Somalia update via Bellisaurius

An ex—Special Forces officer very familiar with the region who writes under the nom de plume Bellisaurius gives his latest assessment of the Somalia situation in this newsletter dated June 24.

Recent Developments

Other than the assassination of seasoned Swedish journalist Martin Adler in Mogadishu on 22 June, an event carefully spun by the Islamists, violence and hostilities have died off in Somalia in the period following our last Newsletter. There is no question that fighting and other violence  will recommence, but for the moment, all players appear to be deeply involved in pre—hostility maneuvering, each pursuing the objectives of  optimized political positioning, gaining of  time and the public and international press perception of their possession of the moral high ground.

Player Maneuvers

The Islamic Court Union (ICU).

At the invitation of President Bashir of Sudan, the ICU dispatched a ten man delegation to Khartoum to meet with the President Abdulahi Yussuf of the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG). ICU leader Sheik Shariff Ahmed was careful not to join the group, placing himself in a superior position to TFG President Yussuf, who did lead his delegation to Khartoum, and according now Yussuf appears as an impotent supplicant. A Bashir—suggested ceasefire was agreed by both sides this week, and both were urged to meet again in July and negotiate a cessation in the propaganda war of words that has dominated their relationship.

As a result of all this, the ICU has certainly enhanced the accurate perception that they are the most powerful of ruling institutions in Somalia, and the obvious wave of the future politically. They have also introduced the bogus notion that they want peace between themselves and the TFG, and if war starts, it will have been initiated by the TFG and their mentors, the Ethiopians. The ICU may precipitate hostilities covertly with the TFG, but they do want the impression that they started it. Meanwhile, the ICU continues to vehemently publicly attack both African Union initiatives to put an international  peace making force on the ground, as well as the Ethiopian intervention.

The success in Khartoum was followed by an incident that could potentially have set back the ICU's timetable. The assassination of Swedish journalist Martin Adler took place in a demonstration protesting recent ICU proclamations and ordnances prohibiting showing of western movies, employment and education of women (women own and control the distribution and sale of qat, a leafy amphetamine drug chewed by most Somalis), the abolition of sale of cigarettes and the imposition of a full purda requirement in Somali women's dress. In short, it was an anti—ICU demonstration, and it is very likely that Adler was killed by an Islamist ICU gunman because he was exposing discontent with their rule in Mogadishu. The ICU leadership, who are excellent propagandists, responded to the incident by quickly putting out a statement that the demonstration was actually in support of ICU and their efforts at peace making in  the Khartoum conference. Their statement indicated that the killer was in fact an Alliance 'war lord militiaman' who killed Adler because he was covering a pro ICU event. 

They vowed that the killer would soon be caught and punished. The Voice of America also had an American citizen  representative on the ground in dangerous Mogadishu this weekend, despite warnings that this was an unwise and unhealthy venture. Clearly she was lucky to get out intact.

Last, Sheik Hassan Dahir Awyss of the ICU and leader of the pro—Al Queda Al Itihad Al Islamiya agreed to meet with the Alliance Against Terrorism leader Mohamed Qanyare Afrah on Qanyare's invitation at Guriel in Central Somalia.

The Transitional Federal Government (TFG)

Clearly, Northeast Region (Puntland) war lord and President of the TFG Abdulahi Yussuf is a man in trouble. True, he has the forces from his traditional mentors,  the Ethiopian Army,  at his back — with light Special Forces on the Somali side of the border and in the vicinity of  his capital of Baidoa, and

heavy forces just across the border in Ethiopia, ready to strike.  But, the ICU has the real and perceived strength in Somalia, and Yussuf's image and actual strength in terms of support from within Somalia are in question; his health is a factor — he is allegedly the oldest living liver transplant in the world; and last, his own Prime Minster, Mohamed Gedi, is seriously attempting to politically undermine and replace him as President. He knows that if he is seen by Somalis as an Ethiopian puppet, his political capital drops to zero — Ethiopia is Somalia's traditional enemy. Accordingly, he had no option but to attend President Bashir's conference in Khartoum, and sign a cease fire agreement with one of ICU chief Shariff Sheik Ahmed's underlings.  While the Ethiopian military intervention card appears to be the last one he has in his hand, he cannot play it by being seen to be initiating hostilities. That would amount to a short term victory with follow on consequences not easy to contemplate.

