zahab and Qasr-e Shirin, about 700 kilometers west of Tehran


Crafty_Dog

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Israel vs. Iran in Eritrea
« Reply #14 on: December 12, 2012, 04:43:06 AM »
Eritrea: Another Venue for the Iranian-Israeli Rivalry
 

December 11, 2012 | 1115 GMT









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Summary
 


ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images
 
Iran's Kharg supply ship in a Red Sea port on Oct. 31
 


The tiny country of Eritrea has been accommodating two Middle Eastern rivals in order to face its geopolitical challenges -- mainly its fear of invasion by Ethiopia. Iran wants to expand its presence in Eritrea and other East African nations in order to gain influence along the Red Sea, an important route for seaborne international trade. Israel, meanwhile, wants to monitor Iranian activities in the region. By allowing foreign security operations in its territory, Eritrea has become another venue for Israel and Iran's ongoing rivalry.
 


Analysis
 
Eritrea operates under two key geopolitical constraints: multiple security concerns and a weak economy caused by the country's small size and population (5.2 million in 2011, according to the United Nations) and lack of natural resources. The war-torn country has few options for satisfying its economic needs.
 
Since gaining independence from Ethiopia in 1991, Eritrea has fought wars against Yemen, Djibouti and Ethiopia. The war with Yemen was sparked by territorial claims over Greater Hanish Island in the Red Sea. In its conflict with Djibouti, Eritrea claimed ownership of the Ras Doumeira mountains along the coast.
 






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 Eritrea has faced an existential security threat since independence: invasion by Ethiopia. This concern grew after the United States allied with Ethiopia and diplomatic quarrelling froze relations between Washington and Asmara in 2001. The overwhelming fear that Ethiopia would invade to recover its lost territory has led to high levels of conscription into the Eritrean military. More than 10 percent of the country's population, including older citizens, now serves in the military or in a reserve force. The constant possibility of an Ethiopian invasion has put Eritrea in a seemingly endless state of emergency.
 
Specific Threats from Ethiopia
 
For Eritrea, the most pertinent security concern is Ethiopia's strategic interest in regaining a port on the Red Sea. Following independence, Eritrea held the ports of Assab and Massawa, while Ethiopia, a country of nearly 90 million people, became landlocked. Assab is located in Eritrea's far south, roughly 161 kilometers (100 miles) from the Ethiopian border, near the home of numerous Afar tribes (indeed, most Afars live in northeastern Ethiopia). Ethiopia-backed Afar rebels make up Eritrea's main armed opposition group and demand independence. The goal of retaking Assab is popular goal among Ethiopia's political elite and a common issue in the country's political discourse.
 
Moreover, Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a bloody war from 1998 to 2000, and tensions along the border remain. Eritrea lost the war, in which 70,000 people were killed, but it repelled the Ethiopians and safeguarded its independence from Addis Ababa. Both countries have troops stationed along the border, and Ethiopia launched three attacks in southern Eritrea in March.
 
Turning to the Middle East
 
Eritrea's imperative is to maintain its significance and acquire defensive measures from willing Middle East countries to maintain its independence from Ethiopia. Facing years of continuous isolation from its African neighbors and from the United States due to its alleged support for Somali Islamist groups, Eritrea has turned to the Middle East for alliances and assistance. After withholding its participation in the African Union from 2004 to 2011, Eritrea became an observer member of the Arab League.
 
Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are becoming close allies of the small African country. Iran has supplied arms and training to Yemeni al-Houthi rebels located along the Eritrean territory coast. This piqued Saudi Arabia's interest in Eritrea, since Riyadh wants to deter the rebels. Qatar, which wants to exercise influence in East Africa, mediated the Eritrea-Djibouti border dispute.
 
In exchange for resources, possibly including modest amounts of cash and weapons, Eritrea has exhibited a willingness to become a base of support for Middle Eastern powers that want to exert greater influence in the Horn of Africa. As a result, Eritrea and its waters in the Gulf of Aden have become another venue for Iran and Israel's rivalry. Israel and Iran's engagement with Eritrea is an extension of their rivalry over the Red Sea, which allegedly led to the bombing of the Yarmouk weapons factory in Sudan.
 
Israeli and Iranian Operations
 
In 2008, Tehran struck a deal with Asmara to maintain a military presence in Assab -- officially to protect the state-owned renovated Soviet-era oil refinery there. In return, Asmara received cash and other military support from Tehran through official and unofficial channels. In 2009, the same year in which Eritrea openly supported Iran's nuclear program, the Export Development Bank of Iran transferred $35 million to support the Eritrean economy.
 
Iran's operations in Eritrea are relevant to Tehran's larger goal of controlling the Bab el Mandeb strait and the water route to the Suez Canal. Moreover, naval ships from a dozen Western and other countries are stationed just miles from Assab to fight piracy in the Indian Ocean and conduct other security operations in the region. The United States and France have large bases in Djibouti, near Assab. Thus, Iran's presence in Eritrea could be more significant in terms of intelligence gathering than tactical defense.
 
Israel also operates inside Eritrea. According to Stratfor diplomatic and media sources, Israel has small naval teams in the Dahlak archipelago and Massawa and a listening post in Amba Soira. Israel's presence in Eritrea is very focused and precise, involving intelligence gathering in the Red Sea and monitoring Iran's activities. Various Stratfor diplomatic sources have said that Israel's presence in Eritrea is small but significant.
 
Asmara wants Israel's friendship for numerous security and political reasons. Eritrea wants to use Israel to influence the United States -- an ally of both Israel and Ethiopia -- in decisions regarding Eritrea on the international stage. The country also wants to acquire better air defense capabilities to defend against a possible attack from Ethiopia. Moreover, cooperating with Israel is a way for Asmara to balance its controversial relationship with Tehran.
 
However, Israel has good relations with both Eritrea and Ethiopia and is less interested in expanding its presence in Eritrea than Iran. Israel would not want to harm its relations with Ethiopia and other regional countries, as it has a wider interest in East Africa -- mainly containing Sudan's Islamist government, which allegedly supports Hamas and other anti-Israeli elements in the Middle East. As Israel has expanded its security cooperation with South Sudan and Kenya in recent years, Eritrea has responded by strengthening its ties with Iran.
 
Eritrea's decision to accommodate Israel and Iran is not an ideological choice. It is a way for a small and insecure nation to meet its economic and security needs.
.

Read more: Eritrea: Another Venue for the Iranian-Israeli Rivalry | Stratfor

Crafty_Dog

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Iran, Sudan, Egypt, Gaza, and Israel
« Reply #15 on: December 18, 2012, 04:52:19 PM »
An Alleged Iranian Arms Shipment Tests Egypt's Resolve
 
December 14, 2012 | 1606 GMT
Summary
 


STR/AFP/Getty Images
 
Two Iranian warships dock Dec. 8 at Port Sudan
 


A recent visit by two Iranian warships to Port Sudan on the Red Sea is naturally attracting a great deal of attention from Israel. After all, the November Gaza crisis largely stemmed from the multiple shipments of Iranian-made long-range Fajr-5 rockets to Gaza via Sudan. Stratfor has received indications that the warships carried three containers of arms and munitions bound for Gaza. Though the shipment does not appear to include artillery rockets, Iran looks to be testing Egypt's resolve to secure the Sinai-Gaza border and maintain the shaky cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
 


Analysis
 
The Sudanese navy held an official reception for the Iranian ships, which docked at Port Sudan from Dec. 8 to Dec. 10. According to the Sudanese army, it was a routine tour by the Iranian navy to develop ties between the two nations. However, Israel has a number of reasons to doubt the seemingly benign visit.
 
Sudan has been a critical logistical hub for Iran to ship weapons northward through the Sinai Peninsula to Gaza. Israel's concern over this supply chain was illustrated Oct. 23 when an airstrike, presumably by the Israeli air force, targeted the Yarmouk weapons facility in Khartoum, which allegedly was being used to stockpile parts for Fajr-5 rockets.
 
Stratfor has learned that the two Iranian warships that arrived at Port Sudan recently were carrying arms and munitions, including the Iranian version of the Kornet anti-tank guided missile, the DShK 12.7 mm heavy machine gun and 106 mm recoilless rifles. The shipment allegedly does not include artillery rockets. Instead, it appears that Iran is helping Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, who were at the forefront of the November crisis, replenish their stockpiles of other weapons. The Kornet anti-tank guided missiles carry particular significance, given their relatively effective use by Hezbollah in the 2006 war; by Syrian rebels in the current conflict there; and their reported use by Gaza militants against an Israeli Merkava tank in December 2010, against an Israeli school bus in April 2011 and allegedly against an Israeli army jeep Nov. 10.
 
The containers will purportedly be shipped to northern Sinai, where they will remain until an opportunity arises to smuggle them into Gaza. Iran would have an interest in getting the shipment into Egyptian territory as soon as possible in order to reduce the risk of Israel eliminating it, as it did in January 2009, when Israeli aircraft destroyed a Gaza-bound weapons convoy northwest of Port Sudan. A discreet attack on Sudanese territory is far more politically manageable for Israel than an attack on Egyptian soil.
 
Shipping weapons under the guise of a ceremonious port visit is not the most clandestine means of getting weapons to Gaza militants without interference. It is possible that the information on the three containers was leaked to divert attention from another shipment or that the shipments do not actually carry any weapons but are merely being used to test the Egyptians. Assuming that the information on these weapons shipments is accurate, Egypt's response will be important. The cease-fire agreement struck in November is contingent on Egyptian security guarantees to interdict weapons supplies heading for Gaza. But the Egyptian government, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, is already preoccupied with a domestic crisis over a constitutional referendum and is in no position to handle major tensions with Israel.
 
Regardless of what is contained in the shipment, Iran is trying to show that it maintains a strong working relationship with Palestinian militants and that its leverage in Gaza has been preserved. It will be interesting to see whether these weapons shipments, coming on the heels of the cease-fire agreement, will reveal any tension between Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas claimed a significant symbolic victory against Israel in the November crisis, and it is using its momentum to build up its political legitimacy in the region through foreign visits. It is also expanding political institutions in the territories to assert its influence. A resumption of hostilities with Israel could greatly disrupt those plans, especially if Israel came to the conclusion that Egypt was either incapable or unwilling to secure the border.
 
