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''Somalia Remains in Political Stasis Despite Mounting Tensions''
11 December 2006
During the second half of November and into December, the conflict in Somalia between the Islamic Courts Council (I.C.C.), which seeks to establish an Islamic state in the country based on the implementation of Shari'a law, and Ethiopia, which is determined to prevent that outcome and backs the powerless clan-based Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) militarily and diplomatically, continued to teeter on the brink of war, with the two major actors gazing into the abyss and regional states and organizations, international organizations, and Western powers attempting to head off the outbreak of full-scale armed confrontation through diplomatic initiatives.
PINR's forecast in mid-November that war was not imminent and that the adversaries were likely to continue testing and sparring with each other has been borne out by events, although tensions have risen appreciably. In part, the two sides have held off from major military confrontations because of severe flooding in much of southern Somalia that has displaced 300,000 people and has made roads impassable. [See: "Somalia in mid-November: Sparring and Waiting for Someone to Strike"]
PINR's judgment that neither side was prepared to fight held true until November 23, when Ethiopia's prime minister, Meles Zenawi, announced that Addis Ababa was ready for a war with the I.C.C., which he deemed a "clear and present danger." In response, the I.C.C. held a "war council" and declared that it too was ready to fight. The T.F.G., which is isolated in the provincial town of Baidoa in the southwestern Bay region, followed suit several days later.
With all the major players on the ground claiming to be geared for war, the international and regional consensus was expressed by Italy's envoy to Somalia, Mario Raffaelli: "There is a window of opportunity. The priority is to avoid a fight which would bring unthinkable consequences." As the rainy season subsides, that window threatens to close rapidly, although PINR is not yet convinced that any of the adversaries wants war, except perhaps the T.F.G. executive, which depends on Ethiopian arms to protect it and is at a severe negotiating disadvantage should power-sharing talks with the I.C.C. resume.
Tensions Mount on the Ground
The conflict in Somalia became decisively militarized after September 24, when the I.C.C. gained control of the key southern port city of Kismayo and extended its authority over the deep southern Middle and Lower Jubba regions, placing it in the dominant position throughout the country south of the border with the breakaway sub-state of Puntland.
Addis Ababa responded to the I.C.C.'s surge in power by fortifying its alliances with the T.F.G., the Puntland authorities and the remnants of the militias that remained loyal to the warlords who had been ousted from Somalia's official capital Mogadishu by the I.C.C. in June, increasing its troop presence in the country and bolstering its positions around Baidoa and in the central Galgadud and Mudug regions, although it officially denied doing so. Fearing that the I.C.C. has irredentist ambitions on its eastern ethnic-Somali Ogaden region, where it faces a low-level insurgency from the Ogaden National Liberation Front (O.N.L.F.), Addis Ababa has more to lose from an I.C.C.-dominated Somalia than any other external actor. The I.C.C.'s threat to Ethiopia was underscored on November 17, when the chair of the Courts' Consultative Council, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, declared that the I.C.C. would "unite Somali peoples."
Militarization and the opening of fronts has blunted the I.C.C.'s Islamist social revolution, forcing the Courts movement to place itself on a war footing. Nonetheless, it has continued to extend the application of Shari'a law to the areas under its control. The I.C.C. has lost momentum in the expansion of its efforts to provide social services, which is integral to its program and essential to maintaining its popular support. For the time being, the I.C.C. counts on its identification with Somali nationalism to keep the people siding with it, as they predominately have thus far.