Ethiopia

As usual, the Ethiopians deny their military presence in Somalia, stating that they have positioned troops on their side of the border for 'protective purposes only' vis——vis the Islamists. Undoubtedly the Ethiopians will require US agreement and support for any major incursion, particularly one that involves protracted   presence in Somalia — or more pointedly, mounting  a counterinsurgent campaign. Similarly, their major national defense concern is along the border with Eritrea in the North. It is unlikely that Somalia would get more than passing attention from Addis Ababa if the Eritreans make a military move against them, particularly in the Badme sector.

Eritrea

Seeing that any trouble in Somalia causes the Tigrean—led Ethiopian administration in Addis to lessen military pressure on their common border with Eritrea, President Esias continues to supply the Somali ICU / Al Itihad Al Islamiya fundamentalists with weapons via an air link between Eritrea and Dusa Mareb airfield in Somalia. His interest is in stirring the pot in the region.

The Alliance for Counterterrorism

Following their defeat in Mogadishu, the so called 'war lords' of the covertly US—supported Alliance went their separate ways (All leaders of any kind in Somalia have private militias, so who really qualifies as a 'war lord' is a mute question). Mohamed Qanyare Afrah escaped to El Bur in Central Somalia, where he was later joined by fellow Alliance leaders Musa Sudi Yellahow and Omar Finish, who escaped from Mogadishu by sea. Meanwhile, Mohammed Dhere is in Ethiopia attempting to drum up more military support. On Thursday, Qanyare publicly met with ICU hard liner Sheik Hassan Awyss at Qanyare's request at Guriel between El Bur and ICU—held Jowhar. This is most surprising since Qanyare had, the evening before, put out a feeler through his son in Nairobi to the

Ethiopians, suggesting that they might want to discuss a common front against a common enemy — the pro Al Queda ICU. Either the Ethiopians rebuked Qanyare (he has consistently vehemently against their involvement in Somalia), or he got a better deal with the jihadies. At a joint photo op with Awyss, he allegedly  made a statement denouncing Ethiopian adventurism in Somalia.   Meanwhile, the Kenyan police are allegedly deporting son Abdiwelli, cutting Qanyare's last outside link with the west. What this all means for the other surviving members of the Alliance, Musa Sudi, Omar Finish and Mohamed Dhere, is unknown.

The United States

The US State Department Under Secretary for African Affairs, Ms Jendayi Frazer stated this week that the US is not adverse to entering into dialog with the jihadies of the ICU — a rather pathetic attempt at damage control arising out of the failure of the US covert action campaign in Mogadishu. Her conditions for talks were that the ICU render 1998 US Embassies Nairobi and Dar es Salaam bombers Fazul Abdullah Mohamed (Comoroan), Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan (Kenyan) and Abu Taha Al Sudani (Sudanese). All of these gentlemen have been in sanctuary in Somalia after their second strike, a bomb attack against a Kenyan coastal hotel used by Israelis and a simultaneous ground to air missile attack on an Israeli charter flight in 2002. Agreement on this provision is unlikely since even moderate ruling Somali parties, in power prior to ascension of the ICU, were reluctant to deliver the culprits because of clan consequences with the wanted men's hosts — so much the less for the ICU delivering up its own fellow travelers. It would seem that the only options left to the Americans are to either to (a) create stronger bonds with the moderate leaders in the ICU, and there some, with the hope of ameliorating influence of the hard core — a long leap for politically naive America, or (b) to turn mother's picture to the wall, and back the Ethiopians in a military intervention in Somalia designed  to eradicate the fundamentalists. It is a Hobson's choice,

John B. Dwyer   6 25 06

An ex—Special Forces officer very familiar with the region who writes under the nom de plume Bellisaurius gives his latest assessment of the Somalia situation in this newsletter dated June 24.

