Ethiopia's Invasion Seen Worsening Somali Chaos

by David Crossland, Speigel Online
Ethiopia's offensive against the Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia risks plunging the region into a long war which may end up strengthening the Islamists. And if America sees the invasion as a chance to weaken Islamic radicalism, it's seriously misguided.
Ethiopa's military offensive against the Union of Islamic Courts, which holds the Somali capital Mogadishu and much of central and southern Somalia, is a dangerous act of aggression that could lead to a protracted war and even strengthen the Islamists, according to German media commentators who see the conflict as opening up a new battlefield in the American-led global war against Islamic extremists.
The UIC -- which seized Mogadishu six months ago -- has introduced law and order to the capital and much of southern Somalia for the first time in 16 years. But other countries accuse the UIC of links to al-Qaida, charges it denies. Somalia and Ethiopia -- a mainly Christian nation -- have a history of troubled relations and Islamists have long called for a holy war against Ethiopian troops supporting the Somali transitional government. The United States State Department has signaled Washington's backing for Ethiopia by noting that it had "genuine security concerns" arising from the Islamist gains in Somalia.
Center-left newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
"The war that has broken out at the Horn of Africa will be hard to contain. It is unlikely that the intervention of Addis Ababa can lead to a victory over the Islamists.
"The Ethiopian army is well-equipped and one of the largest on the African continent. But even if it beats the Islamists on the battlefield -- it will fail to destroy the political base of the Union of Islamic Courts which has won a lot of support among the population because it offers an alternative to the despotism of the warlords who have been wrecking Somalia for years."
"Some of these warlords are now on the side of the Somali transitional government, which considerably reduces its credibility. The more heavily Ethiopia intervenes, the more this plays into the hands of the Islamists. They can then easily slip into the role of good guardian protecting Somalia from an external enemy."
"Bombs on airports and artillery fire only increase the chaos. Instead of isolating the Islamists, the international community should quickly get the warring parties to the negotiating table. The Islamists are so strongly entrenched in the country that there can no longer be a political solution without them. The Americans might not like that but they should accept it. Otherwise it will take a very long time for the guns to fall silent in Somalia."
Left-wing Die Tageszeitung writes:
"Washington is supporting the transitional government to prevent an Islamist victory. But the USA is employing the wrong means. It is supporting warlords who are hated among the population and the Americans believe they can use Ethiopia as a proxy to avoid having to use their own troops. That is simply idiotic. Ethiopia is Somalia's archenemy, partly because of a territorial conflict. If Ethiopian troops enter Somalia it will drive even moderate Islamists into the Islamists' camp."
"Why should all this interest us? Because Europe isn't an Island of the Blessed. A regional war at the Horn of Africa and the emergence of a new area of retreat for terrorists threatens our own security. That's part of globalization too."

posted by Ethiounited Moderator at9:58 PM


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