In the latter part of November, the various fronts began to heat up, particularly in the Bay region and around Baidoa. On November 19, I.C.C. forces were reported to have ambushed an Ethiopian convoy in Bardaley, 80 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of Baidoa, killing six Ethiopian troops and wounding 20. On November 20 and 21, I.C.C. engagements with Ethiopian forces were reported in the Bay region towns of Qansax Omane and Idale, again with the Ethiopians on the losing side. On November 22, hundreds of Ethiopian troops were reported to be patrolling the Bardaley-Baidoa road, after three of their soldiers were killed in another firefight with the I.C.C., and to have retaken Idale. On November 24, Ethiopian troops were reported to be entrenching themselves in Baidoa, as residents began to flee the region and Zenawi announced that he did not need a "green light" from the international community to fight the I.C.C. Meanwhile, the I.C.C. moved its forces into the towns of Moode-Moode and Bur Haqaba, coming within 26 kilometers (16 miles) of Baidoa, and accused Addis Ababa of bringing tanks and warplanes into Somalia.
On November 30, a suicide car bomb detonated at a police checkpoint on the outskirts of Baidoa, killing at least nine people and raising charges from the T.F.G. that al-Qaeda operatives were working under the cover of the I.C.C. The same day, another Ethiopian convoy was ambushed by the I.C.C., which claimed that 20 Ethiopian soldiers had died in the attack. In the most important military development in the Bay region, the I.C.C. peacefully took control of the town of Dinsor, 121 kilometers (75 miles) southwest of Baidoa, completing its encirclement of the provisional capital and gaining control of the Baidoa-Kismayo road. Efforts by T.F.G. and Ethiopian forces to retake Dinsor led to intense armed clashes on December 8 and 9 in which the Courts' militias reportedly repelled their opponents.
The engagements in the Bay region show the I.C.C. taking the military initiative, using the guerrilla tactics that it would rely on in a full-scale war and making good on its promise to wage "jihad" on Ethiopian forces, which have mostly remained in a defensive posture thus far. The I.C.C.'s capture of Dinsor has obvious strategic significance and also psychological impact by highlighting the T.F.G.'s isolation, even in the region where it is based.
The other major front where warfare between the I.C.C. and the Ethiopian alliance might break out -- the central Galgadud and Mudug regions -- also heated up. In Galgadud, the I.C.C. peacefully took control of the town of Abudwaq near the Ethiopian border on November 20. Residents of the town began fleeing after Zenawi's "green light" statement, prompting appeals by the I.C.C. that they return. On November 26, Mohamed Mohamud Agaweyne, the I.C.C.'s military commander for central Somalia, announced that his forces were within 32 kilometers (20 miles) of the Ethiopian border. The same day, the I.C.C. held an anti-Ethiopian rally in Abudwaq.
In the strategically important Mudug region, the capital of which -- Galkayo -- is divided between Puntland and Somalia proper, tensions that had surfaced in early November continued to build. Ethiopian forces were reportedly beefing up their presence in the northern part of Galkayo, which is controlled by the Puntland administration, prompting Agaweyne to warn that he would attack the Ethiopian forces and the Puntland militias if they tried to prevent the I.C.C. from entering the southern part of the city. On November 27, the I.C.C. and Ethiopian forces fought an artillery duel in the town of Bandiradley near Galkayo that had been taken by the I.C.C. in mid-November. The I.C.C. successfully repelled the attempt to retake the town. Firefights around Bandiradley resumed in the first two weeks of December, with the I.C.C. continuing to hold the town.
As in the Bay region, developments in the central regions were marked by I.C.C. initiatives and successes, showing that the Courts movement is serious about maintaining and expanding its positions on the ground, and -- with the exception of the effort to retake Bandiradley -- that Addis Ababa is primarily working to defend the major cities and towns held by its allies from I.C.C. attacks.
Threatened militarily from the south by the I.C.C., the Puntland administration also faced internal pressures by segments of the sub-state's society -- backed by the Courts movement -- to implement Shari'a law.
In mid-November, 100 fighters attached to the new Islamic court in north Galkayo were reportedly in Bandiradley helping the I.C.C. to defend the town, marking the first time that forces from Puntland had joined with the I.C.C. The Courts movement quickly called on the Puntland authority to embrace Shari'a law and to keep its militias out of the central regions. The deputy chair of the I.C.C.'s executive committee, Sheikh Abdirahman Janaqaw, announced that the I.C.C. did not intend to invade Puntland, but warned the sub-state's administration "not to harm the religious people in the community who back the Islamic Courts."