Recent Developments

Other than the assassination of seasoned Swedish journalist Martin Adler in Mogadishu on 22 June, an event carefully spun by the Islamists, violence and hostilities have died off in Somalia in the period following our last Newsletter. There is no question that fighting and other violence  will recommence, but for the moment, all players appear to be deeply involved in pre—hostility maneuvering, each pursuing the objectives of  optimized political positioning, gaining of  time and the public and international press perception of their possession of the moral high ground.

Player Maneuvers

The Islamic Court Union (ICU).

At the invitation of President Bashir of Sudan, the ICU dispatched a ten man delegation to Khartoum to meet with the President Abdulahi Yussuf of the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG). ICU leader Sheik Shariff Ahmed was careful not to join the group, placing himself in a superior position to TFG President Yussuf, who did lead his delegation to Khartoum, and according now Yussuf appears as an impotent supplicant. A Bashir—suggested ceasefire was agreed by both sides this week, and both were urged to meet again in July and negotiate a cessation in the propaganda war of words that has dominated their relationship.

As a result of all this, the ICU has certainly enhanced the accurate perception that they are the most powerful of ruling institutions in Somalia, and the obvious wave of the future politically. They have also introduced the bogus notion that they want peace between themselves and the TFG, and if war starts, it will have been initiated by the TFG and their mentors, the Ethiopians. The ICU may precipitate hostilities covertly with the TFG, but they do want the impression that they started it. Meanwhile, the ICU continues to vehemently publicly attack both African Union initiatives to put an international  peace making force on the ground, as well as the Ethiopian intervention.

The success in Khartoum was followed by an incident that could potentially have set back the ICU's timetable. The assassination of Swedish journalist Martin Adler took place in a demonstration protesting recent ICU proclamations and ordnances prohibiting showing of western movies, employment and education of women (women own and control the distribution and sale of qat, a leafy amphetamine drug chewed by most Somalis), the abolition of sale of cigarettes and the imposition of a full purda requirement in Somali women's dress. In short, it was an anti—ICU demonstration, and it is very likely that Adler was killed by an Islamist ICU gunman because he was exposing discontent with their rule in Mogadishu. The ICU leadership, who are excellent propagandists, responded to the incident by quickly putting out a statement that the demonstration was actually in support of ICU and their efforts at peace making in  the Khartoum conference. Their statement indicated that the killer was in fact an Alliance 'war lord militiaman' who killed Adler because he was covering a pro ICU event. 

They vowed that the killer would soon be caught and punished. The Voice of America also had an American citizen  representative on the ground in dangerous Mogadishu this weekend, despite warnings that this was an unwise and unhealthy venture. Clearly she was lucky to get out intact.

Last, Sheik Hassan Dahir Awyss of the ICU and leader of the pro—Al Queda Al Itihad Al Islamiya agreed to meet with the Alliance Against Terrorism leader Mohamed Qanyare Afrah on Qanyare's invitation at Guriel in Central Somalia.

The Transitional Federal Government (TFG)

Clearly, Northeast Region (Puntland) war lord and President of the TFG Abdulahi Yussuf is a man in trouble. True, he has the forces from his traditional mentors,  the Ethiopian Army,  at his back — with light Special Forces on the Somali side of the border and in the vicinity of  his capital of Baidoa, and

heavy forces just across the border in Ethiopia, ready to strike.  But, the ICU has the real and perceived strength in Somalia, and Yussuf's image and actual strength in terms of support from within Somalia are in question; his health is a factor — he is allegedly the oldest living liver transplant in the world; and last, his own Prime Minster, Mohamed Gedi, is seriously attempting to politically undermine and replace him as President. He knows that if he is seen by Somalis as an Ethiopian puppet, his political capital drops to zero — Ethiopia is Somalia's traditional enemy. Accordingly, he had no option but to attend President Bashir's conference in Khartoum, and sign a cease fire agreement with one of ICU chief Shariff Sheik Ahmed's underlings.  While the Ethiopian military intervention card appears to be the last one he has in his hand, he cannot play it by being seen to be initiating hostilities. That would amount to a short term victory with follow on consequences not easy to contemplate.