Palestinian Islamic Jihad, on the other hand, does not carry the same political ambitions as Hamas and has a much closer relationship with Iran. So far, the two groups have been coordinating closely and are reportedly discussing the creation of a Gaza defense ministry to formalize the joint command and control structure that they formed during the latest crisis. Such a move would enable Hamas to more tightly control militant movements in Gaza, especially at a time when the presence of rival Salafist-jihadists in the region is growing. Though Hamas is in need of arms replenishments, it is probably not interested in making any provocative moves at the moment that could strain its relationship with Egypt and undermine its claimed victory against Israel. The fate of these three alleged weapons containers in the coming days could thus be a significant test of an already highly fragile cease-fire in Gaza.
.

Read more: An Alleged Iranian Arms Shipment Tests Egypt's Resolve | Stratfor

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Al Shabaab's hideout in N. Somalia
« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2013, 08:12:05 AM »
Al Shabaab's Hideout in Northern Somalia
 
February 28, 2013 | 1145 GMT


Over the past year, elements of al Shabaab, a Somali Islamist militant group, have been fleeing southern Somalia, the geographic focus of its conflict with the new Mogadishu-based government. With support from an unmanned aerial vehicle campaign, Western-backed African Union forces have been expanding their control of the region and are slowly encroaching on remaining al Shabaab positions. As a result, a number of al Shabaab fighters have headed north to mountainous redoubts in the autonomous Somali territory of Puntland.
 
Thick vegetation and rugged terrain have made the mountains of Puntland highly useful for various militias throughout history. The same geographical features, plus tensions among regional clans and governments, access to local ports and smuggling routes, and a lack of African Union operations in the area, have made the region an ideal al Shabaab hideout again today -- and for the foreseeable future.
 


Analysis
 
Most of the al Shabaab fighters in Puntland have sought refuge in the Al Madow mountains -- a verdant range sometimes known as the Galgala Hills or the Golis Mountains. Located in the coastal Sanaag region, the mountains are part of the larger Karkaar Range, which stretches from easternmost Puntland to just west of the Ethiopian border. The Al Madow range's primary ridgeline runs more than 200 kilometers (roughly 125 miles) parallel to the Gulf of Aden. The area boasts a more hospitable climate than most Somali regions and features thick forests -- especially on the range's steeper northern slope, which receives considerable precipitation from weather systems moving south off the gulf.
 





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The rough topography of the Al Madow range complicates efforts to observe and target militants -- a feature similarly enjoyed by militants hiding in northern Mali's Tigharghar Mountains. Unlike the Malian terrain, however, the thick vegetation of the Al Madow range further conceals militant activities and, where dense enough, can degrade the effectiveness of infrared detectors on unmanned aerial vehicles and other aircraft. The heaviest vegetation can obscure fighters from observation almost completely -- especially during the daytime, when human temperatures differ from the surrounding air less than at night.
 
The mountains are also ideal due to the limited network of roads in the area, which effectively hinders and funnels the ground movements of attacking forces. For example, a single path wide enough for the passage of vehicles runs along the northern edge of the main ridgeline. A larger network of small trails also exists, but most are suitable only for combatants on foot, perhaps accompanied by pack animals.
 
Regional Advantages
 
Al Shabaab militants are also dependent on the region surrounding the mountains. Indeed, the proximity of the Al Madow range to the Gulf of Aden helped facilitate the group's arrival in the first place. Fighters fleeing southern Somalia in skiffs traveled from town to town along the Somali coast until they reached the northern coast of Puntland. Smugglers operating between Somalia and Yemen through the gulf provide weapons, munitions and medicine to the area.
 
While Puntland is not the group's normal area of operation, al Shabaab fighters have also been known to conduct raids in the region. Near the eastern edge of the mountains, where most of the militants have congregated, is the city of Bosaso, Puntland's primary seaport. In March 2012, al Shabaab struck a central part of the city and temporarily blocked the main road that connects it to Garowe, the territorial capital. The road is Puntland's lifeline, since most of the region's goods heading to or from Garowe or the Somali city of Galkayo pass through Bosaso. Weapons, explosives and medicines seized in Bosaso indicate that the port, along with other minor harbors farther west, is used to smuggle essential supplies to al Shabaab militants -- both those hiding in the Al Madow range and those still fighting in southern Somalia.
 
Political and Human Geography
 
Al Shabaab has also benefitted from regional political issues and prior connections to local militias. The group's presence in Puntland has been aided by Mohamed Said Atom, a warlord known to smuggle arms for the Islamist group. Atom had already been active around the eastern town of Galgala when, in January 2012, large numbers of al Shabaab fighters fleeing southern Somalia arrived and joined his militia. The warlord's leadership was eventually contested and taken over by Yasin Osman Kilwe, now al Shabaab's head of Puntland operations.
 
Further complicating matters are tensions over the Sanaag region, control over which is disputed between Puntland and the autonomous territory of Somaliland. The issue has undermined the Puntlander government's attempts to dislodge al Shabaab, since Somaliland tends to deploy forces to disputed areas whenever Puntland pulls away troops for assaults on al Shabaab. Puntlander forces already pose a relatively limited threat to the Islamist group compared to the western-backed African Union forces in southern Somalia.
 
Conflicts among groups like the Warsangali and Majeerteen clans over resources and other issues have provided additional opportunities to al Shabaab. The majority of the Islamist group's fighters are still operating in southern Somalia, where the group has continued to stage hit-and-run attacks and conduct suicide bombings. But its wing in the Al Madow mountains, strengthened by local recruits, especially among the marginalized Warsangalis, is now believed to include at least 1,000 fighters.
 
This type of presence in Puntland is hardly new. Throughout history, the Al Madow mountains have served as hideouts or defensive positions for local militias. In the early 20th century, for example, Somali revolutionary Sayid Mohamed Abdullah Hassan and his Dervish forces fought British colonial forces from the mountains and used the thick vegetation to hide from British aircraft. In 1993, in the early stages of the Somali civil war, an Islamist militant leader named Hassan Dahir Aweys established a base in the mountains. In 2008, western journalists kidnapped in Bosaso were held in the area. And as long as Somalia remains a theater of conflict, the Al Madow range will continue to provide cover and protection to those that take up positions there.
. - See more at: http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/al-shabaabs-hideout-northern-somalia#sthash.OIzXRJBJ.dpuf

Read more: Al Shabaab's Hideout in Northern Somalia | Stratfor

bigdog

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outsourcing counter-terrorism
« Reply #17 on: March 11, 2013, 05:26:54 AM »
http://www.nationaljournal.com/magazine/outsourcing-the-fight-against-terrorism-20130307?page=1

From the article:

In Iraq and Afghanistan, where U.S. officers honed the tactics they teach here (Baker did several combat tours in Iraq), Americans led the fight against terrorists and insurgents. But in Washington, policymakers are now focused on shaving budgets and bringing home troops. And, Baker says, “there are not a lot of governments who want a big U.S. military footprint in their countries.” So Pentagon strategists need a cheaper way to fight militant Islamists—many of them operating, unmolested, in Africa—who would unseat our allies or attack our homeland.
 
In Africa, they think they’ve found it. The call it the “train, assist, and enable” model, and they’re testing it on a large scale. The officials teach the counterterrorism lessons learned in the last decade to foreign militaries, empower them with U.S. capabilities such as intelligence-gathering, and then let the African militaries police their own backyards. “That doesn’t mean the United States will never again intervene militarily in another country with boots on the ground,” Baker says. “But the more proactive we are in engaging with foreign partners, and the more predictive we are in identifying common threats, the less likely a future U.S. intervention will be necessary.” U.S. officials here call this “African solutions to African problems.” Which is convenient, because borderless Islamist militants are also American problems. This model represents a new style of American war-fighting for an era of austerity. Call it leading from the shadows.

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US ramping up secret war in Somalia?
« Reply #18 on: July 23, 2013, 05:08:38 PM »
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/07/22/is_the_us_ramping_up_a_secret_war_in_somalia_al_shabab

From the article:

Just last year, Obama's team was touting Somalia as unqualified success. "Somalia is a good news story for the region, for the international community, but most especially for the people of Somalia itself," Johnnie Carson, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told reporters last October at the New York Foreign Press Center. Carson praised African forces, principally Uganda and Kenya, for driving the terror group al-Shabab out of the Somalia's main cities, Mogadishu and Kismayo. "The U.S.," he boasted, "has been a significant and major contributor to this effort." Indeed, the United States has emerged as a major force in the region, running training camps for Ugandan peacekeepers destined for battle with Somalia's militants, and hosting eight Predator drones, eight more F-15E fighter jets, and nearly 2,000 U.S. troops and military civilians at a base in neighboring Djibouti.
« Last Edit: July 23, 2013, 06:18:11 PM by Crafty_Dog »

Crafty_Dog

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SEAL team captures Shabab leader in Somalia; Actual Black Hawk Down footage
« Reply #19 on: October 05, 2013, 02:00:00 PM »
U.S. Says Navy SEAL Team Captures Shabab Leader in Somalia

A Navy SEAL team seized a senior leader of the Shabab militant group from his seaside villa in the Somali town of Baraawe on Saturday, American officials said, in response to a deadly attack on a Nairobi shopping mall for which the group had claimed responsibility.

The SEAL team stealthily approached the beachfront house by sea, seizing the unidentified target in a pre-dawn action that was the most significant raid by American troops on Somali soil since commandos killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a Qaeda mastermind, near the same town four years ago.

Such operations by American forces are rare because they carry a high risk, and indicate that the target was considered a high priority. Baraawe, a small port town south of Mogadishu, the Somali capital, is known as a gathering place for the Shabab’s foreign fighters.

READ MORE »
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/world/africa/mall-attack-also-involved-kenyans-official-says.html?emc=edit_na_20131005


==========================================

http://www.khou.com/news/world/226450581.html

« Last Edit: October 05, 2013, 05:11:40 PM by Crafty_Dog »



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http://upww.us/vinienco/2013/11/12/muslims-slaughter-38000-elephants-year/

In an unrelated story, global sales of elephant costumes surge among Christians in areas dominated by muslims.

Crafty_Dog

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East Africa Rising
« Reply #23 on: July 24, 2014, 12:32:30 PM »
 East Africa Rising
Global Affairs
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 03:04 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan
Stratfor

By Robert D. Kaplan and Mark Schroeder

The Greater Indian Ocean is the maritime organizing principle of geopolitics, uniting the entire arc of Islam (including the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf), East Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. But while economic dynamism has focused more on the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia over the past quarter-century, lately the most intriguing success story has been East Africa. So while the situations look dire in Ukraine and Gaza this week, take a moment to look at a part of the world -- once deemed hopeless -- that is quietly experiencing a regeneration.