Testifying to the growing influence of Islamism in Puntland, the president of the sub-state's administration, Mohamud "Adde" Muse, accepted a proposal from clerics in Galkayo to implement Shari'a law as "the law of the land" and to hold a "Grand Conference" in the sub-state's capital Garowe "to discuss the future of Puntland." The agreement was finalized on November 20, with Muse promising to form committees consisting of clerics and intellectuals to work out the details of an Islamic justice system.
Muse's efforts to appease the Islamists and co-opt them split Puntland's political class, with militia commander Abdillahi Areys and Finance Minister Mohamed "Gaagaab" Ali rejecting the deal on the grounds that only the sub-state's parliament was qualified to make such a far-reaching change.
Spearheading the hardliners in the Puntland administration, Gaagaab, who is also the head of the security committee of the northern Bari region, banned all meetings, including weddings, held without government permission in the port city of Bossasso. On November 27, Sheikh Dahir O'Ahmed was arrested at a Bossasso mosque for preaching jihad against Ethiopian forces in Somalia. On December 4, Puntland's deputy security minister, Haji Bakin, warned that preaching jihad would be regarded by the administration as being directed against the sub-state itself. On December 8, police surrounded mosques in Bossasso, demanding to know the subjects of sermons in order to suppress the preaching of jihad against Ethiopian forces in and around Galkayo. Worshippers reportedly responded by stoning the police who then discharged their weapons.
Whether Muse's agreement to implement Shari'a law in Puntland will be kept remains to be seen; what is clear is that Islamism and the I.C.C. have made significant inroads there and that the sub-state's administration is showing fractures. The I.C.C.'s strategy toward Puntland has consistently been to support domestic Islamists rather than to attempt a forcible takeover; that strategy appears to be working.
The other breakaway sub-state from Somalia proper -- Somaliland in the far north -- has experienced similar Islamist pressures and has responded to them with crackdowns, the most recent of which came in early December when the sultan of the Habaryonis clan, Osman Ali Mador, was arrested in the town of Burco after holding a meeting of 250 clan members who called for the implementation of Shari'a law. Despite such actions, the I.C.C. has extended an olive branch to Somaliland's authorities, who are allied with Ethiopia but have border disputes with Puntland, with Aweys encouraging reconciliation talks, promising to compensate the sub-state for the atrocities committed by the dictatorship of Siyad Barre and pledging to use only persuasion to convince Somaliland to join a reunified Somalia.
Reviewing the events on the ground in Somalia during late November and early December presents a picture of rising tensions and growing pressures that do not in themselves necessarily portend imminent war. On the whole the I.C.C. has remained the protagonist and shows the greater disposition to be assertive. Addis Ababa, the T.F.G. and the Puntland authorities have taken a defensive posture. None of the actors has crossed a red line or goaded an adversary into doing so.
In PINR's judgment, it is still most likely that Ethiopia would precipitate a war, if there is to be one; the I.C.C. is in a position of political strength and has a track record of not overplaying its hand. Addis Ababa and the T.F.G. would like to see the I.C.C. outflanked by an African peacekeeping force operating under a United Nations mandate that would protect the T.F.G. and develop its own military capability, so that the T.F.G. could bargain with the I.C.C. from a position of greater strength. Barring the introduction of such a force, which the I.C.C. has repeatedly said that it would fight, Addis Ababa will continue to be tempted to strike hard.
Two Diplomatic Tracks Open
Thus far, the regional and international efforts to achieve reconciliation between the I.C.C. and T.F.G. have centered on talks sponsored by the Arab League (A.L.) in Khartoum. The third round of those talks ended on November 1 with the failure of the two sides to negotiate face-to-face, after the I.C.C. demanded that Ethiopian troops leave Somalia and that Kenya withdraw as a mediator before it would enter discussions; the T.F.G. rejected those conditions. Since then, as the possibility of war loomed closer, external actors have roused themselves and made efforts to bring the adversaries back to the bargaining table.
