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Is an Ethiopian Invasion of Eritrea Eminent
By F. Hager
September 14, 2007 — Now that the Millennium celebrations are over, Ethiopia appears ready to attack Eritrea with tacit US backing.
Over 100,000 people were slaughtered the last time these two countries fought a war in 1998 – 2000. This time, the death and destruction as well as the long term dislocation and suffering could be worse.
U.S. TAKES SIDES
Incomprehensibly, the Bush administration is fanning the flames and taking sides in a tribal war between two dictators. Current U.S. policy in Africa appears to be dictated more by the force of personalities than strategic principles.
Africa is rarely high on the U.S. agenda. So, important decisions are relegated to low-level political appointees. Inexperienced diplomats such as Jendayi Frazer are easily manipulated by fast-talking African dictators such as Meles Zenawi. Frazer’s singular legacy so far is the debacle in Somalia.
MELES ZENAWI – THE AHMED CHALLABI OF THE HORN OF AFRICA
Just as in Iraq, the U.S.-backed invasion of Somalia was based on false intelligence and assumptions. Now it’s about to be repeated in Eritrea. Just as Ahmed Challabi fed US lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Meles Zenawi fabricated stories about Somalia being a haven for terrorists.
The invasion of Somalia was waged to capture or kill three terrorists Meles claimed were hiding in Mogadishu. The three fugitives were wanted for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombing in Nairobi. None of these terrorists were captured or killed. Yet, some 5,000 Somalis have been killed, thousands wounded and some 400,000 made homeless.
Zenawi and his generals got paid handsomely. Ethiopia’s ruling cabal has one simple over-arching agenda: to ensure their minority rule over 70 million Ethiopians. They have managed to impose their rule through mass arrests, disappearances and killings that amount to war crimes. In return for their services in the so-called war against terror, the Bush administration has condoned the murderous activities of Ethiopia’s rulers.
CAN ERITREA BE A BREEDING GROUND FOR ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS?
It will be the ultimate folly and ignorance to construe the fight among Eritreans and Tigreans as one between supporters and opponents of Islamic extremism.
Isaias Afewerki’s government is a secular, nationalist/leftist government. The Eritrean population is roughly half Moslem and half Christian. But political leadership has traditionally been dominated by the Christians. If anything, a Moslem upheaval is a threat to Eritrea’s current government. It is therefore absurd to believe that Eritrea will want to be a breeding ground for Islamic terrorists, as some ill-informed American officials assert.
Clearly, Eritrea is supporting Somali opposition forces opposed to Ethiopia that happen to be Moslems. Eritrea is also supporting Ethiopian opposition forces that are secular and fighting Tigrean domination.
The Ethiopian leadership, on the other hand, has a vested interest in presenting the fight as one between good and evil – just the simplistic way the Bush administration likes it. Zenawi has masterfully manipulated U.S. obsession with Islamic extremism to present their clan war with Eritrea as a fight against terrorism and those harboring terrorists. In truth, the Tigrian leadership could care less about the fight against terrorism. In the 1970s and 80s the Tigrai Liberation Front (TPLF) group regularly engaged in terrorist activities such as kidnapping and murder. So the only permanent interest the group has is staying in power.
U.S. VERBAL ATTACK AGAINST ERITREA
Jendayi Frazer, the US diplomat in charge of Africa, is labeling Eritrea a terrorist haven, creating the psychological climate for what appears to be a justification for the invasion of Eritrea.
Frazer’s coddling of Ethiopia’s Zenawi while blasting Eritrea’s Afewerki is reminiscent of Donald Rumsfiled’s embrace of Saddam Hussein and his endorsement of Hussein’s invasion of Iran. Yet another senseless U.S. strategic blunder is about to be played out in the Horn of Africa.
Other US diplomats are busy flattering Ethiopia’s ruler while attacking Asmara. “Ethiopia’s political leaders have committed themselves to a new collaborative relationship for the good of the country,” said James Swan, on August 5, 2007. Mr. swan is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs. He made the remark at the 4th International Conference on Ethiopian Development Studies Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan.
According to Mr. Swan, “Eritrea has chosen to support extremist elements, including the al-Qaida affiliated al Shabaab militia in Somalia, in an effort to undermine the political process. While the rest of the region and the international community have united behind a common strategy for achieving lasting peace and stability in Somalia, Eritrea has opted to support terrorists and spoilers while encouraging continued violence. There is no justification for such actions. The ruling cabal is – to our great regret — leading Eritrea along the path toward increased domestic repression and hardship, and regional and international isolation.“
These are serious charges. Charges that indicate the Bush Administration and the Ethiopian leadership are working closely to overthrow the Eritrean government.
COUP D’ETAT OR WAR?
Ethiopia’s ruling Tigrai Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) would engage in such risky venture only if it believes it can launch a blitzkrieg similar to the one used in the invasion of Somalia. But Eritrea is no Somalia. And there is no guaranty of a quick, easy victory.
What’s guaranteed, however, is tremendous human slaughter and suffering of an unprecedented scale. Hence the need for people of good will to speak up before yet another war engulfs two of the poorest countries in the world.
Ethiopia’s Tigrai Liberation Front could be entertaining two possible scenarios:
1. Decapitation/ coup d’etat against the Eritrean leadership; or
2. Outright invasion.
The first scenario is what Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his politburo would prefer. The decapitation can be accomplished with logistical and intelligence support from the Israel and the United States.
The Ethiopian leadership has come to the conclusion that isaias Afewerki is weak and unpopular; hence easily replaceable. Afeworki may be unpopular, but it remains to be seen whether Ethiopia’s Tigrian leadership could easily orchestrate regime change in neighboring Eritrea.
The Tigrian leadership brags that the road to Asmara can be a cakewalk. It has amassed enough troops on three fronts to engage in a pincer movement. In addition, some 5,000 highly trained special forces are said to be on standby to parachute to the environs of Asmara on short notice.
The preparation for regime change appears to be in full throttle. Ethiopia is also training and supporting dissident forces such as the Eritrean Democratic Alliance.
If a coup d’etat or decapitation of the Eritrean leadership is not possible, Prime Minister Zenawi of Ethiopia will have to resort to a costly invasion. An invasion will very likely be supported by secret US air strikes and satellite intelligence.
The US will also provide the disinformation, demonizing the Eritreans while legitimizing violence initiated by Ethiopia. As a prelude to what is in the pipeline, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer indicated the US readiness to label Eritrea a terrorist state. This could presumably be followed by some UN resolution, which will then provide a legal cover for the invasion of Eritrea.
For the Pentagon and its newly minted Africa Command (AFRICOM) as well as the Department of State, condoning an invasion may be a tempting way to reward the Ethiopian leadership for being good boys. Zenawi and company have been both the manipulators and the compliant locals always eager to do any dirty deed and to please the master. The invasion of Somalia was a reflection of the incestuous relationship between the local tyrants and the Bush administration.
THE ETHIOPIAN REGIME IS IN TROUBLE
The war in Somalia is going very badly for the US-backed Ethiopians and the Transitional Federal “Government”. In the meantime, international human rights groups are accusing the Ethiopians and the Transitional Somali government of war crimes.
So, the question is, will the TPLF leadership opt for war on two fronts? As unlikely as that may seem, the Zenawi group may opt for war. War, after all, is what the TPLF knows best.
The TPLF leadership feels a legitimate threat from Eritrea. It has skillfully monopolized political and economic power in Ethiopia for the last 16 years. It managed to do so by ruthlessly holding down the local population while manipulating Western donors into lining its pockets.
Eritrea is now threatening the Tigrian stranglehold on Ethiopia by harboring Ethiopian dissidents and Somali forces opposed to Ethiopia and the fragile Transitional Government.
Prime Minister Zenawi has masterfully exploited U.S. fears of Islamic terrorism in the wake of the September 2001 attacks. He has promoted himself as an indispensable American ally in the fight against terrorism. In return, the Bush administration has condoned the many crimes and human rights abuses committed by the Zenawi regime.
Why does the US condemn Eritrea and not Ethiopia? Why the moral double standard? Prime Minister Zenawi and his organization were once labeled terrorists by the United States. Apparently, if you do this administration’s bidding, it does not matter how heinous your crimes are.
Let’s look at the highlights of crimes committed by the Ethiopian regime:
-The genocide currently underway in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region.
-The June and November 2005 killings of over 193 people, the arrest of over 40,000 protesting electoral fraud.
-Upwards of 15,000 killed, tens of thousands imprisoned in Oromia region.
-Over 425 ethnic Anuaks massacred by Ethiopian forces in December 2003; some 10,000 made homeless.
TIME TO SPEAK UP
Ethiopia and Eritrea are among the poorest countries in the world. Food and freedom, and not war, are the real issues. Thousands of Eritreans are suffering from food shortages and economic deprivation. Over four million Ethiopians need food assistance.
For the Ethiopian minority regime, this is a preemptive war. The cost of the war may be underwritten by some American counter-insurgency slush fund. How about human lives? The Tigrian group sacrificed over 50,000 lives in Eritrea before. It’s now sacrificing thousands in Somalia. But since this is a regime that does not have to account to its own people, lives don’t matter.
Where is the morality for a big power like the US egging two poor people towards war? Why the haste to sacrifice so many black African lives in the name of some ill-conceived, dubious cause.
This is the time for all people of good will to speak up against an impending senseless war.
The author is based in the USA, he can be reached at email@example.com
Source: Sudan Tribune