From Mozambique northward to the confines of Somalia even, there has been sustained progress and renewed hope. Over the past ten years, annual GDP growth rates have averaged 8 percent in Mozambique, 7 percent in Tanzania, 5 percent in Kenya and 10 percent in Ethiopia. Tens of billions of dollars are in the process of being poured into Mozambique and Tanzania to tap into vast offshore deposits of natural gas intended to feed growing demand in both South and East Asia, at the other end of the Indian Ocean. Meanwhile, hydrocarbon exploration is occurring in northwestern Kenya and off of Kenya's coast, as well as in the interior reaches of East Africa, particularly in the Great Rift Valley basin stretching through parts of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania.

East Africa and Neighboring Countries
Click to Enlarge

Exploring for energy is not the only development in East Africa. A growing middle class with an attendant consumer sector -- along with increased economic and political integration -- is contributing to significant foreign interest in building road, harbor, rail and power projects that will connect these Indian Ocean countries with Africa's interior. Such projects will also make these countries a maritime and energy center on which the Indian subcontinent and Asia partly depend.

Even Somalia, long isolated because of its civil war and Islamist insurgency, is no longer quite as cut off from global economic interests as it once was. The radical al Shabaab group is still a guerrilla threat, but it has lost substantially the capability of defeating and replacing the Somali government. A multiyear effort by African Union peacekeepers, with extensive Western security and economic backing, has led to the group's degradation. And thanks to counterpiracy operations from a host of world navies, Somali piracy is just not the threat it once was. As Somalia slowly and tenuously moves in the direction of stabilization, there is interest from foreign companies in exploring for minerals in the country's interior and for hydrocarbons off the Somali coast -- for the rich offshore natural gas fields of Somalia's southern neighbors may extend farther north.

Even the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo -- to the west of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda -- may be on the long march to greater stability as peacekeepers from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi have been making some headway against Rwandan-backed guerrillas there. If this trend continues, there is sure to be more foreign interest in the region's vast yet underdeveloped mining sector, even as Uganda becomes a hub for a cross-border trade in hydrocarbons and consumer goods for central-east Africa. Rwanda, too, has attracted investment in its agriculture and light manufacturing sectors -- the fruit of greater stability there also.

Of course, nearby South Sudan has been going in the opposite direction, toward greater dissolution. The Western-encouraged breakup of Sudan in 2011 has thus far tragically backfired, with tribal animosities inflamed by an internal battle over the hydrocarbon spoils of the new nation in the south. Unity in South Sudan existed only as long as there was a common threat in Khartoum. That threat now absent, distrust has spiraled into a seemingly irreconcilable armed conflict between the once brothers-in-arms.

The overall trend in this vast region is dominated by increasing foreign investment in the pursuit of natural resources, but this level of investment would simply not be possible without greater political and economic stabilization itself. Governments here and elsewhere in Africa are no longer driven by the same statist ideas of the sort that once dominated the continent, especially during the Cold War when socialism was the philosophical avatar of too many African leaders. While little may have changed in terms of who rules over these African states (with often the same political parties in control as during the Cold War), the difference has come in the reward of capital now within reach for the resources over which these governments hold sovereignty. Put another way, the opportunity cost of not developing a country's resources is a political calculation leaders in East Africa are no longer willing to wager.

Certainly the defeat of the Soviet Union had a positive effect on Africa, albeit delayed and indirect, but it has not been Western liberalism that has succeeded in Africa so much as pragmatism. For it is the institution of the ruling party that affirms political continuity across much of the East Africa region, even as countries in East Africa have achieved consistent and strong economic growth. After all, Ethiopia's government is by no means a democratic regime; neither is Rwanda's. Yet Ethiopia has averaged a 10 percent annual growth in GDP and Rwanda 8 percent over the past decade or so. Thus, to say that Western-style democracy has succeeded in Africa is a narrow version of the truth. More truthful is the fact that what is transpiring constitutes Asian-like pragmatism with African characteristics. Further encouraging this is the large-scale presence of the Chinese nearly everywhere in Africa, scouring for minerals, metals and hydrocarbons, and building transportation infrastructure as a consequence. For the Africans, the Chinese are, in part, symbols of economic dynamism without the stern moral lectures about democracy that they get from the West.

Examples of Asian-like pragmatism are in evidence throughout the continent. Banished are political leaders in countries such as Mozambique and Tanzania, willing to oppose the development of vast reaches of their countries -- and the economic potential therein -- for the sake of internal political control. Others, such as the political leadership of Uganda and Rwanda, will embrace economic liberalism, as long as political freedoms do not challenge the ruler's interests. East Africa has the edge over regions elsewhere in the continent because of its geographical links to Asia and the Indian subcontinent by way of the Indian Ocean.

The real test will come as the wealth from natural resources continues to accumulate. Will that money be stolen by new elites or will it diffuse throughout societies, so that the result is more modern middle classes that can, in turn, stabilize and expand effective institutions and a culture of civility and human rights? The risk of another descent into rampant corruption and misrule is real, since hydrocarbon and mineral wealth are of the kind whose profits can be concentrated into relatively few hands. The bottom-line question is this: Will the presidency control the hydrocarbons, such as is the case in Angola or Nigeria, or will the institutions of the state and the private sector be empowered to develop and adjudicate the pursuit of Africa's emerging resources?

One thing is clear: Economic change is so ever-present and vibrant throughout East Africa that the region's geographical orientation itself may be changing. Rather than be part of a once-lost and anarchic continent, the area from Mozambique north to Ethiopia may be in the process of becoming a critical nodal point of the dynamic Indian Ocean world.

Read more: East Africa Rising | Stratfor

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POTH: Chinese Naval Base in Djibouti
« Reply #26 on: February 26, 2017, 07:25:06 AM »
U.S. Wary of Its New Neighbor in Djibouti: A Chinese Naval Base

By ANDREW JACOBS and JANE PERLEZFEB. 25, 2017

The United States established Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Credit Jason Straziuso/Associated Press

DJIBOUTI — The two countries keep dozens of intercontinental nuclear missiles pointed at each other’s cities. Their frigates and fighter jets occasionally face off in the contested waters of the South China Sea.

With no shared border, China and the United States mostly circle each other from afar, relying on satellites and cybersnooping to peek inside the workings of each other’s war machines.

But the two strategic rivals are about to become neighbors in this sun-scorched patch of East African desert. China is constructing its first overseas military base here — just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, one of the Pentagon’s largest and most important foreign installations.

With increasing tensions over China’s island-building efforts in the South China Sea, American strategists worry that a naval port so close to Camp Lemonnier could provide a front-row seat to the staging ground for American counterterror operations in the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa.
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    China Retools Its Military With a First Overseas Outpost in Djibouti NOV. 26, 2015

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“It’s like having a rival football team using an adjacent practice field,” said Gabriel Collins, an expert on the Chinese military and a founder of the analysis portal China SignPost. “They can scope out some of your plays. On the other hand, the scouting opportunity goes both ways.”

Established after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Camp Lemonnier is home to 4,000 personnel. Some are involved in highly secretive missions, including targeted drone killings in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, and the raid last month in Yemen that left a member of the Navy SEALs dead. The base, which is run by the Navy and abuts Djibouti’s international airport, is the only permanent American military installation in Africa.

Beyond surveillance concerns, United States officials, citing the billions of dollars in Chinese loans to Djibouti’s heavily indebted government, wonder about the long-term durability of an alliance that has served Washington well in its global fight against Islamic extremism.

Just as important, experts say, the base’s construction is a milestone marking Beijing’s expanding global ambitions — with potential implications for America’s longstanding military dominance.

“It’s a huge strategic development,” said Peter Dutton, professor of strategic studies at the Naval War College in Rhode Island, who has studied satellite imagery of the construction.

“It’s naval power expansion for protecting commerce and China’s regional interests in the Horn of Africa,” Professor Dutton said. “This is what expansionary powers do. China has learned lessons from Britain of 200 years ago.”

Chinese officials play down the significance of the base, saying it will largely support antipiracy operations that have helped quell the threat to international shipping once posed by marauding Somalis.

“The support facility will be mainly used to provide rest and rehabilitation for the Chinese troops taking part in escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia, U.N. peacekeeping and humanitarian rescue,” the Defense Ministry in Beijing said in a written reply to questions.

In addition to having 2,400 peacekeepers in Africa, China has used its vessels to escort more than 6,000 boats from many countries through the Gulf of Aden, the ministry said. China’s military has also evacuated its citizens caught in the world’s trouble spots. In 2011, the military plucked 35,000 from Libya, and 600 from Yemen in 2015.

As China’s navy has assumed these new roles far from home, its commanders have struggled to maintain vessels and resupply them with food and fuel.

Capt. Liu Jianzhong, a former political commissar of a Chinese destroyer plying the Gulf of Aden, said the lack of a dedicated port in the region took a toll on personnel forced to spend long stretches at sea.
Photo
Chinese workers in 2015 at the construction site of a railway linking Djibouti with Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. China has financed this and other critical infrastructure projects in Djibouti. Credit Carl De Souza/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“For six months, we didn’t reach the shore, and a lot of sailors had physical and psychological problems,” he told the state-run China Military Online. To that end, the new base will include a gym, the ministry said.

Professor Dutton said Beijing would most likely try to “acclimatize” the world by using the facility for commercial purposes when it begins operating this year and then gradually increase the number and variety of warships that dock there.

“It will be relatively incremental in the forward deployment of naval power. You are not going to see a Yokosuka,” he said, referring to the base for the United States Seventh Fleet in Japan.

In its written answers, the ministry said that China was not budging from its “defensive” military policy and that the base did not indicate an “arms race or military expansion.”

In recent years, China has moved aggressively to increase its power projection capabilities through the rapid modernization of its navy. Military spending has soared, with Beijing’s defense budget expected to reach $233 billion by 2020, more than all Western European countries combined, and double the figure from 2010, according to Jane’s Defense Weekly. In 2016, the United States spent more than $622 billion on the military, Jane’s said.

These days, Chinese naval vessels, including nuclear submarines, roam much of the globe, from contested waters of the Yellow Sea to Sri Lanka and San Diego.

China’s decision to establish an overseas military installation comes as little surprise to those who have watched Beijing steadily jettison a decades-old principle of noninterference in the affairs of other countries.

The shift is an outgrowth of China’s evolution from an impoverished slumbering introvert to deep-pocketed mercantilist with economic interests across the globe.

Half of China’s oil imports sail through the Mandeb Strait, the choke point off Djibouti that connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. Across Africa, state-owned companies are investing tens of billions of dollars in railways, factories and mines.
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And the millions of Chinese citizens who live and work overseas have come to expect that the government will look out for their interests — a point driven home in recent years when Beijing was forced to rescue Chinese nationals from strife-torn Libya and Yemen.