Two alternatives for peacemaking have presented themselves throughout the conflict -- straight talks on power sharing and security, represented by the Khartoum process; and the introduction of armed African peacekeepers into Somalia that would protect the internationally recognized T.F.G. and build up its armed forces, embodied in an African Union (A.U.) proposal requiring the United Nations Security Council to lift its arms embargo.
The impasse between the I.C.C. and T.F.G. reflects their power differential. With dominance on the ground and wide popular support, the I.C.C. has naturally been opposed to all foreign forces and had been open to straight negotiations until Addis Ababa's military interventions. With only international recognition on its side of the account, the T.F.G. has appealed for peacekeepers and has welcomed Ethiopian forces in their stead. As a result of the T.F.G. executive's embrace of Addis Ababa, the transitional institutions have suffered a severe split with parliamentary speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan and his faction taking the I.C.C.'s position and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi moving ever closer to Ethiopia and ever more reluctant to negotiate.
At stake in power sharing negotiations would not only be the balance between the adversaries, but also the very form of a future Somali state. The clan-based secular constitution of the transitional institutions is in contradiction with the I.C.C.'s plan to create an Islamic state transcending clans. That fundamental contradiction is the most formidable obstacle to reconciliation, and it has not even been diplomatically approached as yet. Addis Ababa is firmly opposed to the emergence of an Islamic state in Somalia and the transitional institutions would disappear if there was one. The East African states -- Uganda and Kenya -- and the Western powers, particularly the United States, are also reluctant to accept an Islamic state. The Arab countries and Eritrea are willing to accept one, the former to gain a sphere of influence in the Horn of Africa and the latter to weaken Ethiopia, with which Eritrea has a serious border dispute.
By mid-November, the regional states had polarized into a northern A.L. bloc and a southern A.U. bloc, with the two frontline states that had served as honest brokers in Somalia's pre-I.C.C. conflicts -- Djibouti and Kenya -- joining the northern and southern blocs respectively. That picture changed in the second half of November, when Nairobi distanced itself from the peacekeeping proposal and joined Djibouti in a diplomatic effort to restart straight negotiations.
A key player in Somalia, Kenya has found it difficult to take a coherent position on the conflict between the I.C.C. and the T.F.G./Ethiopia. Traditionally adopting an official stance of "equidistance" in Somalia's conflicts so that it could serve as an honest broker, Nairobi has vacillated as polarization has set in, first backing straight negotiations, then shifting to support of a peacekeeping mission and now encouraging negotiations once again.
Behind Nairobi's shifts is the presence of a large ethnic Somali population in its North East province, which borders Somalia. In one respect, Nairobi shares Addis Ababa's concerns about the irredentist currents in the I.C.C., yet it has gone further in integrating its ethnic Somalis into the political system. Until Nairobi shifted to the A.U. side, the I.C.C. had assured it that Kenya was not a target. When the I.C.C. swept into Somalia's deep south up to the Kenyan border, Nairobi recalculated its interests and then ran into opposition from its ethnic Somalis who became mobilized against Kenyan participation in foreign armed intervention in Somalia, causing the latest recalculation, which amounts to support of the I.C.C.
The domestic pressures on Nairobi were highlighted in late November, when Kenya's Council of Imams and Preachers of Islam met and declared that it would not allow the country to be used for "Christian plans" to attack Somalia. The secretary general of the council, Sheikh Muhammad Dor, said: "We will never support a Christian country or a Christian army to fight against our Muslim brothers...we will definitely protect our Muslim brothers."
In response, Kenya's deputy foreign minister, Moses Wetangula, denied that Nairobi would allow foreign forces to invade or infiltrate Somalia and affirmed Kenya's "neutrality" in Somalia's conflict. Kenya's foreign minister, Raphael Tuju, followed up quickly by meeting with a group of Somali expatriates, telling them that " Kenya does not believe that military intervention in Somalia will produce good results" and agreeing to appoint a committee, including expatriates, to monitor developments in Somalia.
