giovedì, novembre 02, 2006

Finalmente un po' di chiarificazioni sulla Somalia.

Per chi vuole capire cosa stia veramente succedendo in Somalia, e quali siano i sostegni internazionali (specialmente nel mondo arabo) delle Corti Islammiche, questo è l'articolo che si aspettava da tempo. E' molto lungo e non ho avuto il tempo di tradurlo, ma vi consiglio di fare questo sforzo...

Analysis: The Arabs and the Great Game in Somalia

Somalia is now officially at the epicentre of a regional Great Gamethat threatens to unleash a devastating war that could draw in over 12countries in Northeast Africa.The Horn version of the Great Game is much more serious than thecloak-and-dagger stuff of imperial espionage and diplomacy that pittedCzarist Russia against the British Empire in the period between1813-1907 in Central Asia. Rarely before in post-colonial Africa havewe seen such an intense regional power struggle to shape the destinyof a country.A report prepared for the US State Department by the former USambassador to Ethiopia and Somalia, Prof David Shinn, entitled:"Somalia: Regional involvement and implications for US policy" warnsup to 12 countries in the Greater Horn of Africa could be sucked intothe Somalia conflict if the current stand-off between the powerfulIslamists and the weak interim government leads to a full-scale war.The report, whose content was highlighted this week by Kenya's TheEastAfrican newspaper, confirms what many have suspected for long.Indeed, no-one disputes the fact that the perennial instability inSomalia is largely fuelled by this ferocious regional power struggle.While it is true the new competition over Somalia has its origin inthe old historical fault lines in the Horn - a complex mix ofpolitical, geostrategic, and even religious rivalries - the story ismuch more complicated.The principal actors in the new Great Game in Somalia are Ethiopia,Egypt and Saudi Arabia - three powerful states that have for decadesvied with each other to ensure Somalia is little more than a satellitestate. The other named states - Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Yemen, Iran,Libya, Tanzania, Uganda and the UAE - are merely playing asupplementary role.The role of Ethiopia and Eritrea in the current tension has beencommented upon and is well known. Eritrea's growing profile in Somaliaessentially stems from its border dispute with Ethiopia. What is notwell-known, though, is the role being played by Egypt, Saudi Arabiaand other Arab states such as Yemen, Libya and the UAE.

Egypt's "southern front"

Egypt's interest in Somalia goes back a long way. Cairo has for longregarded a strong and united Somalia as a linchpin in its nationalsecurity strategy, no doubt attracted by the country's geographicalproximity to Ethiopia and one of the principle sources of the Nilewaters. Egyptian strategists see Somalia as a crucial pressure cardwhich Cairo can use in its tussle with Ethiopia over the use of theNile waters.Relations between Cairo and Addis Ababa have been worsening in recentyears, mainly because of the growing dispute over how the Nile watersshould be utilized more equitably between the Nile Basin states.In fact, Ethiopian officials have recently been claiming the Egyptianarmed forces are being trained in jungle warfare in preparation for apossible future military intervention in the Nile Basin.Egypt on the other hand suspects Ethiopia of being behind the regionalcampaign to have the colonial treaty on the usage of the Nile Watersdrawn up in the late 1950's renegotiated. The campaign attracted widesupport in the Great Lakes region and in east Africa, and Cairo feltincreasingly isolated and had to eventually abandon its hardlinestance.To rally wider Pan-Arab support for its policies, Egypt has alsosought to portray Ethiopia as a threat to Arab national security and aregional bully bent on undermining any peace effort in Somalia byencouraging regionalism and arming the warlords.An editorial by the semi-official Egyptian daily Al-Ahram on 14 Juneentitled "Next Stop Somalia" called on Arabs not to be consumed toomuch by the conflict in Iraq and thus forget the conflict unfolding inthe "southern front"."It is high time the Arabs start focusing on the southern front, notjust the eastern one," Al-Ahram said.It is revealing the newspaper, which reflects the views of theEgyptian establishment, sees the current Horn tension in militaryterms.