“The facility in Djibouti is a very interesting lens through which to view China’s growing capabilities and ambitions,” said Andrew S. Erickson, an expert at China’s maritime transformation at the Naval War College and the editor of the book “Chinese Naval Shipbuilding.”

“Not only will it give them a huge shot in the arm in terms of naval logistics, but it will also strengthen China’s image at home and abroad.”

A low-rise encampment built adjacent to a new Chinese-owned commercial port, the 90-acre base is designed to house up to several thousand troops and will include storage structures for weapons, repair facilities for ships and helicopters, and five berths for commercial ships and one for military vessels.

At the base’s front gate recently, Chinese workers in construction helmets waved away a reporter who tried to ask questions. China’s Defense Ministry declined a request to tour the site.

American officials say they were blindsided by Djibouti’s decision, announced last year, to give China a 10-year lease for the land. Just two years earlier, Susan Rice, the national security adviser under President Barack Obama, had flown here to head off a similar arrangement with Russia.

Shortly afterward, the White House announced a 20-year lease renewal that doubled its annual payments for Camp Lemonnier, to $63 million, and a plan to invest more than $1 billion to upgrade the installation.

Gulf of Tadjoura

Doraleh Multi-

purpose Port

Port of Djibouti

Gulf of Aden

Chinese Naval Base

Djibouti

Under construction

1 Mile

Red

Sea

YEMEN

Djibouti-Ambouli

International Airport

ERITREA

DJIBOUTI

Gulf of Aden

DJIBOUTI

Djibouti

Camp Lemonnier

ETHIOPIA

SOMALIA

By The New York Times

If the Pentagon’s current base restrictions are any guide, American and Chinese troops are unlikely to be sharing beers any time soon. American officials, citing possible security threats, keep most personnel confined to the 570-acre rectangle of scrubland, which is a 10-minute drive from the center of Djibouti city. It is a policy that stirs some discontent among those who often spend yearlong stints at Camp Lemonnier without venturing outside.

By contrast, French military personnel can often be seen jogging through the city and socializing with locals. Americans who work for the United States Embassy also live in the community and say they feel little threat to their safety.

Life on base can be monotonous, broken up by visits to the fitness center or meals at the camp’s Subway sandwich outlet. Capt. James Black, the camp’s commanding officer, said one of his primary challenges was to provide salubrious distractions for those stationed here. The distractions include free Wi-Fi, a movie theater, Texas Hold ’em tournaments and the occasional soccer match with Italian and German troops.

“We’re like a landlocked aircraft carrier,” Captain Black said during a recent tour of the installation, which is blasted in summer by broiling heat. “Part of my job is to create opportunities to give people a break and attend to their mental health needs.”

Local residents also crave more face time with the Americans. Some say Camp Lemonnier personnel could play a more active role in helping to alleviate Djibouti’s crushing poverty by building schools, painting hospitals or simply taking part in language exchanges.

Others, like Mohamed Ali Basha, the owner of a Yemeni-style restaurant that serves grilled fish and massive discs of baked flatbread, said he would welcome business from military personnel.

“I don’t understand why the Americans are so obsessed with security here, but I would be happy to close the restaurant for them if they would come,” Mr. Basha, 26, said. “Just call in advance.”

In interviews, Djiboutian officials expressed little concern that two strategic adversaries would be sharing space in a country the size of New Jersey. It helps that the Chinese are paying $20 million a year in rent on top of the billions they are spending to finance critical infrastructure, including ports and airports, a new rail line and a pipeline that will bring desperately needed drinking water from neighboring Ethiopia.

Critics say the surge of loans, which amount to 60 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, raises concerns about China’s leverage over the Djibouti government should it fall behind on debt payments.

“Such generous credit is itself a form of control,” said Mohamed Daoud Chehem, a prominent government critic. “We don’t know what China’s intentions really are.”

But on the city’s dusty, potholed streets, most people are pleased to see China joining the club of a half-dozen foreign militaries that have a presence here, among them Japan, Italy and Britain. Also here is a large contingent of French soldiers who stayed on after 1977, when the colony formerly known as French Somaliland gained independence.

Abdirahman M. Ahmed, who runs Green Djibouti International, an environmental social enterprise, said many people viewed foreign militaries as a stabilizing force, given their country’s diminutive size, its lack of resources and the potential threats from neighbors like Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea, where expansionist sentiments continue to burble.

“We don’t see any problem having the Chinese here,” he said. “They provide revenue and help play a deterrence to those who would love to annex Djibouti.”

The plethora of foreign troops, some say, also served as a bulwark against the jihadist violence that has destabilized other countries in the region. Djibouti, whose population of 900,000 embraces a moderate form of Sunni Islam, has not been entirely spared: In 2014, a double suicide bombing at a downtown restaurant popular with foreigners killed a Turkish national and wounded 11 people. The Shabab, the Somali-based militant group, later claimed responsibility, saying the attack was motivated by the presence of so many Western troops in Djibouti.

For American military strategists, the security implications of the Chinese base are unclear, though practically speaking, many experts say the military threat is minimal.

“A port like this isn’t very defensible against attack,” said Philip C. Saunders, director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at the National Defense University. “It wouldn’t last very long in a war.”

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Ethiopia
« Reply #29 on: March 01, 2018, 06:10:29 AM »
Stratfor

The Long-Running Headache of Minority Rule in Ethiopia

The unrest in Ethiopia can be boiled down to three numbers: 35, 27 and six. The first two represent the percentage of ethnic Oromo and Amharic, respectively, that make up the country's 100 million people. But neither of those groups controls the reins of government. The Tigrayans – 6 percent of the population – do, and for decades, the Oromo, the Amharic and others have been protesting and pushing for more power. On Feb. 15, after months of escalating protests in the regions outside the capital of Addis Ababa, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned. And a day later, the central government declared another state of emergency, only six months after ending the last one. But Desalegn's replacement will be facing the same ethnic divisions, and until the Tigrayans concede some control, turmoil will continue to threaten the stability of this East African giant.

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GPF: Ethiopia-- budding regional power?
« Reply #30 on: July 09, 2018, 06:55:39 AM »

Ethiopia: A Regional Power in the Making?

The country has grown increasingly assertive in the region.
Deep Dive

|July 5, 2018

Summary

When we think of countries competing for power and influence in the Horn of Africa, a short list of candidates comes to mind: the U.S., Iran, China, Russia, Turkey and various European powers. Notably absent from this list are countries from within the region itself. But this may be about to change. Ethiopia has recently launched a number of political, economic and foreign policy reforms aimed at redefining the country internally and externally. These moves are a sign that Addis Ababa wants to increase its influence in the region and might be laying the groundwork to emerge as a regional power.

Ethiopia is uniquely positioned to take on this role. It has a history of resisting foreign intervention and remaining, for the most part, free of external domination in a region that was widely colonized by European powers. Now, as the presence of foreign powers grows, Ethiopia will need to become more assertive if it wants to compete for influence with these outside forces. But it has a number of challenges with which it must contend if it is to project power beyond its borders. This Deep Dive will examine the country’s history that has led it to this unique point in time and the conditions it must meet before it will be able to wield more influence in the region.


(click to enlarge)

Ethiopia’s Glory Days

At first glance Ethiopia may appear weak relative to the foreign powers with a growing interest in the area, but history shows that the country has the potential to be much more powerful than it is today. Two empires predating modern Ethiopia – the Aksum Empire (A.D. 100-940) and the Ethiopian Empire (1270-1974) – amassed enough power to define at various points the course of events on the Horn of Africa.


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During its heyday, the Aksum Empire controlled approximately 500,000 square miles (1.25 million square kilometers) of territory in what is now northern Ethiopia, Eritrea, northern Sudan, southern Egypt, Djibouti and western Yemen. The empire prospered because of its position at the intersection of Africa, Arabia and the Greco-Roman world and its access to major maritime trade routes. A strong navy helped control sea lanes, while a sizable army ensured control over land. Much like Ethiopia today, the empire ruled over a multitude of diverse ethnic groups. According to some historians, the monarch maintained control over his subjects by dividing his forces into small groups and assigning them to a specific geographic area.

The territory controlled by the Ethiopian Empire was more limited, but the empire’s power was reflected in its ability to continuously repel foreign invasion. During the Abyssinian-Adal and Ethiopian-Egyptian wars, it faced aggressors that had the backing of the Ottoman Empire. The Egyptians were repulsed after two years of fighting, while the Adal Sultanate occupied Ethiopia for 14 years before being pushed out by domestic forces with support from the Portuguese. At the 1885 Berlin Conference, where European powers partitioned countries as part of the Scramble for Africa, Ethiopia was one of only two countries (the other being Liberia) that was not divided. A decade later, Italy tried to colonize Ethiopia but was defeated. Italy’s second invasion of Ethiopia in the mid-1930s was more successful, but its success was short-lived – Italy was uprooted during World War II. So with the exception of two brief occupations, the country managed to maintain its independence, preventing any major foreign power from completely monopolizing the Horn of Africa.

Federalism Takes Hold

It may be hard to believe that Ethiopia once had the power possessed by these empires, but that history has helped shape the country into what it is today. The area is one of the longest continuously inhabited parts of the world, with Egyptian historical references to Ethiopia going as far back as 980 B.C. Though Ethiopia’s borders have changed over the centuries, its current borders fall within those of previous empires, and many of the same ethnic groups are still present there. Because Ethiopia has, for the most part, maintained its independence, it has been able to preserve the cultures that developed there over centuries.

Ethiopia has a population of over 100 million people and is dominated by two religions, Islam and Christianity. According to the United Nations, more than 80 ethnic groups reside in the country. The largest is the Oromo, which accounts for 32 percent of the population. The Amhara are the second-largest, making up 28 percent of the population. The Tigrayans and Somalis each represent another 6.5 percent of the population. Another nine ethnic groups have 1 million or more members. Both the Aksum and Ethiopian empires managed these differences by centralizing power and preventing rebellion by force. When the Ethiopian Empire fell in 1974, a military dictatorship took power – and it, too, used force to keep the population in line.


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But when the military regime was abolished in 1987, an ethnic-based federalist system of government was established. In 1994, a new constitution was adopted, and the country was divided into nine regions and two autonomous cities based on the ethnolinguistic makeup of the local population. It was thought that giving the different ethnic groups greater autonomy would make it easier for the central government to manage the country’s differences while keeping it united.

But there have been some bumps in the road. In 2016, there were widespread protests against the central government. The unrest started when members of the Oromo community rejected government development plans for Oromo-majority areas and then demanded more representation in the federal government, which had been dominated by members of the Tigray ethnic group since the country held its first elections as a republic in 1995. Other ethnic groups across the country, including the Amhara, soon joined the protests. Some analysts have argued that the federalist system has been ineffective and that the ethnic groups should break away from Ethiopia and form their own states, similar to what happened in Yugoslavia.

But supporters of the federalist approach say it is the best system available, even if its execution has been flawed. One of the flaws has been that people who don’t belong to the dominant ethnic group have been left out of decision-making, particularly at the regional level. Another is that the central government never really represented multiple ethnic groups as it was designed to. After multiple groups united to oust the military regime, the Tigrayans monopolized power and used force to keep the other groups in line. Ultimately, the 2016 protests forced the prime minister to resign and jump-started renewed efforts to form a strong but inclusive central government.

The new government, led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, took office in early April and now finds itself in a decisive moment in the country’s history. The Horn of Africa has always been valuable geopolitical real estate, given the trade routes that pass by its shores. But the region has also been fraught with challenges, including the spread of extremist violence and spillover effects from conflicts in the Middle East. Foreign powers are increasingly trying to gain a foothold in places like Djibouti and, to a lesser extent, Somalia and Sudan, particularly through cooperation on military matters. Ethiopia has always been wary of foreign interference in the region, but it is even more so now after the 2016 protests left it vulnerable to intervention. Now that it’s stabilized, it can either stay out of the affairs of other countries in the region or assert itself as a leader. Recent government moves – and Abiy’s statement that “Ethiopia will get back its lost glory” at a political rally in the capital in June – indicate that Addis Ababa has chosen the latter.

Conditions for Asserting Power

But before it can restore even some of its past glory, it needs to make some changes. To project power in the region, the Ethiopian government must achieve three main objectives: maintain control over the domestic population, secure its borders and diversify its sea access. The rise of the Aksum and Ethiopian empires was possible only with these three conditions in place. And indeed, there are signs that the country is already moving in this direction.

Domestic Stability

Before adopting a more assertive foreign policy, a country needs to have its own affairs in order. This includes maintaining stability and peace at home. In the wake of the 2016 unrest, the government is trying to re-establish domestic stability in three ways. First, it is making changes on the political front. Abiy is the first prime minister from the Oromo ethnic group, and under his leadership, Ethiopia seems prepared to develop an authentic federalist system that will be more representative of the general population than it had been in the past. He also has both a Muslim and Christian background. He has already replaced the heads of various security forces in the country and criticized the use of brutal force by past governments. He invited exiled opposition groups like Ginbot 7 back into the country and called on local leaders in conflict-ridden areas to resign. So far, the response has been positive: Multiple opposition groups unilaterally suspended the use of arms in all self-defense activities, and the chairman of the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement, the ruling party in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region, resigned after ethnic clashes in the region.

Ethiopia is also trying to build a sense of unity and shared identity that supersedes ethnic affiliations, a concept popularly referred to as Ethiopiawinet. With a unified population, it will be better able to resist intrusion by outside powers and work toward common goals. The central government would also be empowered to act more decisively and independently in international affairs with the support of Ethiopians from all ethnic and religious groups. This wouldn’t require an overhaul of the federalist structure and would allow ethnic groups to maintain some autonomy. The government has made some efforts toward building a sense of unity by reminding Ethiopians of the country’s history of resisting Egyptian, Ottoman and Italian invasions, a point in which the people of Ethiopia take great pride. The government can use this shared history as a way to motivate the population to restore the country’s past glory or, at least, resist attempts at foreign interference.

On the economic front, the government wants to bring back the strong growth rates the country experienced just a few years ago. The recent bouts of domestic unrest resulted in temporary factory closures, road blockades, restricted internet access and slumping investor confidence. Poor financial management, drought and famine have also taken a toll on the economy. The country is now facing a declining currency and liquidity problems, a heavy dependence on imports and growing debt. The government’s plan to address these problems involves full or partial privatization of public enterprises, including major companies like Ethio Telecom, Ethiopian Airlines, Ethiopian Electric Power, and Ethiopian Shipping and Logistics Services Enterprise, as well as sugar industries, railway projects and industrial parks. There are also plans to develop partnerships between local and foreign private sector firms. Finally, the government is looking for ways to increase exports to stimulate growth and bring in more foreign exchange.

Secure Borders

Ethiopia has tried to secure its borders by improving relations with its neighbors, in the hopes that it can eventually allocate resources to other areas and provide a secure environment for economic development. But in a region plagued by instability, that hasn’t been easy. Ethiopia has fought multiple conflicts with Somalia and Eritrea over border disputes, and Somalia and South Sudan have been engaged in civil wars for years, with some of the violence spilling over into Ethiopian territory. In each of these cases, Ethiopia is now trying to resolve the conflicts or, at the very least, reduce their impact.

In June, Ethiopia said it would implement the 2000 Algiers Agreement, which ended the most recent war with Eritrea, without any preconditions – a rare sign of conciliation in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea’s president responded by meeting with his Ethiopian counterpart in Addis Ababa. Mending ties with Eritrea benefits Ethiopia on multiple fronts. First, it reduces a long-standing security risk, thus freeing up military resources to be used elsewhere. It will also help improve investor confidence in the country. And it may give Ethiopia access to Eritrea’s ports. Relations between the two countries have been tense in the past because the Tigray have been among the most antagonistic groups toward Eritrea, which borders the Tigray region in Ethiopia. In fact, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, a party in Ethiopia’s ruling coalition, initially opposed reconciliation with Eritrea and was the last major group to support the government on the issue.

Ethiopia has an equally complicated past with Somalia. Fighting between the two countries has broken out five times since the early 20th century. But relations have been more cordial of late. The leaders of both countries have expressed strong interest in economic integration and agreed to further enhance security cooperation. Ethiopian troops have played a key role in African Union counterterrorism missions in Somalia, which are set to wind down in the next couple of years. Once that happens, Somalia will still need security support, which Ethiopia could provide.

In June, Ethiopia announced that it will start its first crude oil production tests in the Ogaden region – officially, and confusingly, called the Somali region – which borders Somalia. There are plans to build a pipeline that will eventually export hydrocarbons from the Somali region via Djibouti. This could be a very lucrative project for Ethiopia, and building up security along the Ethiopian-Somali border will help ensure it is executed effectively, especially because these types of projects have been targets for militants in other countries.

In South Sudan, Ethiopia recently helped broker a cease-fire deal in a five-year civil war. In 2013, at the beginning of the conflict, Ethiopia tried to contain the fighting, but it nonetheless resulted in a flood of refugees – and occasional casualties – on Ethiopia’s side of the border. According to estimates, there are now 400,000-500,000 South Sudanese in Ethiopia’s Gambella region. Ethiopia thus has an interest in ensuring that the cease-fire turns into a lasting peace.

Port Access

As a landlocked country, Ethiopia needs to find a way to access ports if it wants to engage in global trade. Addis Ababa lost direct access to the sea when Eritrea gained independence in 1991. This was a huge blow to Ethiopia’s geostrategic standing in the region. The country suddenly became much more dependent on neighboring states to send its exports to global markets. Sea access would also be necessary if Ethiopia wanted to defend its interests in the Red Sea or Gulf of Aden. Though the idea of an Ethiopian navy sounds far-fetched at this point, the prime minister has reportedly said the country should consider developing some sort of navy in the future. In fact, the Aksum Empire had a formidable navy of its own.


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For now, however, Ethiopia’s focus remains primarily on its economic interests. Some 90-95 percent of Ethiopia’s exports are delivered by sea, and most of them pass through Djibouti, which has one of Africa’s few deep-water container port terminals. Depending so heavily on such a small country for virtually all of its exports is a huge vulnerability, and Addis Ababa is growing increasingly concerned about the presence of foreign naval forces in Djibouti. Right now, Djibouti and Ethiopia have a strong relationship, and any actor that could alter that dynamic is perceived as a direct threat. There is already some evidence that Djibouti is under pressure from foreign countries that have interests there. In February, it seized a container terminal operated by United Arab Emirates-based DP World, saying the contract between the two parties was infringing on Djibouti’s sovereignty. The government had previously said the port would remain “in the hands of our country” until it found new investors.

To mitigate this vulnerability, Ethiopia is now trying to gain control of, rather than mere access to, ports along the coast of the Horn of Africa. In April, Djibouti and Ethiopia brokered a deal to jointly develop and operate the Port of Djibouti. The government of Djibouti has approved Ethiopia’s proposal to acquire a share of the port, though they have yet to agree on the details. In return, Djibouti will get shares in state-owned Ethiopian companies. In addition, Ethiopia recently acquired a 19 percent stake in Somaliland’s Berbera port. (DP World owns 51 percent of the port and Somaliland has 30 percent.) Under the deal, Ethiopia has committed to construct the 480-mile (780-kilometer) road between the port and the Ethiopian border town of Togochale. Addis Ababa is looking into other port projects, including a deal with Kenya that would allow Ethiopia to acquire land on the island of Lamu as part of the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport project, as well as joint investment projects on four potential ports in Somalia. Ultimately, Ethiopia needs guaranteed port access through a partner it can either control or rely on with confidence.

On the surface, all these moves could be seen as motivated not by aspirations for regional leadership but by a desire to grow the economy. But considering the rising presence of foreign forces in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia’s historical resistance to foreign powers in the region and Abiy’s recent statements, it appears that Ethiopia is laying the groundwork to assert itself and compete against outside powers that are increasingly active there. This may take many years if not decades to achieve, if it is achieved at all. But at the moment, the region is without a leader – a country that can help resolve some of the conflicts that have plagued it and prevent foreign forces from amassing too much influence there. Ethiopia has proved in the past and, to an extent, is proving today that it is willing and able to do bot

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Stratfor: The Game is afoot in the Horn of Africa
« Reply #31 on: November 29, 2018, 06:52:32 AM »
Washington Wakes Up to East Africa's Importance
A man holds the flags of Eritrea, left, and Ethiopia as he waits for the arrival of Eritrea's president at an airport in Gondar, northern Ethiopia, on Nov. 9, 2018.


    Peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia will be a boon for regional stability, providing foreign powers with ample opportunity to increase their economic influence.
    Fears of growing Chinese and Russian influence may be driving recent moves by the United States, which suddenly reversed its opposition to the removal of U.N. sanctions against Eritrea.
    As part of a shift in focus to counter Beijing and Moscow, Washington will remove some of its Africa-based personnel, yet it will continue to focus on Djibouti and Somalia, especially because of Islamist militancy in the latter.

