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Rein in Rogue States



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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Anglo-Turkish Genel Energy might starting drilling in Somaliland in 2019 -CEO



LONDON, March 22 (Reuters) – Kurdistan-focused Genel Energy might start drilling in Somaliland next year, Chief Executive Murat Ozgul said on Thursday, as the group reported 2017 results broadly in line with expectations.

“For the long term, I really like (our) Somaliland exploration assets. It’s giving me a sense of Kurdistan 15 years ago,” Ozgul said in a phone interview. “In 2019 we may be (starting) the drilling activities.”

Chief Financial Officer Esa Ikaheimonen said Genel will focus spending money from its $162 million cash pile on its existing assets in Kurdistan but added: “You might see us finding opportunities… somewhere outside Kurdistan.”

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Somali News

Africa is on the verge of forming the largest free trade area since the World Trade Organization



CNBC — According to the African Union, this would consolidate a market of 1.2 billion people, and a gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion.

But, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni have both snubbed the summit in Kigali, Rwanda.

African heads of state have gathered in Kigali, Rwanda, to sign a free trade agreement that would result in the largest free trade area in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization.

Leaders are poised to approve the African Continental Free Trade Area, a deal that will unite the 55 member countries of the African Union in tariff-free trade.

The agreement is touted by the African Union as encompassing a market of 1.2 billion people, and a gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion. It is hoped that it will encourage Africa’s trade to diversify away from its traditional commodity exports outside of the continent, the volatile prices of which have hurt the economies of many countries.

“Less than 20 percent of Africa’s trade is internal,” Rwandan President Paul Kagame, also currently chairperson of the African Union, said in a speech Tuesday. “Increasing intra-African trade, however, does not mean doing less business with the rest of the world.”

But, the deal has its critics. It was announced over the weekend that Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari would not be attending the summit, despite his federal cabinet last week approving the deal. “This is to allow more time for input from Nigerian stakeholders,” said an official statement from the foreign ministry.

The agreement is opposed by the Nigeria Labour Congress, an umbrella organization for trade unions in the country.

“Given the size of its economy, population, and given its political clout, Nigeria’s stance towards the African Continental Free Trade Area is key,” Imad Mesdoua, senior consultant for Africa at Control Risks, a global risk consultancy with offices in Lagos, told CNBC via email. Nigeria is the continent’s most populous nation and considered by some metrics to be sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economy.

“There is a general sentiment among (labor unions and industry bodies) that Nigeria’s export capacity in non-oil sectors isn’t sufficiently robust yet to expose itself to external competition,” Mesdoua said.

The president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, also called off his visit at the last minute, although it remains unclear as to why.

Africa’s population is expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050, according to the African Union. By this time it will account for 26 percent of the world’s working age population. Talks for the African Continental Free Trade Area began in June 2015.
Should the agreement be signed, second phase talks are expected to begin later this year. These will focus on investment, competition and intellectual property rights.

According to a study published by the United Nations last month, the deal will lead to long-term welfare gains of approximately $16.1 billion, after a calculated $4.1 billion in tariff revenue losses. But, the report did warn that benefits and costs might not be distributed evenly across the African continent.

In principle, a free trade area across Africa “makes perfect economic sense,” Ben Payton, head of Africa at risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, told CNBC via email.

But, he added: “The biggest risk is that African countries would be unable to effectively enforce external customs controls. For example, this would mean cheap Chinese goods that are imported into Ghana could eventually cross various African borders without further controls and make it into Nigeria. This problem already exists, but a free trade area would potentially make it worse.”

The World Trade Organization was formed in 1995 and comprises of 164 members.

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Somali News

At least 14 dead, several hurt in car bomb in Somali capital



ABC — At least 14 people were killed and 10 others wounded in a car bomb blast near a hotel in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, Somali officials said Thursday.

Capt. Mohamed Hussein said the explosion occurred near the Weheliye hotel on the busy Makka Almukarramah road. The road has been a target of attacks in the past by the Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab, the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa.

Most of the casualties were passers-by and traders, Hussein told The Associated Press. The toll of dead and wounded was announced by security ministry spokesman Abdulaziz Hildhiban.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the blast. The group frequently attacks Mogadishu’s high-profile areas such as hotels and military checkpoints. A truck bombing in October killed 512 people in the country’s deadliest-ever attack. Only a few attacks since 9/11 have killed more people. Al-Shabab was blamed.

Thursday’s blast comes almost exactly a month after two car bomb explosions in Mogadishu shattered a months-long period of calm in the city, killing at least 21 people.

The Horn of Africa nation continues to struggle to counter the Islamic extremist group. Concerns have been high over plans to hand over the country’s security to Somalia’s own forces as a 21,000-strong African Union force begins a withdrawal that is expected to be complete in 2020.

The U.S. military, which has stepped up efforts against al-Shabab in the past year with dozens of drone strikes, has said Somali forces are not yet ready.

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