If it is true Egypt is supporting the Somali Islamists with weaponsand cash, the motive is clearly to help the Islamists challengeEthiopian "designs" in Somalia. Cairo must be pleased with the growingmilitary and political clout of a militant anti-Ethiopian movement inSomalia.Egypt, like many Arab states, says it recognizes the SomaliTransitional Federal Government (TFG), but has made little secret ofits dislike for the TFG's pro-Ethiopian president, Abdullahi Yusuf.The TFG president is largely viewed in Arab circles as an Ethiopianpuppet.Abdullahi Yusuf has found it difficult to get along with Arab leaders.He regularly visits Arab states and attends Arab League meetings, butit appears his relationship with major Arab powers is still frosty.In an angry speech before the parliament in Baidoa recently, AbdullahiYusuf dismissed the Islamists in Mogadishu as a bunch of "Arabophilesfrothing at the mouth". Such rhetoric is bound to further distance theweak TFG from the Arab world.With the Khartoum talks now entering a delicate phase, Egypt appearsto be stepping up its diplomatic offensive to ensure any outcome isone favourable to Cairo. A report by the Somali Islamist website,Goobjoog, on 29 October, said Cairo had officially invited the defacto head of the Somali Islamist movement, Shaykh Hasan Dahir Aweysfor talks. The subject of the talks has not been made public, but itmay be related to the troubled Khartoum peace talks.It is perhaps significant here to note that Aweys frequently visitsArab states like the UAE and Saudi Arabia despite the fact he is onthe UN Security Council's targeted sanctions list in accordance withResolution 1267 of 15 October 1999.It is no secret Egypt was deeply unhappy with the IGAD(Inter-Governmental Authority on Development) process that led to thecreation of the Somali Transitional Federal Government in Kenya inOctober 2004. Cairo felt wrong-footed by Ethiopia, which wielded somuch influence over the whole process. It now wants to ensure the ArabLeague keeps a tight control of the talks in Khartoum so that anypower-sharing deal struck between the Islamists and the TFG is onethat would not disadvantage its geostrategic interests in Somalia.This new tug-of-war between the Arab League and the IGAD over theSomalia peace process is adding another troubling dimension to theSomalia crisis. It is bound to further complicate matters if notderail the whole effort to find a lasting peace.

"Bottom-up policy"

Another area of difference between Ethiopia and Egypt is the questionof what kind of state a future Somalia should look like. Egypt isunimpressed by the "bottom-up policy" favoured by Addis Ababa, whichled to the creation of Somaliland and later Puntland. Cairo's argumentis that the creation of mini-states militates against the emergence ofa strong united Somalia. Consequently, Cairo has been energeticallycampaigning against the recognition of Somaliland.Somaliland commentators often paint Egypt as the biggest obstacle toSomaliland's quest for international recognition. Some even suggestEgypt is behind the move by Saudi Arabia to maintain the punishing banon the import of livestock from Somaliland. While these claims cannotbe proved with any certainty, it is true the emergence of Somalilandand its staunchly pro-Addis Ababa ruling elite must have been a greatsetback for Cairo.Somalilanders have also been infuriated by claims in recent years theauthorities in Hargeysa have been conducting secret negotiations withIsrael and that Somaliland may have signed a secret military pact withthe Jewish state. These reports became even more strident when asix-year-old Somaliland boy was treated in September 2004 in anIsraeli hospital.Somaliland authorities have since denied these claims, suggesting theyare being disseminated by hostile powers that want to drive a wedgebetween them and their Arab cousins.