Editor's Note: This assessment is part of a series of analyses supporting Stratfor's upcoming 2019 Annual Forecast. These assessments are designed to provide more context and in-depth analysis on key developments in the coming year.
 
The Horn of Africa is in the midst of profound change. From a summer peace deal between longtime enemies Ethiopia and Eritrea to multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects, the region is transforming, providing opportunities for outside powers to enhance their economic influence. In recent months, Russia and China's interest in sub-Saharan Africa has forced the United States to sit up and take notice — particularly with regard to activity in the Horn of Africa. All of it begs the question: How will Washington move forward in the evolving region?
The Big Picture

The Horn of Africa is a strategically important region. Unstable governments and resilient militant groups sit cheek by jowl with emerging economic powerhouse Ethiopia, as well as shipping lanes of global importance. As the United States considers its next moves amid an era of increased great power competition, Washington may be altering its calculations in the region with potential implications to come.


Bringing Eritrea in From the Cold

Peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea over the summer of 2018 has set the stage for deeper changes in the Horn of Africa. Almost overnight, the two countries agreed to set aside decades of acrimony in exchange for better ties. For landlocked Ethiopia, this improvement in relations has opened up better trade links with the outside world through Eritrea. For Eritrea, the detente has reduced the possibility of war, allowing it to devote more attention to its shattered economy, which has taken a backseat to the quarrel with Ethiopia for dozens of years. The normalization of ties has also paved the way for the Eritrean government in Asmara to make overtures to other regional capitals after years of supporting militant groups in an attempt to undermine local rivals, especially the Ethiopian government in Addis Ababa. Already, Eritrea has sat down with Somalia, as well as Sudan, to improve relations.

This rapprochement notwithstanding, the reality of United Nations sanctions that discouraged foreign investment continued to obstruct Eritrea's efforts at normalization. The international body imposed targeted sanctions on Asmara in 2009 in response to a U.N. expert report that accused Eritrea of supporting Islamist militant groups in Somalia, likely as a means of undercutting its principle foe, Ethiopia, which had dispatched troops to the country. Thus, even as Eritrea recently reoriented its foreign policy, it appeared that the United States and others were unwilling to agree to remove sanctions until the government significantly improved its human rights record.

Reports in early November, however, indicated a sudden shift in the U.S. position (national security adviser John Bolton reportedly played a decisive role), resulting in the abrogation of sanctions on Nov. 15. Ultimately, it is the timing that is most striking about the U.S. reversal, as it followed new Russian overtures to Eritrea that included promises to build a logistics center at one of the country's Red Sea ports and develop closer ties. Washington also altered its policy amid worries that China has begun to use debt as a means of enhancing its influence in Africa, particularly in Djibouti. Long the site of a number of foreign military bases, including facilities operated by the United States (Washington's only such base on the continent), France and China, Djibouti has sought to leverage its geostrategically important position on the Bab el-Mandeb strait for influence and financial gain. But since February, when the tiny country terminated the contract that allowed Dubai-based DP World to operate the Doraleh Container Terminal, U.S. policymakers have harbored worries that China — which holds roughly 80 percent of Djibouti's external debt — could use its leverage to assume control of the port, potentially threatening the nearby U.S. presence.

A map locating foreign military bases in the Horn of Africa.

As Russia and China make inroads into the region, the United States might have permitted the lifting of the sanctions against Eritrea as a prelude to improving its own bilateral ties with the country. In fact, Washington and Asmara enjoyed relatively close ties in the 1990s and early 2000s, when Eritrea joined the "coalition of the willing" that invaded Iraq in 2003 and even went as far as offering Washington space to set up a naval base on the Red Sea. The relationship, however, soured over time due to U.S. concerns about Asmara's human rights record, especially after authorities arrested two Eritreans employed by the U.S. Embassy in Asmara. Normalization between Washington and Eritrea could even accelerate if the realists in the current U.S. administration win out over those who prioritize greater emphasis on human rights — a topic that Asmara has yet to improve greatly.

Washington's Competitors on the Continent

The United States has shifted its foreign policy priorities in recent months as concerns about Russia's and China's rise have supplanted fears about global terrorism for Washington's policymakers. The new focus has affected U.S. policy in Africa, with a recent report indicating that the U.S. Department of Defense plans to withdraw 10 percent of its 7,200 Africa-based personnel over the next several years so it can redeploy resources to counter threats from Moscow and Beijing. Subsequent reports have suggested that at least a quarter of those withdrawn will be personnel currently focusing on counterterrorism efforts in West Africa, where the French military has deployed many troops amid its battle to contain the threat from resilient regional militants.

But even as Washington plans to reduce its presence in Africa, it will maintain its focus on theaters such as Libya, Djibouti and Somalia — an unsurprising move given that local franchises backed by al Qaeda and the Islamic State continue to pose serious problems to weak governments and foreign peacekeepers. In Somalia, for instance, the federal government in Mogadishu and its ragtag forces will struggle to maintain — let alone build on — the progress made by the roughly 21,000 troops of an African Union peacekeeping force. As a result, the continued threat of terrorism in Somalia will attract U.S. military forces and resources for the foreseeable future, even if Washington is seeking a means of diverting its resources elsewhere.

East Africa is a region in which Washington, Moscow and Beijing are all jockeying for position.

Moreover, East Africa is a region in which Washington, Moscow and Beijing are all jockeying for position. The United States has traditionally relied on its security partners in Ethiopia and Kenya to combat militants and ensure regional security. But China remains a potent and growing force, particularly amid questions over its so-called debt-book diplomacy across the continent. Indeed, the Chinese Communist Party has longstanding ties with Ethiopia's ruling coalition — something that Washington would like to reduce as Ethiopia's ambitious and young prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, and his allies push for internal reforms to liberalize the country's economic and political systems.

Russia, too, has turned its attention in Africa in recent months, launching its most ambitious African strategy since Soviet times. Moscow has long enjoyed tight ties with countries like Sudan (owing to arms deals and overlapping ideological hostility toward foreign intervention), but Russian officials have also beaten a path to other countries on the continent such as the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and more in 2018. In fact, hundreds of Russian military trainers are working in the Central African Republic's capital, Bangui, while Moscow has also assumed responsibility for the president's security detail. Moreover, Russia has, with Sudan's assistance, actively inserted itself into negotiations between the government in Bangui and rebel groups. While several theories abound about Russian intentions, it is likely that Moscow believes that it can gain attractive mineral concessions and influence in oft-neglected capitals like Bangui for relatively little investment of its military diplomacy. Because Washington maintains little focus on Central Africa, Moscow has little to worry about, save from French concerns over its former colonial backyard. While this could change, it is likely that the United States will remain focused elsewhere and let Paris deal with Moscow's increased interests in the area.

Threats from militancy in Somalia will continue to require U.S. hard power and assistance, but as the countries of the Horn of Africa pursue warmer relations with their neighbors amid a local battle for influence among the great powers, Washington is looking to better position itself for the future. And how the United States goes about doing this will ultimately determine how successful it is in projecting its influence in the region.
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GPF: Competition in the Horn
« Reply #32 on: December 21, 2018, 04:14:08 PM »
Competition in the Horn of Africa. On Tuesday, the U.S. announced it would invest $900 million in Somalia, half of which will go toward humanitarian aid. This comes just a week after U.S. national security adviser John Bolton unveiled the White House’s new strategy for Africa, focused on limiting Chinese and Russian influence on the continent. Kenya, which shares a border with Somalia, will be a key partner in that strategy. Somalia has also attracted attention from other foreign countries looking to gain a foothold in the region, including Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The Horn of Africa is often seen as a strategic location for foreign powers. The U.S. recently announced plans to build new hangars for its unmanned aerial vehicle force at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, on the Bab el-Mandeb strait, a critical chokepoint between the Horn of Africa and the Middle East.

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GPF: Kenya's railway to debt surrenders sovereignty to China
« Reply #33 on: January 25, 2019, 07:15:48 AM »
Jan. 24, 2019



By Xander Snyder


Kenya’s Railway to Debt


The terms of a Chinese loan appear to put Kenyan sovereignty at risk.


The latest round of foreign power competition in Africa has arrived in Kenya, by rail. In Africa, as elsewhere in the world, global powers provide investment and military support. But these factors alone do not adequately explain the competition that arises, and how it affects the strategic considerations of both foreign powers and African states. What does it look like when global heavyweights like China, Russia and the United States project their power into Africa – and what ability do other actors have to stop them? A contract in Kenya may shed some light on the strategic implications of how and where foreign competition unfolds in Africa, particularly as competition in the periphery increases.
In overseas investment, China has shown a tendency to exploit its lending ability by negotiating onerous loan terms to desperate borrowers. The latest example of this trend is in Kenya, where China made a loan for the construction of a railway connecting the port of Mombasa to Nairobi. The leaked loan contract revealed what many have decried as egregious, pro-China terms that appear to put major Kenyan infrastructure at risk of seizure – and other global powers are taking note.
The Railway Deal
In 2014, the Chinese Export-Import Bank lent Kenya $2.2 billion for the construction of the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway. Details of the loan agreement were leaked to the Daily Nation, Kenya’s leading news outlet. The terms appear to pledge the revenue and assets of the Kenya Port Authority as collateral for the loan. If China diverts enough of that revenue, which would go into an escrow account it controls, it will effectively take over the agency that manages some of Kenya’s critical infrastructure, namely the Port of Mombasa, should Kenya default. The loan contract also includes a waiver of sovereign immunity for Kenyan assets. The provision implies that, if Kenya defaults, any of its assets or natural resources would be vulnerable to Chinese seizure as collateral. Further, the contract is governed by Chinese law and stipulates that arbitration, should it become necessary, will take place not in a neutral third-party location (a standard practice in such agreements), but in the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission in Beijing. A secrecy clause required that these terms remain confidential – not unusual for Chinese infrastructure loans.