Djibouti , which has a majority ethnic Somali population and whose government is controlled by ethnic Somalis, has adopted a policy against foreign intervention in Somalia and in favor of straight negotiations, and did not have to shift in order to partner with Nairobi.
The track toward straight negotiations opened on November 13, when the I.C.C.'s two top officials -- Aweys and Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed -- met in Mogadishu with Nairobi's ambassador to Somalia, Mohamed Abdi Affey, who led a delegation under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (I.G.A.D.), a regional organization including Somalia and its neighbors. The talks resulted in the I.C.C.'s acceptance of Nairobi as a mediator "in principle" and a promise by the I.C.C. to send a delegation to I.G.A.D. headquarters in Djibouti for further discussions. Affey remarked after the meeting that "we still have an uphill task to convince the Union [I.C.C.] that Kenya is an honest and neutral arbitrator." Meanwhile, Djibouti's foreign minister, Mohamood Ali Yusuf, prepared to open the forthcoming negotiations between the I.C.C. and I.G.A.D. with the purpose of preparing the way for a "reconciliation conference" of the I.C.C. and T.F.G. at which Djibouti would "put together the vying parties."
The T.F.G. executive reacted with "displeasure" to Djibouti's initiative and to its rejection of a peacekeeping mission in Somalia. Djibouti responded by inviting T.F.G. parliamentary speaker Adan for discussions, which took place on November 28, after which Adan said that the I.C.C. was not a threat to any country and that Ethiopia should withdraw from Somalia.
The next day an I.C.C. delegation led by its foreign affairs chief, Ibrahim Hasan Adow, arrived in Djibouti to discuss restarting negotiations with the T.F.G. After meetings on December 1 and 2, reportedly including discussions with Ethiopian representatives, the I.C.C. committed itself to renewing "dialogue" with the T.F.G. that would cover power sharing, security and regional and international assistance. In return, an I.G.A.D. communiqué called for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Somalia and respect for the U.N. arms embargo. Adow acknowledged that he had held informal talks with Ethiopian officials, but insisted that there would be no "formal talks" until Addis Ababa withdrew its forces. Adow added that the I.C.C. and Nairobi would enter negotiations to resolve their "discord."
The Nairobi-Djibouti initiative edged the I.C.C. closer to the bargaining table, but did nothing to influence the T.F.G. executive to negotiate; indeed, it pushed the T.F.G. executive more deeply into the corner and made it less willing to cooperate, given Nairobi's tilt toward the I.C.C. The Djibouti meetings ratified Nairobi's realignment with the pre-existing anti-peacekeeper bloc in I.G.A.D., including Djibouti, Eritrea and more recently Sudan, leaving Ethiopia and Uganda in support of a peacekeeping mission.
The major consequence of the Djibouti meetings has been to provide the I.C.C. with diplomatic cover and support for its demand that Addis Ababa pull out of Somalia, ensuring that the Courts will not be regionally and internationally isolated.
The second diplomatic track, which leads to the deployment of a peacekeeping mission to protect the T.F.G. and train its forces, required the U.N. Security Council to lift its arms embargo on Somalia, which Council members had been reluctant to do in fear of provoking preemptive military action by the I.C.C. that would threaten to set off a proxy war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Throughout the period following the I.C.C.'s ascension, Washington, which is the great power most opposed to the emergence of an Islamic state in Somalia, had held back from supporting a peacekeeping mission, hoping that straight negotiations might produce a settlement that would contain the I.C.C. That position changed as Addis Ababa and the I.C.C. moved closer to major armed confrontation and the T.F.G. edged toward total collapse.
Washington does not want Somalia to become a safe haven and training base for international Islamist revolutionaries and -- equally important -- it does not want a Somali state that allies itself with the emerging northern Arab-dominated bloc. Nonetheless, Washington is not about to intervene directly in Somalia and does not want Addis Ababa to initiate a war with the I.C.C. that could spiral out of control. With no attractive options that would reconcile its conflicting concerns and interests, Washington finally came down on the side of the peacekeeping mission in what appeared to be an act of desperation.
As late as mid-November, Washington was still urging "dialogue" between the I.C.C. and T.F.G., and calling on both parties not to use the presence of foreign forces in Somalia to deter them from negotiating. On November 23, Washington showed signs that a shift was in the making, when the U.S. State Department announced that it would support a peacekeeping mission if it would stabilize Somalia and would discuss the topic at the Security Council, but did not foresee "immediate plans for deployment."
On November 24, the European Union's Executive Department for African Development (E.D.A.D.) warned E.U. governments that a peacekeeping mission would be viewed by the majority of Somalis as an "invading force" and would raise the risks of "jihadist attacks" on Western interests and a regional war. The majority of E.U. states were reported to be in agreement with E.D.A.D.'s position, yet France and Great Britain were reluctant to oppose Washington on an "anti-terrorism issue."
On November 29, after the Security Council reaffirmed the arms embargo, Washington circulated a draft resolution to lift the embargo partially for the purposes of a peacekeeping mission. In the week that followed, intense bargaining over the draft resolution occurred, with the European powers insisting that the mission be authorized only for six months and that the peacekeepers not include troops from Somalia's immediate neighbors -- Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya. On December 6, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1725 authorizing the peacekeeping mission and making an exception to the arms embargo for it.
Although the Resolution occasioned strong responses from the domestic and external actors interested in Somalia's political future, it did not change the dynamics of the conflict substantially. A compromise between Washington and the European powers, the Resolution favored the T.F.G. by stating that the transitional constitution is the "only route to peace and stabilization," failing to require or even call for the withdrawal of foreign military forces from Somalia, and making the purpose of the peacekeepers the protection of the T.F.G. and the training and arming of its security forces -- all of which are antithetical to the I.C.C.'s interests. On the I.C.C.'s side of the ledger, the Resolution urged dialogue between the I.C.C. and the T.F.G., supported the December 2 Djibouti agreement, limited the initial term of the mission and prohibited frontline states from participating in it.
The weakness and fundamentally symbolic character of the Resolution resided in the vagaries of its implementation. Washington's ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, made it clear that the peacekeeping mission would not be a U.N. force, but would be under the auspices of I.G.A.D. and the A.U., which would have to finance it through their own limited resources or voluntary donor contributions, and which would "have to work out" the withdrawal of foreign forces.
By kicking the ball into I.G.A.D.'s court, the Security Council virtually ensured that the mission would not get off the ground. With Djibouti, Eritrea and Sudan opposed to the mission, Kenya tilting in that direction and Ethiopia unable to contribute to it, only Uganda remains a possible participant, although the Resolution leaves open the possibility of other A.U. members joining (none have as yet stepped forward).
Kampala, which has had British and French trainers preparing its forces for the mission, and reportedly already has troops and equipment in Baidoa, began to express second thoughts after the Resolution was passed. Although the government of President Yoweri Museveni is eager to please Washington and London, Uganda's deputy defense minister, Ruth Nankabirwa, stated that the situation in Somalia had changed since Kampala first backed peacekeepers in 2005, adding that "it may be that we will think of holding off until the terrain is not so hostile for Ugandan forces."
The mission is unpopular with the Ugandan public, with local media accusing Museveni of "adventurism." Reuters has reported splits within the government, with Museveni and "a few" other officials in favor of proceeding with deployment, and the majority of others and the uniformed military expressing serious reservations. Deployment requires approval by Uganda's parliament, which -- given a majority of Museveni's supporters in the chamber -- would be expected to give it; yet Museveni is still likely to move cautiously in light of the resistance of the public and much of the political class.