Saudi connection

While Saudi Arabia and Egypt may share the common strategic goal ofcurtailing Ethiopian influence in Somalia, Riyadh has two primarygeostrategic interests that Cairo may not necessarily share. One ofthis is actually a security imperative, largely of its own making.During the oil boom in the 1970's, Saudi Arabia launched an ambitiousprogramme of extending its sphere of influence in the Horn. Saudi teachers were sent to the region, especially Somalia and Saudi-fundedmadrassas established. Somali students were given free scholarships tostudy at Saudi universities. Saudi NGOs and charities spread theiractivities to the remotest corners of the country. Within a decade,Saudi Arabia overtook Kuwait, Libya and Egypt - the traditional Arabbenefactors of Somalia - to become the largest Arab donor.One of the consequences of this Saudi financial and educational aidwas the rapid growth of the puritanical Wahhabi sect, especially theSalafi strand of Wahhabism. Saudi authorities actually encouraged thisdevelopment and had no problem until the emergence of Al-Qa'idah -itself an extremist Salafi movement - as a global threat following the1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and later9/11. Suddenly, there were fears in Riyadh, and indeed, elsewhere,lawless Somalia could become a haven for Al-Qa'idah militants escapingmanhunts elsewhere.Saudi Arabia, which is currently engaged in its own bitter strugglewith "Al-fi'at al-zala" (the deviant group) - a code-word for theextremist Salafi militants - fears Somalia may become a magnet forSaudi Salafi zealots who may later cause problems back home.The respected Middle East commentator, Adel Darwish, in a commentarypublished by Al-Sharq al-Awsat on 12 August warned events unfolding inSomalia may have deep implications for the national security interestsof Arab states in the region, especially Egypt and Saudi Arabia."The price of ignoring the Afghanization of Somalia will be costly.The national interests of nations such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt willbe threatened, especially if the war moves closer to the sources ofthe Blue Nile in Ethiopia... These [Islamic] courts are an extensionof the Salafist-Takfiri [ultra-puritans who consider other Muslims asapostates] forces which do not recognize the legal boundaries ofstates. They will not hesitate to set the world ablaze, subdue it bythe sword and impose their own vision of what they see as Islam," MrDarwish warned.

Containing Iran

The other Saudi objective is to counter the growing influence of Iran- its traditional Gulf foe - in the Horn and the Red Sea regions.Riyadh was alarmed at the ease with which Iran recruited Sudan intoits camp. Comoros, a traditional Saudi ally, is now ruled by a clerictrained in Iran and looks like its drifting towards the Iran camp. Thenightmare scenario for Riyadh, as some analysts suggest, is to beencircled by states loyal to a belligerent nuclear-armed Iran.Saudi Arabia maintains close ties with the leadership of the Union ofIslamic Courts (UIC). Shaykh Hasan Dahir Aweys is a regular visitor tothe Kingdom and recent Somali media reports say Aweys receivedtreatment at a hospital there. Aweys spent some years in the Kingdomand is thought to have established links with prominent Saudi businessleaders and officials.The Saudis appear keen to maintain and cultivate this relationship,possibly to ensure the UIC does not give refuge to fugitive Saudimilitants.If it is true Iran is now also an active participant in the Great Gamein the Horn, then Riyadh would have more reason to strive to cosy upto the UIC.

The minnows

Libya, the UAE and Yemen - the so-called minnows in the Great Game inthe Horn - each have their own reason for involvement in Somalia.Yemen appears to have broken ranks with the Arabs and is said to becurrently backing the TFG, although there have been previous claims itbacked the Islamists in Mogadishu.Sanaa is primarily wary of Eritrean influence over the UIC. Therelationship between Eritrea and Yemen is far from cordial since thetwo countries fought a brief border war over the disputed HanishIslands in December 1995. Though the dispute was settled afterarbitration by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, therancour left by the crisis continues to fester. Indeed, Yemen'sdecision to spearhead the formation of the Sanaa Cooperation Forumwith its main regional allies Ethiopia and Sudan in 2002, was largelyseen in Asmara as a hostile move to further isolate Eritrea.The UAE for its part is primarily motivated by economic reasons. Thecountry is now the main hub for Somali-run telecom and money transferbusinesses. With the increasing importance of remittances andinvestment by Diaspora Somalis, and the growing entrepreneurial energyin Somalia, UAE's economics-driven foreign policy sees the country asa potentially lucrative growth area. UAE investors are keen onSomalia's untapped oil and mineral potential. They are also keen ininvesting in the country's infrastructure like the main port ofMogadishu.It is worth noting that many of the profitable telecom and moneytransfer agencies with offices in Dubai and the other emirates are runby supporters of the UIC.Libya's alleged support for the UIC is as surprising as it isinscrutable. Perhaps all one can say is it is yet another example ofAl-Qadhafi's predilection for backing militants groups overseasirrespective of their ideological leanings. In fact, Libya is not theonly guilty party in this sad saga. All the actors are primarilymotivated by their own geopolitical and geostrategic interests as theyperceive them. It is cynical for secular Arab regimes that are engagedin a bitter struggle with their own domestic militant Islam to be seento be promoting it abroad.
Source: BBC Monitoring research in English 31�Oct�06END

Nessun commento: