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Rein in Rogue States

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The unfolding crisis over North Korean nuclear weapons and missiles is a reminder that the world is an unstable place. Rogue states led by sociopaths and religious zealots continually threaten the peace and global stability, while free nations, led by the United States, continue to dither.

For some reason, we have trouble putting it all together. It’s nearly impossible to believe Pyongyang developed its nuclear capabilities and missile program all by itself. It had to have help, mostly likely from other regimes whose stated objective is to destroy the United States. Yet policymakers and military planners within the Pentagon continue to employ the same kinds of conventional responses while indicating they are unwilling to back up any tough talk they can muster with force if necessary.

Given the 17-year presence in Afghanistan, as well as the continuing commitment to Iraq, that’s understandable – but also potentially fatal. New dangers arise every day that America is ill-equipped to face, while few have the courage to propose new ways to fight the next war.

The biggest threat of all comes from the so-called radical Islamic terror groups that use – abuse, really – the religious beliefs of the poor and disenfranchised throughout North Africa and the Gulf region to recruit allies to their cause. They’re engaged in a holy war that justifies any tactic in the pursuit of victory. The use of nuclear weapons, as far as they are concerned, is not off the table. America’s efforts to prevent this, as symbolized by the deal the Obama administration and assorted European powers made with Iran, have been at best half-hearted in attempts to prevent it.

How we respond to this threat may determine our future as well as the world’s. Meanwhile, the problem gets worse. At the beginning of August, Yusuf-Garaad Omar, the Somali minister of foreign affairs, wrote U.S. Ambassador Stephen Schwartz of the dangers posed by the newly-reconstituted al-Shabaab terror group which, Omar wrote, has now “captured critical surface exposed uranium deposits in the Galmudug region and are strip mining triuranium octoxide for transport to Iran.”

In an accompanying intelligence brief, the Somalis indicated these materials could be extracted “fairly quickly, without the use of advanced mining equipment” and, because of its inherent stability, can easily be shipped “to Iran, and then on to Iran’s suspected customers, notably North Korea.”

“The potential for nuclear proliferation is real, immediate, and pressing,” the analysis said, putting the need to stop it squarely within the zone defining the boundaries of the United States’ national security interests.

“Only the United States has the capacity to identify and smash al-Shabaab elements operating within our country,” Omar wrote Schwartz. “The time for surgical strikes and limited engagement has passed, as Somalia’s problems have metastasized into the World’s problems. Every day that passes without intervention provides America’s enemies with additional material for nuclear weapons.”

He’s not wrong, but clearly the sentiment for doing anything about it does not yet exist in Washington. America was burned badly during its previous intervention in Somalia. The situation on the ground is little improved despite the election of a pro-U.S. president in 2017 and no one is eager to jump a second time into the same fire.

The danger of Somali uranium falling into the hands of Iran or North Korea changes the calculation. The U.S. must step up its activities – diplomatic, economic and military – in order to curtail the shipments the diplomatic message indicates are ongoing. This may not require a significant military presence, as has been requested, but may require taking the issue to the United Nations, the formal recognition that Iran may be in violation of the anti-proliferation agreement it just made, and the use of blockades and other interventions to seize materials in the pipeline between Africa and the Gulf.

No one can now say we have not been warned. Something must be done, even if not at the level of what the Somalis have apparently asked for. The global terror threat is highly mobile. The United States must develop new strategies to deal with what amounts to a multi-front war where the opposition works in an integrated fashion that prevents traditional tactics from being successful. Somalia is but one piece of a very complex puzzle the enemies of America must never be allowed to fully assemble.

 

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Somali News

BREAKING: Somali general shot dead in capital Mogadishu

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MOGADISHU (Reuters) – A Somali general was shot in the head and killed in the capital Mogadishu on Thursday and a colonel who was his deputy has been arrested for the murder, senior army sources said.

The killing of Marine general Saiid Aden Yusuf in what was apparently an internal dispute is a fresh sign of problems facing the army as it battles an insurgency by Islamist militant group al Shabaab with the help of African Union peacekeepers.

“Our marine general was killed by his deputy at Mogadishu seaport today. The murderer was seized. It was unfortunate and unexpected. An investigation goes on,” marine officer Ahmed Ali told Reuters.

Mogadishu resident Nur Mohamed told Reuters the colonel fired several shots from his pistol and hit the general in the head.

“I was chatting with the general shortly before he was killed …. I heard the gunshots and when I ran to the scene I was shocked to see the general lying on the ground, bleeding,” he said, adding that Yusuf died on the scene from bullet wounds.

Marine officer Ahmed Ali said the colonel was arrested.

Al Shabaab is fighting to oust the government and establish its own rule based on its strict interpretation of Islam’s sharia law.

The group has been pushed out of most of its urban strongholds but it is able to mount deadly attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere.

Somalia has faced violence and lacked a strong central government since President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.

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Humanitarian Watch

UN: More than half of Somalis need emergency aid

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The United Nations says more than half of Somalia’s population is in need of emergency aid due to a major drought and worsening conflict.

Millions have been forced from their homes and hundreds of thousands of children have been left malnourished.

The UN says the situation will worsen unless it receives $1.6bn in extra funds.

Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith reports.

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Briefing Room

Somalia to Probe Evictions of Thousands of Displaced Families

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NAIROBI — The Somali government responded to widespread criticism by aid agencies on Wednesday, promising to investigate reports that thousands of families fleeing drought and conflict were forcefully evicted from more than 20 informal camps.

The United Nations and groups such as the Somalia NGO Consortium say more than 4,000 families, or about 20,000 people, had their homes bulldozed last month inside settlements on the outskirts of the capital of Mogadishu.

The demolitions on private land were unannounced, they said, and pleas by the community — largely women and children — for time to collect their belongings and go safely were not granted.

Some aid workers who witnessed the evictions said uniformed government soldiers were involved in the demolitions.

“Regarding the forced evictions, we are really deeply concerned. We are investigating the number of evictions,” Gamal Hassan, Somalia’s minister for planning, investment and economic development, told participants at a U.N. event.

“We have to make sure we investigate and have to make sure we know exactly what happened. And then we will issue a report and you can take a look at it and see what happened and how it happened,” he said by video conference from Mogadishu.

The impoverished east African nation of more than 12 million people has been witnessing an unprecedented drought, with poor rains for four consecutive seasons.

It has also been mired in conflict since 1991 and its Western-backed government is struggling to assert control over poor, rural areas under the Islamist militant group al Shabab.

The U.N. says drought and violence have forced more than 2 million people to seek refuge elsewhere in the country, often in informal settlements located around small towns and cities.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Wednesday condemned the demolitions, and said the fate of those evicted did not fit with the progress Somalia has made.

“Not only did these people lose their homes, but the basic infrastructure that was provided by humanitarian partners and donors, such as latrines, schools, community centers — has been destroyed,” said Peter De Clercq, head of OCHA in Somalia, at the same event.

“I reiterate my condemnation of this very serious protection violation and call on the national and regional authorities to take necessary steps to protect and assist these people who have suffered so much.”

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