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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Mogadishu- today

News from Somalia today tells us that Somali government forces, with the help of Ethiopian army units have swept all the way to Mogadishu and entered the city. The Islamist Courts forces meanwhile have either slipped back into invisibility among the general population or have fled far to the south along the coast. One would suppose that this is good news for the US and our interests since the Islamic Courts were believed to be connected with Al Queda affiliated agents. It would also seem good news for the Somalis generally. The Islamic Courts restored order to Mogadishu but also did such things as closing all the schools and arming the teenage boys to be their fighters. But in reality nothing is clear. The warlords who had dominated Mogadishu and turned it into a lawless battleground along with the clans militias are still stronger forces than the government which had not been able to exert its will over the capital or much else. The government can't use Ethiopia as its bludgeon for long without being seen as a tool of that country and continuing to foster Muslim-Christian animosity there. Without being able to exercise authority and provide the population with services and security, the situation is likely to devolve once again into chaos. And the leaders of the Islamic Courts would simply bide their time to make a comeback. There is little likelihood that the government could drive them out of their positions in the south, again unless there were massive support from outside military forces. So in whose interest is a stable Somalia? Ours and the UN's I'd say. And this would seem like an opportune moment to offer massive support to the legitimate government's efforts to establish itself and keep a hold on the situation in Mogadishu. I am doubtful, though, that this is what will happen. An interesting article is available at

http://allafrica.com/stories/200612280149.html

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Further words on Darfur

Several posts back, I suggested that the situation in Darfur could be somewhat ameliorated by using French and American air assets over Darfur as a way to deprive the janjaweed and other miliatary forces of freedom of movement and air support for attacks on civilians. In the past week Kurt Bassuener, from the Democratization Policy Institute in Sarajevo, made a similar suggestion in the press. The intransigent position of the Sudanese government in Khartoum has checkmated most attempts to apply some constraining force on the situation. A no-fly-zone has the potential to change the power relaationships enough that the massive humanitarian crisis can begin to be addressed. I had not realized this, but apparently Prime Minister Blair of Britain is also advocating such a move. We can urge our government to be more aggressive in exploring such a solution.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve and not too far from Bethlehem...

BBC this morning notes that Ethiopian forces including armor and fighter jets have now directly attacked the Somalian Islamic Courts fighters across the eastern border in conjunction with secular Somali forces. Along with the Chadian and Sudanese and Central African conflicts, this ratchets the level of civiliqn pain and geopolitical instability up a big notch. I am dismayed by the lack of attention in our press. Not surprised, but dismayed. So much is at stake in so many parts of the world, and we cannot shape policy with a sledgehammer. The "season of peace " would encourage that we at least say one prayer in support of greater wisdom and a solution.

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