Military experts agree that deployment could not occur until four months from the start of preparations for it, by which time the facts on the ground would likely have changed appreciably. Without Kampala's leadership, it is highly unlikely that any other African state would step up to the plate.
The low probability that the mission will ever deploy did not stop the actors involved from responding to the Resolution's passage with strong rhetoric. The I.C.C. naturally expressed its opposition and held demonstrations against Ethiopia and the United States throughout the regions of Somalia under its control. Ahmed told a rally that it was "shocking that foreign troops already in Somalia are not mentioned" in the Resolution, that the Resolution "legalizes war" against Somalia and that the I.C.C. was reconsidering its pledge to resume negotiations with the T.F.G. In contrast, the T.F.G. executive hailed the Resolution, with Gedi urging immediate deployment and making unspecified threats against actors attempting to interfere with deployment.
Addis Ababa called for deployment "without delay," Asmara called the Resolution "an attack on the Somali people" and Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, said that the Resolution was an effort "to keep Somalia divided." Egypt's parliament passed a resolution urging "free democratic elections" in Somalia that would allow Somalis to choose a form of government transcending clan organization, a direct slap at the T.F.G. and evidence that the northern bloc is holding firm.
Just as the Djibouti-Kenya initiative has given the I.C.C. diplomatic cover, Washington's initiative in the Security Council has given the T.F.G. some more formal international legitimacy and little else. Both the track toward straight negotiations and the track toward negotiations under the pressure of a peacekeeping force have not yet led to any basic changes in the structure of the conflict. A delegation from the A.U., I.G.A.D. and A.L. is planning to visit Somalia for separate talks with the I.C.C. and T.F.G. in an effort to bring the two tracks together. Under the present polarized configuration, the prospects for success of this new diplomatic effort appear to be unpromising.
For all the intense skirmishing on the ground and the two major diplomatic efforts to restart reconciliation talks, the dynamics and structure of the conflict in Somalia remain substantially what they were in mid-November, with the I.C.C. maintaining momentum, Addis Ababa digging in to prevent the Courts from taking over Baidoa and moving into Puntland, and the other regional actors taking sides, even if some of them would prefer to be honest brokers.
In PINR's judgment, which in a problematic situation in which all the actors are placing their cards close to the vest must be tentative, deadlock and stasis are likely to persist in the short run. Despite the I.C.C.'s militant opposition to peacekeepers, the Courts have gained important patrons and diplomatic cover, and the introduction of a mission to protect the T.F.G. is still a remote possibility. Indeed, although the I.C.C. might follow through on its threat to try to take Baidoa, PINR does not believe that the Courts are sufficiently threatened to launch a preemptive strike.
Addis Ababa has thus far mainly assumed a defensive posture, which it would be likely to change only if the I.C.C. became more aggressive.
Although Washington is expected to provide logistical support and some funding for a Ugandan mission, it has essentially devolved responsibility for that mission to a severely divided I.G.A.D. and an increasingly reluctant Kampala. With the T.F.G. executive expressing skepticism about peace talks, the Djibouti-Kenya initiative is unlikely to bear fruit in the short run.
Look for the I.C.C. to continue to put pressure on Puntland -- rather than Baidoa, the north-central regions are the most likely to become flash points setting off a war; Galkayo is the prize that the Courts currently appear to be seeking with the most determination. Split between the Adan faction in favor of straight negotiations and the pro-peacekeeper Gedi faction, the T.F.G. has been divided among the contending regional blocs and has lost any power of its own.
The face-off between the I.C.C. and Addis Ababa remains the determining dynamic of the conflict in Somalia. With the I.C.C. determined to advance and Addis Ababa determined to resist, major armed conflict is surely possible, but not yet inevitable.
Report Drafted By:
The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an independent organization that utilizes open source intelligence to provide conflict analysis services in the context of international relations. PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader. This report may not be reproduced, reprinted or broadcast without the written permission of firstname.lastname@example.org. All comments should be directed to email@example.com.
Source: Power and Interest News Report