 
(click to enlarge)


The leaked terms caused an uproar, but they were hardly surprising. It’s not the first time China has used debt to try to take control over foreign infrastructure with strategic value. After Sri Lanka defaulted on the Chinese loan it used to build the Hambantota Port, for example, China took possession of the port under a 99-year lease. And last year, reports surfaced that the government of Zambia was negotiating a loan from China, using its national electricity supplier as collateral. The details of the Kenyan railway deal add another data point to a growing body of evidence that China is making a habit of requiring loan recipients to put up major infrastructure as collateral for development loans.
The Mombasa-Nairobi railway loan, then, is likely representative of the kinds of deals China is making across Africa, including in strategic spots like Djibouti and Eritrea, on the Red Sea. China has worked to keep the terms of such deals quiet, knowing that public opinion would look askance at them – particularly when borrowing African countries are putting up their sovereignty up as collateral.
What is surprising, however, is the timing of the leak to the Daily Nation. The loan agreement is five years old – why leak the terms now? It may be that Kenya is starting to see China as a threat and is looking for ways to ensure that, if it defaults, it won’t have to hand over its assets. Publicly exposing the agreement’s conditions could also be an attempt by Kenya to get the United States’ attention and solicit better deals with the U.S. and its allies. Most African countries lack leverage on the world stage, but they know who the global rivals are – and, often, how to benefit from their rivalries.
Kenya’s Strategic Role
Kenya plays an important role as a partner in the United States’ strategies in Africa. It first established diplomatic relations with the United States in 1964, shortly after gaining independence from the United Kingdom. The relationship has strengthened during the U.S. war on terrorism. The U.S. has provided security aid to Kenya, which is a key local partner in the fight because of its proximity to Somalia, the base of jihadist group al-Shabab.
The United States has economic interests in Kenya, too. Kenya has one of the largest economies in East Africa, and it’s also one of the more stable countries in the region. (Even so, al-Shabab has targeted the country several times in attacks, including one last week in Nairobi that left 21 people dead, and mass protests over a contested election in 2007-2008 killed hundreds and displaced thousands more.) Combined with Kenya’s location on the coast of the Indian Ocean, these factors make the country a logical hub for U.S. economic involvement in East Africa at a time when the region is gaining strategic importance. Kenya, in fact, was rumored to be an “anchor state” – a partner the United States would use to expand its regional influence – in the new U.S. policy on Africa, which national security adviser John Bolton unveiled in December. (Bolton didn’t mention anchor states in his address to the Heritage Foundation detailing the new strategy.) China’s acquisition of major assets in Kenya could threaten U.S. interests there.
And the U.S. isn’t the only one concerned: India is worried that China’s expanding maritime and naval presence in the Indian Ocean basin will encircle it. India needs to maintain the flow of maritime traffic in the area. While China’s projects in Africa may not pose as immediate a threat as those in Sri Lanka, the continent’s eastern coast and its outlying islands are important enough that India has gotten involved in domestic political affairs. In the 1980s, for example, it intervened in Mauritius to stop a coup, and in 2015 it struck an agreement with the Seychelles to jointly develop an airstrip and a jetty. (Public opinion later torpedoed the deal.) If India can limit Chinese maritime power in the Indian Ocean, it can more easily cut China off at the Strait of Malacca using its military bases in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. If, on the other hand, China establishes a naval presence west of those bases, India would have to divide its forces in the event of a conflict to simultaneously reinforce the Strait of Malacca and defend its rear.


 
(click to enlarge)


Power Plays
As China seeks to enlarge its sphere of influence, and as its competitors watch its every move, what power do its debtors and their allies have to resist possible default proceedings, and what can China do to enforce its terms?
In a default, Kenya could refuse to hand over its assets. But doing so would be risky: The move could threaten Kenya’s future access to capital markets and credit, particularly since the International Monetary Fund refused to extend a $1.5 billion standby program after the country failed to implement certain reforms. As Kenya’s current account deficit puts pressure on its foreign reserves and its tax revenues continue to decline, reduced access to credit could pose serious problems for its financial and political stability.
The United States, meanwhile, has a military that’s already overextended, and it probably won’t want to open a new front of military competition in Africa. It would be more likely to counter China by economic means. The U.S. could, for example, encourage multilateral institutions like the IMF to provide funding to a Chinese debtor even if that country failed to implement desired reforms. The U.S. could also provide alternatives to Chinese loans, but that would require offering economically and politically competitive terms – a tall order when China doles out loans with below-market interest rates.
China, for its part, is unlikely to use military force to seize foreign assets, since doing so would undermine its carefully crafted image as an apolitical development partner. It could, however, use financial mechanisms, such as revenue diversion through the Export-Import Bank of China, to choke off funding to the Kenya Port Authority until Kenya acceded to its demands.
Kenya’s not the only country in this predicament; China is funding major infrastructure projects across Africa. For states facing growing debt balances and a current account deficit, there are strong incentives to plug the gap with debt that adds as little to the debt service as possible, even if low interest rates come at a high cost elsewhere. (At present, more than 50 percent of Kenya’s budget is allocated toward debt service.) And, given just how pro-China the terms of the Mombasa-Nairobi railway deal appear to be, it’s likely that officials in Kenya and other recipient countries stand to gain financially from these agreements. Strong political and personal incentives are driving these states to keep borrowing from China – despite the risks to their sovereignty.
If China is indeed regularly demanding sovereign assets as collateral, the locations it chooses for such agreements could indicate where competition with the United States is likely to develop next. In the last decade, China has helped finance some 35 ports around the world, several of which increased its access to the Indian Ocean or to the Bab el-Mandeb strait.


 
(click to enlarge)


It has become a common trope that China differentiates itself from Western creditors through apolitical lending. But requiring a country to concede territorial control, especially of strategic infrastructure, in exchange for funding is an inherently political act – and one that draws outside attention. It is in this ambiguous realm between finance and politics that a new era of competition is taking shape in Africa.



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Russians seeking Red Sea base in Sudan
« Reply #35 on: July 06, 2021, 07:15:25 PM »
Brief: A Potential Russian Naval Base Divides Sudan
Washington is pressuring Khartoum to block the Red Sea base.
By: Geopolitical Futures
Background: The Red Sea and Indian Ocean are important energy and trade routes, and thus competition for access to them among the great powers is intense. For a state like Russia without direct access to them, naval bases – like Russia’s base at the Syrian port of Tartus – spare its ships the long voyage and enable quicker power projection around the Middle East, North Africa and the Indian Ocean basin.

What Happened: Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a bill to parliament concerning the establishment of a naval base in Sudan. The bill seeks to ratify an agreement between Khartoum and Moscow on the construction of a Russian navy logistical hub along Sudan’s Red Sea coast. There’s only one problem: The deal was signed under the former Sudanese government, the new civilian-military transitional council reportedly suspended it, and the civilian faction of the government, which is somewhat close to the United States, has sought to put the brakes on it.

Bottom Line: Sudan is facing an important decision as competing factions seek to balance between Russia and the United States, which is wary of Russia gaining a foothold in the Horn of Africa. By advancing ratification of the deal and ignoring Khartoum’s objections, the Kremlin is fueling discord

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GPF: Kenya
« Reply #36 on: April 08, 2023, 10:08:23 AM »

April 5, 2023
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Kenyan Protests Reshape East Africa
Tanzania stands out as a likely beneficiary.
By: Ronan Wordsworth

Kenya has generally been a beacon of stability in an otherwise restive region. Since its independence, it has had relatively strong institutional integrity, with a body politic marked by the separation of powers in the supreme court and comparatively peaceful electoral transitions. As important, it has experienced steady economic growth, developing into a middle-class economy built around agriculture rather than resource extraction. By no means is it a perfect country, but neither has it undergone the economic and political spasms that invite the kinds of foreign intervention, militant activity, secession and civil war that seem to plague so many of its neighbors.

Which is why the Kenyan protests of the past few weeks are so unusual. Citizens have poured into the streets to voice their dissatisfaction with rapidly increasing inflation and a lack of basic goods. And though the government in Nairobi has much to figure out, this is hardly an exclusively Kenyan problem. Protests have the potential to affect many of the region’s economies – to the benefit of some and the detriment of others.

It’s worth noting how Kenya has been able to withstand much of the instability of the region. In addition to its economic and political blessings, it has made it a point to provide strong border security and military assistance to its neighbors so that the violence there stays there. It has fought off al-Shabab fighters in Somalia even as it assists the government in Mogadishu in its counter-terrorism operations. It has deployed troops to Uganda to help Kinshasa fight its many rebel groups, and it has even managed to absorb refugees from the Sudanese civil war.

But none of these strategies can insulate Kenya from the vagaries of the global economy. The underlying cause of Kenya’s protests is its dependence on imports for essential goods. Its top four imports – fuel, machinery, vehicles and iron/steel – account for roughly 46 percent of all imports by value. And though Kenya has seen growth in its trade balance with other African nations (from $608.82 million in 2016 to $667.9 million in 2022), its global trade balance tells a different story. In fact, Kenya runs a trade deficit, which grew to $11.13 billion for the first 10 months of 2022 – up 23 percent compared with the previous year. This was driven by import costs on essential commodities such as petroleum, wheat, steel and cooking oils – which surged following continued COVID-19 disruptions and the war in Ukraine. Kenya remains heavily dependent on commodities imports.

Increased prices were compounded by a falling value in the Kenyan shilling, which has been steadily declining against the dollar, falling by 14 percent from March 2022 to March 2023. Its depreciation is caused by a variety of factors. First, East Africa has been suffering from the worst drought in at least 40 years, severely reducing Kenya’s crop yields and negatively affecting export opportunities. Decreased exports have forced the government to revise its growth estimates downward from 6.1 percent to 5.8 percent. Second, an increase in yields of U.S. bonds following hiked interest rates has increased dollar-denominated debt repayments for the Kenyan government and has spooked investors who are now depriving Kenyan bonds and the Nairobi Securities Exchange of much-needed capital.

USD to KES Exchange Rate
(click to enlarge)

Between an increasing trade deficit and declining currency value, foreign exchange reserves have dropped to 10-year lows. The East African Community stipulates that members must have a minimum of four months of import coverage in foreign exchange reserves at all times. Nairobi first violated this rule in November last year and has remained below the required level since Jan. 26. (Current foreign exchange reserves sit at around $6.5 billion, or about 3.5 months of coverage.) This has made it increasingly difficult to import the requisite amounts of essential goods, resulting in increased prices and scarcity of basic commodities.

Kenya has a large pile of foreign-denominated public debt. A weaker shilling raises the cost of debt servicing, further restricting Kenyan traders’ and businesses’ access to foreign currency. Further, the government has used foreign reserves to try to stabilize the shilling, mostly unsuccessfully. To cover the government shortfall, Nairobi has restricted importers’ access to dollars to ensure that the central bank has enough foreign currency to meet its own obligations. In a sign of the government’s anxiety over paying for essential goods that Kenya imports, Nairobi apparently asked neighboring Tanzania to assist by providing temporary guarantees on fuel imports to the country. Kenyan President William Ruto has also negotiated with state-owned producers in the Gulf for government-to-government contracts, effectively delaying payment to ease the foreign currency crunch.

