Is the US preparing an invasion of Somalia?

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Posted by Afshin Enssi ( on December 13, 2001 at 09:22:36:

Is the US preparing an invasion of Somalia?

By Chris Talbot

6 December 2001

A series of recent press reports seek to portray theimpoverished African country of Somalia as a centre of"terrorist activity" and to recommend it as the nexttarget in the US "war against terrorism".Al Barakaat, the main financial organisation thatSomalis living abroad use to transfer funds into thecountry, along with the Somalia Internet Company wereclosed down last month by the Bush administration. Itwas alleged that both were conduits for Al Qaedafunds. In a country divided by warring factions forover a decade, suffering from hyperinflation anddrought, with a ban on its main export of livestock tothe Middle East because of Rift Valley Fever, closingdown Al Barakaat was a barbaric act. UN officials havepointed out that most Somalis are now dependent onincome from relatives abroad—between $200 to $500million a year was transferred to Somalia through AlBarakaat, compared to only $60 million ininternational aid to the country. The resultingeconomic strangulation threatens to turn what wasalready a humanitarian disaster into mass starvation.There are repeated suggestions that action againstSomalia should be escalated into surgical strikes(euphemistically termed "stiletto attacks") or evenoutright military invasion—if not by Western troopsthen by neighbouring Ethiopia with US backing. In theWall Street Journal of November 29, an article"Post-Afghan Phase of War Takes Shape in the Wings"cites US officials saying, "Somalia may be the easiestplace to take direct US military action". LikeAfghanistan it "barely has a national government, andit has few friends to protest a US intervention." AsSomalia lies on the Indian Ocean, the Journal adds, it"would make moving in US troops and equipment offnearby ships a lot easier" than in Afghanistan.According to a Reuters report of the same day, US,British and German warships are already patrolling theSomali coast, allegedly to stop Al Qaeda fightersfleeing from Afghanistan.An article in Britain's Sunday Telegraph December 2states, "A team of senior British military officerswho visited US Central Command in Tampa, Florida lastweek was asked to prepare the strategy for attacks onsites in Somalia. They have returned to London todiscuss the plan with Ministry of Defence ministersand officials."The justification for a military assault on Somaliamade in the Wall Street Journal, and repeatedthroughout the media, is that a Somali Islamicfundamentalist terror organisation called Al ItihaadAl Islamiya has links with Al Qaeda and Osama binLaden.A November 4 article in the Washington Post was one ofthe first to make this claim, stating thatintelligence analysts from the State Department,Pentagon, CIA and National Security Council werediscussing "where and how" Al Qaeda operates inSomalia. It is claimed (presumably based oninformation from the intelligence analysts, thoughstated as fact by the Post) that:* Al Itihaad is the local "affiliate" or "ally" of AlQaeda* Bin Laden sent several top lieutenants to provideassistance to the "warlord" Mohammed Aideed in 1993,and that Aideed's forces killed 18 US Army troopsserving in a United Nations military force* Al Qaeda members continued to use Somalia as aregional base, including preparations for the 1998bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania* Officials from neighbouring Ethiopia state that AlItihaad, backed by Al Qaeda, is attempting to takeover the semi-autonomous region in the north ofSomalia called PuntlandVarious additions have been made since. For example,in the British Sunday Times of November 25 it wasstated that Al Itihaad was linked to Muhammad Atef,bin Laden's security chief who was killed in the USbombing of Afghanistan. Al Itihaad is referred to asan "aggressive local affiliate" of Al Qaeda andSomalia is said to harbour Al Qaeda operatives.Most recently the Sunday Telegraph gives a new twist:"It emerged that Saddam Hussein is funding a number ofterrorist training camps in Somalia used by a militantIslamic group with close ties to Al Qaeda. Accordingto Iraqi dissident groups based in London, Saddam hasagreed to provide funding, training and equipment tothe Somali group Al Itihaad Al Islamiya in return forassistance from the Somali authorities in avoidingUnited Nations sanctions." The Telegraph quotes a USofficial saying, "This is a significant developmentfor Saddam. He thinks by forming alliances like thishe can get rid of US forces from the region." Theyalso claim that Al Qaeda has several training camps insouthern Somalia.For over a month a systematic campaign of lies andblack propaganda against Somalia has been developed bythe US intelligence services. In attempting to brandthe country as a centre for Al Qaeda terrorism, theyhave been supported throughout by a compliant media.To refute the charges listed above, one must first ofall be aware of the virtual absence of knowledgeconcerning Somalia among US intelligence officials.The November 4 Post article points out that the USembassy was closed in 1991 and, "Somalia today issomething of a mystery to US policymakers andanti-terrorist experts." In the Telegraph it isreported that British intelligence has been asked tolook into Islamic groups in Somalia: "We discoveredsome pretty big intelligence gaps."No proof has been given that Al Qaeda was financed byor channelled funds through Al-Barakaat. Barakaattelecommunications manager Abdullah Kahiye invited USofficials to look through the company's books, but theinvitation was rejected. (The organisation is not evenbased in Somalia, which it considers unsafe, but inDubai). He told the IRIN news service: "For simplejustice, I say to the Americans, please come andinvestigate. Don't depend on lies and rumours putabout by envious competitors or others with a hiddenagenda. We have nothing to hide". The response by theUS Treasury was to insist that there is "very, verystrong evidence", but this could not be revealedbecause it is based on classified information.What completely exposes the campaign against Somaliais the material put forward by US