Ethiopia

As usual, the Ethiopians deny their military presence in Somalia, stating that they have positioned troops on their side of the border for 'protective purposes only' vis——vis the Islamists. Undoubtedly the Ethiopians will require US agreement and support for any major incursion, particularly one that involves protracted   presence in Somalia — or more pointedly, mounting  a counterinsurgent campaign. Similarly, their major national defense concern is along the border with Eritrea in the North. It is unlikely that Somalia would get more than passing attention from Addis Ababa if the Eritreans make a military move against them, particularly in the Badme sector.

Eritrea

Seeing that any trouble in Somalia causes the Tigrean—led Ethiopian administration in Addis to lessen military pressure on their common border with Eritrea, President Esias continues to supply the Somali ICU / Al Itihad Al Islamiya fundamentalists with weapons via an air link between Eritrea and Dusa Mareb airfield in Somalia. His interest is in stirring the pot in the region.

The Alliance for Counterterrorism

Following their defeat in Mogadishu, the so called 'war lords' of the covertly US—supported Alliance went their separate ways (All leaders of any kind in Somalia have private militias, so who really qualifies as a 'war lord' is a mute question). Mohamed Qanyare Afrah escaped to El Bur in Central Somalia, where he was later joined by fellow Alliance leaders Musa Sudi Yellahow and Omar Finish, who escaped from Mogadishu by sea. Meanwhile, Mohammed Dhere is in Ethiopia attempting to drum up more military support. On Thursday, Qanyare publicly met with ICU hard liner Sheik Hassan Awyss at Qanyare's request at Guriel between El Bur and ICU—held Jowhar. This is most surprising since Qanyare had, the evening before, put out a feeler through his son in Nairobi to the

Ethiopians, suggesting that they might want to discuss a common front against a common enemy — the pro Al Queda ICU. Either the Ethiopians rebuked Qanyare (he has consistently vehemently against their involvement in Somalia), or he got a better deal with the jihadies. At a joint photo op with Awyss, he allegedly  made a statement denouncing Ethiopian adventurism in Somalia.   Meanwhile, the Kenyan police are allegedly deporting son Abdiwelli, cutting Qanyare's last outside link with the west. What this all means for the other surviving members of the Alliance, Musa Sudi, Omar Finish and Mohamed Dhere, is unknown.

The United States

The US State Department Under Secretary for African Affairs, Ms Jendayi Frazer stated this week that the US is not adverse to entering into dialog with the jihadies of the ICU — a rather pathetic attempt at damage control arising out of the failure of the US covert action campaign in Mogadishu. Her conditions for talks were that the ICU render 1998 US Embassies Nairobi and Dar es Salaam bombers Fazul Abdullah Mohamed (Comoroan), Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan (Kenyan) and Abu Taha Al Sudani (Sudanese). All of these gentlemen have been in sanctuary in Somalia after their second strike, a bomb attack against a Kenyan coastal hotel used by Israelis and a simultaneous ground to air missile attack on an Israeli charter flight in 2002. Agreement on this provision is unlikely since even moderate ruling Somali parties, in power prior to ascension of the ICU, were reluctant to deliver the culprits because of clan consequences with the wanted men's hosts — so much the less for the ICU delivering up its own fellow travelers. It would seem that the only options left to the Americans are to either to (a) create stronger bonds with the moderate leaders in the ICU, and there some, with the hope of ameliorating influence of the hard core — a long leap for politically naive America, or (b) to turn mother's picture to the wall, and back the Ethiopians in a military intervention in Somalia designed  to eradicate the fundamentalists. It is a Hobson's choice,

John B. Dwyer   6 25 06