Sharply rising prices for basics like fuel, cooking oil and grain were the impetus for Kenya’s social unrest. At first, small groups took to the streets to protest the increased cost of living and appeal for government intervention. Soon after, opposition leaders – namely ex-presidential candidate Raila Odinga, who still disputes the result of last year’s election – latched on to the protests. Through March, there were numerous shutdowns of the capital and the Port of Mombasa, disrupting port traffic and costing the country tens of millions of dollars. April has brought some relief, with opposition groups calling off protests and agreeing to talks with the president.

Mombasa has been the port of choice for East Africa, owing to Kenya’s relative stability and development. The port can handle 30 million tons of cargo per year, with plans to expand capacity to 47 million tons by 2030. It is also how nearly all seaborne goods reach landlocked Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan, as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo. Therefore, the threat of instability in Kenya could affect the trade flows and economies of the broader East African region and lead some countries to look to diversify their trade routes.

Kenya’s loss may be Tanzania’s gain. The Port of Dar es Salaam has benefited from the redirection of some trade away from Mombasa. Cruise ships opted to move to Dar es Salaam, and early evidence suggests that some cargo ships are doing the same. Already Tanzania was investing in the port so it could compete with Mombasa. It hopes by 2030 to expand capacity to 30 million tons from 16 million tons. The competition doesn’t end there. Recently, Uganda and Tanzania broke ground on the $3.5 billion East African Crude Oil Pipeline, and last year they agreed to remove nontariff barriers and simplify customs paperwork. Likewise, Rwanda and Burundi have confirmed their involvement in Tanzania’s Single Gauge Rail project, which will link their capitals to Dar es Salaam.

East Africa's Standard Gauge Railway Network
(click to enlarge)

The Dar es Salaam port expansion is part of a broader effort by the government to open up Tanzania’s economy. President Samia Suluhu Hassan has emphasized democracy and business since taking over from John Magufuli following his death in 2021. Magufuli’s crackdowns on dissent and creeping authoritarianism had somewhat isolated the country diplomatically, but Hassan’s diplomacy and foreign visits to boost trade ties have reset Tanzania’s image. Last August, Hassan visited Wahington where both countries signed several memorandums of understanding on investment. During U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris' visit to Tanzania last week, the U.S. announced $500 million worth of investments in the country's infrastructure projects, transportation networks, digital technologies and clean energy. In previous years, Washington had focused its investments on Kenya.

It remains to be seen whether the dialogue agreed to over the weekend will end the Kenyan protests. Regardless, the unrest has already altered regional dynamics, and Tanzania looks set to emerge as a viable alternative.

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GPF: Ethiopia gets access to Red Sea
« Reply #37 on: January 02, 2024, 03:06:09 PM »
Landlocked no longer. A memorandum of understanding signed Monday will grant landlocked Ethiopia access to Somaliland’s Red Sea port of Berbera in exchange for formally recognizing the breakaway region’s independence from Somalia. Ethiopia would also gain access for 50 years to a 20-kilometer (12-mile) strip of coastline for use by its naval forces. In response, Somalia recalled its ambassador to Addis Ababa and called an emergency Cabinet meeting.

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Red Sea
« Reply #38 on: January 03, 2024, 07:16:50 AM »
anuary 3, 2024
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What Red Sea Disruption Means for Global Supply Chains
It’s far from business as usual for global shipping.
By: Antonia Colibasanu
The Red Sea is a vital waterway for commercial shipping that connects markets in Europe, Asia and Africa. In recent weeks, however, it has been the site of multiple attacks launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in support of Hamas in its war with Israel. The group claims to target only ships leaving from or going to Israel, but others with no clear Israeli connections have been attacked while sailing through the sea. On Dec. 18, the U.S. announced that it would set up a task force to strengthen security in the area. But as Washington calls for more governments to contribute to the effort, the Houthis say the attacks will continue.

The Red Sea is a sort of junction between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea that separates the Arabian Peninsula from the Horn of Africa. It’s connected to the Indian Ocean through the Bab el-Mandeb strait, one of the most critical chokepoints in the world. Three countries occupy the coastline along the strait: Eritrea, Djibouti and Yemen. Djibouti hosts military bases from several foreign countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, China and Saudi Arabia, while Eritrea maintains close ties with China and Russia. (It voted recently against a U.N. resolution to stop the conflict in Ukraine.) Yemen, meanwhile, is engulfed in a brutal, eight-year war between the internationally recognized government, supported by a Saudi-led military coalition, and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The Red Sea

(click to enlarge)

In 2014, Houthi insurgents overthrew Yemen’s government. The following year, the Saudis led a coalition of mainly Gulf Arab states to oust the Houthis – which was ultimately unsuccessful. The country has remained divided ever since, with the Houthis controlling much of the north, the government holding the seat of power from the southern city of Aden, and several other armed factions pursuing their own agendas. Peace negotiations have been held but have so far failed to result in a deal.

Iran’s partnership with the Houthis, including its supply of weapons, has grown deeper since 2014. But this isn’t a typical patron-client relationship. The Houthis are financially self-sufficient, earning revenue through taxation, customs charges and service fees, as well as smuggling operations. They’re seeking international recognition as a legitimate military and political force in Yemen – a goal they can’t accomplish solely with Tehran’s help. Yet they’re undeniably a proxy of the Iranian regime, which has supported them throughout the Saudi-led campaign. The group is thus an unpredictable force and major source of uncertainty, especially since the war in Israel began.

The danger to shipping through the Red Sea adds another layer to global economic challenges in 2024. An estimated 10-12 percent of global trade passes through the sea. While the Bab el-Mandeb lays on its southern tip, the Suez Canal sits on its northern edge as a pathway to the eastern Mediterranean. The 120-mile-long (190-kilometer-long) artificial waterway runs along the Isthmus of Suez, a small strip of land that connects the African and Asian continents. Approximately 14 percent of global oil exports pass through the canal, while more than 30 percent of global container traffic is conducted through the Red Sea.

Since the Houthi attacks began, some ships have tried to broadcast their neutrality in an effort to pass safely through the route. Others are now avoiding the area altogether. Oil giant BP recently stopped all Red Sea shipping operations. European shipping companies Hapag-Lloyd and MSC, as well as Japanese shipping firms Mitsui O.S.K. Lines and Nippon Yusen, are also avoiding the sea. On Tuesday, Denmark's Maersk announced that it would divert its container ships away from the Red Sea following an attack over the weekend on one of its vessels – though it had said late last month that it would resume transit through the region after the U.S. announced the establishment of a naval force to protect commercial shipping. France's CMA CGM said on its website that it would increase its container shipping costs from Asia to the Mediterranean region by up to 100 percent as of Jan. 15 compared to Jan. 1.

Either way, international shipping has taken a hit, fueling new concerns over the global economy. The most obvious worry is that the situation could cause a spike in energy prices, given that the region is a major exporter of oil to markets around the world. According to S&P Global, 24 percent of the vessels redirected from the Suez Canal since Dec. 15 were crude oil tankers. Bulk carriers accounted for about 35 percent and container ships were another 24 percent.

Approximately 90 percent of the oil that flows through the Bab el-Mandeb comes from the Persian Gulf and is destined for Europe and Africa. The other 10 percent is oil from the Horn of Africa. The Red Sea is also a transit route for roughly 80 percent of Russia’s petroleum destined for Asian markets and 8 percent of the global liquified natural gas trade. In the first 11 months of 2023, 42 percent of Russian-loaded crude and products traveling through the Red Sea.

Bab el-Mandeb Transit Calls: October-December 2023

(click to enlarge)

However, the situation isn’t as problematic for Moscow as it may appear; none of the attacks in December targeted Russian shipments, and Russia will benefit from the increased oil prices that will likely result from higher transport costs. The price of carrying oil through the Red Sea has jumped by about 25 percent, while the alternate route along the Cape of Good Hope is not just longer but also 10 percent more expensive than before the attacks. One industry analyst estimates that rerouting vessels destined for Europe from the Red Sea to the Cape of Good Hope could raise shipping costs by 80 percent.

Europe stands to lose the most from higher energy prices. As it tries to transition away from Russian energy, it’s relying more heavily on LNG. Most of the LNG flowing through the Bab el-Mandeb and the Suez Canal is headed for Europe. The good news so far is that Qatari LNG supplies to Europe continue to pass through the Red Sea and Suez Canal without any diversions. European gas prices increased by more than 10 percent after BP ceased shipments via the Red Sea on Dec. 18, but prices have declined since then. European underground gas storage facilities are now 97.89 percent full, and the winter so far has been mild. However, the situation is still fluid as the Houthis continue to launch more assaults.

Supply chains for other sectors have also experienced disruptions. Given that the Red Sea is used for transporting commodities and other resources between large markets, disruptions in traffic here can have serious economic effects. This is especially the case at the moment because a severe drought has reduced traffic via the Panama Canal, causing U.S. grain shipments destined for Asia to take lengthy detours through the Suez Canal and southern Africa. The number of vessels passing through the Panama Canal daily has fallen by nearly 40 percent, resulting in significantly longer wait times – and longer journeys, which directly influences freight costs and product pricing.

The Panama Canal Authority said on Dec. 15 that it would increase daily transit through the canal from 22 vessels to 24 in January due to increased rainfall and water levels. But even this figure is well below normal volumes. Rerouting though the southern tip of Africa is also costly. A ship traveling from Asia to Europe via the Suez Canal would require an extra 15 days to make the journey via the Cape of Good Hope, plus additional time to navigate new operational costs, insurance and legal frameworks.

Shipping companies are now not only diverting their vessels from the Red Sea but will likely have to renegotiate insurance contracts due to the added risks. The lengthy alternate journeys are straining shipping capacity during the peak shipping season for U.S. grain – most of which was traveling through the Panama Canal but is now also rerouted because of the drought – aggravating the situation even more. The uncertainty will undoubtedly translate into higher costs and, if this continues, even higher inflation. It’s also exacerbating the global supply chain disruptions that were already in effect throughout last year, making calls for deglobalization even louder.

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FOL Houthis and Iran planning fukkery in Eritrea
« Reply #40 on: May 13, 2024, 09:24:27 AM »
May 13, 2024
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Daily Memo: Red Sea Tensions, Russian Reshuffle
A base in Eritrea could be the next target of a Houthi attack.
By: Geopolitical Futures

Iranian plans. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Yemeni Houthi rebels reportedly plan to attack military bases in Eritrea that supply the U.S. and British with weapons. According to a story by Sheba Intelligence, advisers to both the IRGC and Houthis agreed at a meeting in Sanaa to launch missile strikes on military bases providing logistical support to international forces in the Red Sea. The base in Eritrea is the main depot from which U.S. and British forces are supplied with weapons to counter Houthi attacks in the region.