academic KenMenkhaus, professor at Davidson College, NorthCarolina. Menkhaus, a specialist on Somalia andIslamic movements, was an advisor to the UN and is nowa consultant to both the UN and the US government. OnNovember 27 he gave a presentation to the CarnegieEndowment for International Peace in which he makes itvery clear that the claims of Al Qaeda links inSomalia have no substance.According to Menkhaus, "With specific regard to AlQaeda, Somalia would be 'relatively inhospitableterrain' for bin Laden's organisation. Alliances inthe country are incredibly fluid, and the difficultyof keeping secrets in the country would make itdifficult for Al Qaeda to operate clandestinely."With its lack of government and extensive coastline,Menkhaus says that Somalia could be used as a"transhipment point" for terrorists, but provides noevidence of Al Qaeda operations. He accepts that AlItihaad "has been the primary most radical Islamistgroup in the country for over a decade." It arose inthe 1980s, made up of groups of young men"particularly disenchanted with the corrupt repressivegovernment of Mohammed Siad Barre." (Siad Barre wassupported by the US from the mid 1970s as acounterweight to the Soviet-backed regime in Ethiopia,and the US only stopped supporting him following thedisintegration of the Soviet Union.)Neither does the picture of Al Itihaad being an activeterrorist organisation have any justification.Menkhaus points to the fact that although Al Itihaadcontrolled a number of regions in the early 1990s andcontrolled one town, Luuq near the Kenyan border,until it was driven out by Ethiopian troops in 1996,"Al Itihaad failed in its earlier attempts to exertcontrol over territory in Somalia." After its defeat,"Al Itihaad leaders concluded that Somalia was not yetready for Islamic rule."Al Itihaad failed, explains Menkhaus, because it triedto work independently of the clan system thatdominates Somalian society, and because it receivedsome support from Sudan it was seen by many Somalis asa foreign puppet. It now exists as a very disparateorganisation, attempting to promote fundamentalistIslam, trying to infiltrate such governmentorganisations as exist and trying to influencebusinessmen. Its main goals, unlike Al Qaeda, "aredomestic and not international."In so far as the media claims regarding Al Qaeda, AlIttihaad, and terrorism in Somalia are notfabrications of the US intelligence agencies, Menkhausexplains their likely source: "US policy makers shouldavoid an over-reliance on information from theEthiopian government, since it has a vested interestin exaggerating Al Itihaad activities in order toreceive assistance in combating the group." Alsowithin Somalia: "Excessive reliance on local groupswilling to fight Al Itihaad must be avoided, becausemost of these groups are probably more interested incontinuously receiving US resources than actuallyeliminating terrorist threats."The same motivation to gain US funding certainlyapplies to the Iraqi opposition groups. Moreover theallegation that Saddam Hussein is funding terroristgroups connected to Al Qaeda in Somalia, neatlydovetails with calls for military intervention in Iraqthat could bring the opposition to power as a US proxygovernment.The nationalist ambitions of the Ethiopian regime inrelation to Somalia are hardly a secret. Using theirfalse claim that Al Itihaad has taken over Puntland asa justification, the Ethiopian army has now moved intothe region, according to the Wall Street Journal. TheNovember 28 article reports that while not officiallysanctioning the invasion, a US official stated that it"didn't raise any alarms" and was "broadly in linewith US objectives."Finally, the claim that Osama bin Laden sent his toplieutenants to support Mohammed Aideed in 1993 is purefabrication.The US military's interest in Somalia is because ofits strategic position. With a large proportion ofEurope's oil supply passing along the coast of theHorn of Africa and its closeness to the Middle East,Somalia is of key geopolitical importance. In 1993 theUS attempted to gain support for its intervention inthe guise of a humanitarian peacekeeping role; now itis using the threat of terrorism. When over 20,000 UStroops were sent to Somalia in 1993, after firstnegotiating a deal with two of the localwarlords—Aideed and Ali Mahdi—growing popularresistance to the intervention was "explained" bybuilding up Aideed as the personification of evil.Aideed had to be dealt with at all costs, even if thatmeant shooting down hundreds of innocent civilians inMogadishu with helicopter gunfire. The result was notjust that Aideed opposed the US intervention, but theSomali population as a whole fought back, temporarilyuniting even the warring clan factions, and resultingin an ignominious humiliation in which 18 US soldierswere killed.It is a convenient fiction in the "war againstterrorism" to put the forced withdrawal of US troopsfrom Somalia down to Osama bin Laden as well asMohammed Aideed. Ironically, whilst there is no recordof Aideed receiving backing from the Islamicfundamentalists in Sudan—where bin Laden was residingat the time— there is apparently a connection withAfghanistan. Somalis trained by mujahideen fighterswho had returned from Afghanistan, where USintelligence forces had shown then how to userocket-propelled grenades to hit Soviet aircraft,brought down the US Black Hawk helicopters inMogadishu.______________________________referred by African Communist Party -Somalian Revolutionary Marxists in exile /Rinkeby-SWEDENrepresentative: Josef Salah Moallin and financial organizer Abdirisak Adeen ...and we join WSWS.orgimmigrant politicians i exile,:Josef Salah MoallinBergeng. 7164 37 (Kista) SPÅNGATel.00.46.8632 05 01Leyla Nur MoallinRisingeplan 18163 68 (Tensta) SPÅNGATel.00.46.8761 64 23I agree with my relatives :Fatima NurSvärdsliljev. 57165 77 HÄSSELBYTel.00.46.838 77 94I am member in the opposite-groupby the Swedish Conservative Party(but none could prevent me to protest US&Zion Fascism)I join, too:Bijan Fahimi, Alma FahimiHenriksdalsringen 109131 32 NACKATel.00.46.8615 29 22...and me, too:Nyamko Sabuni(borned '969 in Kongo-Kinshasa)Luntmakargatan 66Box 65 08113 83 STOCKHOLM
Fax: 00.46.8673 25 91

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