Why is Blackwater/Xe in Somalia?
Press TV reports that “There are . . . allegations of US-sponsored bomb plots in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. As of 12 Jan 2010, at least 18 people have been killed in clashes between rival factions in southern and central Somalia, and there are reports that Blackwater/Xe mercenaries have entered the country.” That’s for starters.
What’s more, “A battle broke out between the pro-government Ahlu Sunnah militia and Hizbul Islam fighters in the town of Baladwayne on Sunday and went well into Monday, during which at least 13 people lost their lives, witnesses said . . . There are also allegations of US-sponsored bomb plots in the capital. The bombings will be carried out in order to create a pretext to launch a campaign against the [hard-line Islamist] Al-Shabab, a spokesman of the group, Sheikh Ali Mohammed Rage, told Reuters.
He also told reporters, “’We have discovered that US agencies are going to launch suicide bombings in public places in Mogadishu . . . They have tried it in Algeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan . . . We warn of these disasters. They want to target Bakara Market and mosques, then use that to malign us. At a meeting with tribal elders in Mogadishu on Monday, the Al-Shabab spokesman said that mercenaries of the Xe private security firm — formerly known as Blackwater — have arrived in the Somali capital, the Press TV correspondent in Mogadishu reported on Monday.”
So what threat has brought out the notorious Xe? Somalia is this small sub-Saharan country in the horn of Africa’s east to north coast, south of Yemen, on the bottom of the Arabian Peninsula, across the Gulf of Aden. Somalia is also strategically at the mouth of the Red Sea to the north and the Indian Ocean to the south.
Britain pulled out of British Somaliland in 1960 to permit its former protectorate to join with Italian Somaliland into the new nation Somalia. In 1969, a coup headed by General Mohamed Siad Barre brought in an authoritarian socialist rule that managed to impose a level of stability in the country for several decades. It included close relations with the former Soviet Union, which caused frequent conflicts with neighbors.
After the regime’s overthrow early in 1991, Somalia fell into decades of clan turmoil, factional fighting, and anarchy. Barre went into hiding while the country was carved up by heavily armed warlords. Many Russian arms were left behind to acerbate the hostilities. The long-suffering population, numbering more than 10 million, was thrown into more misery when famine raged the country. In 1992, President Clinton sent the US Marines, who arrived ahead of UN peacekeepers in an attempt to supposedly “restore order.” But the “humanitarian intervention” crashed and burned when two US Black Hawk helicopters were shot down. This while angry warlords cheered the death of 19 American soldiers and the US beat a hasty retreat.
Somalian clan elders and other senior figures appointed Abdulkassim Salat Hassan president at a conference in 2000. Little progress was noted until 2004, when a new parliament was created and Abdullahi Yusuf was inserted as president. The fledgling regime soon stalled and fighting between the factions resumed.
In June 2006, a coalition of clerics, business leaders, and Islamic court militias known as the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC) defeated the powerful Mogadishu warlords and took control of the capital.<!–[if !vml]–><!–[endif]–> <!–[if !vml]–>The Courts continued to expand and spread their influence throughout much of southern Somalia, threatening to overthrow the TFG (Transitional Federal Government) in Baidoa. Ethiopian and TFG forces were concerned over possible links between some SCIC factions and al-Qaida (think CIA) in late December 2006. They drove the SCIC from power.
Nevertheless, the joint forces continue to fight remnants of SCIC militia in the southwestern corner of Somalia near the Kenyan border. The TFG, backed by Ethiopian forces, in late December 2006 moved into Mogadishu. It continues to struggle and exert control over the capital and to prevent the reappearance of Warlord rule reminiscent of Mogadishu before the rise of the SCIC.
Yet, dating back to 1991, just after Barre left the country, SomaliaWatch.org, reported about The Oil Factor in Somalia. “Far beneath the surface of the tragic drama of Somalia, four major U.S. oil companies are quietly sitting on a prospective fortune in exclusive concessions to explore and exploit tens of millions of acres of the Somali countryside. That land, in the opinion of geologists and industry sources, could yield significant amounts of oil and natural gas if the U.S.-led military mission can restore peace to the impoverished East African nation.” This was during the closing days of Bush Sr.’s administration. He lost his bid for reelection in November 1992, leaving the “peace-keeping” mission to Clinton.
“According to documents obtained by The Times, nearly two-thirds of Somalia was allocated to the American oil giants Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips in the final years before Somalia’s [then] pro-U.S. President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown and the nation plunged into chaos in January, 1991. [Conceivably, Barre awarded the rights to the US in return for the millions in aid his country was receiving from us]. Industry sources said the companies holding the rights to the most promising concessions [were] hoping that the Bush [Sr.] Administration’s decision to send U.S. troops to safeguard aid shipments to Somalia [would] also help protect their multimillion-dollar investments there.”
“Officially, the administration and the State Department insist[ed] that the U.S. military mission in Somalia [was] strictly humanitarian. Oil industry spokesmen dismissed as ‘absurd’ and ‘nonsense’ allegations by aid experts, veteran East Africa analysts and several prominent Somalis that President Bush [Sr.], a former Texas oilman, was moved [originally] to act in Somalia, at least in part, by the U.S. corporate oil stake.” In fact, some 38,000 soldiers from 23 different nations, including the US, and representatives from 49 different humanitarian relief operations worked together to put food into the mouths of the starving people of Somalia.
“But corporate and scientific documents disclosed that the American companies [were] well positioned to pursue Somalia’s most promising potential oil reserves the moment the nation is pacified. And the State Department and U.S. military officials acknowledge that one of those oil companies has done more than simply sit back and hope for peace.”
That one company, “Conoco Inc., the only major multinational corporation to maintain a functioning office in Mogadishu throughout the past two years of nationwide anarchy, has been directly involved in the U.S. government’s role in the U.N.-sponsored humanitarian military effort.” Humanitarian efforts generally go hand in hand with military might to realize commercial goals . . .
“But the close relationship between Conoco and the U.S. intervention force has left many Somalis and foreign development experts deeply troubled by the blurry line between the U.S. government and the large oil company, leading many to liken the Somalia operation to a miniature version of Operation Desert Storm, the [Bush] U.S.-led, military effort in January, 1991, to drive Iraq from Kuwait and, more broadly, safeguard the world’s largest oil reserves . . .”
The bottom line, according to one expert, was that the oil reserves were “ . . . potentially worth billions of dollars, and believe me, that’s what the whole game is starting to look like.” And that may be the whole game 17 years later. And why we find Blackwater/Xe there to continue the destabilization to grab the country’s oil and gas for Conoco. Just as the surge for Afghanistan real estate is to insure the running of oil and gas pipelines from the Caspian Sea basin to Pakistan (presently under drone siege), thence to shipment across the Indian Ocean to India and China. . . .
Despite subsequent denials and assertions as to whether there is oil and gas in Somalia, the answer is yes. Just as Yemen (right across the Gulf of Aden) produces some 200,000 barrels of oil a day, the reserves are part of a great underground rift or valley that arcs from Yemen into and across northern Somalia. Texas-based Hunt Oil Corp geologists disclosed this in the mid 1980s and the information wasn’t lost on then Vice President GHW Bush. He obviously passed the good news back to his Texas oil buddies.
Skipping to February 2009, alarabiya.net wrote in The new TFG, political legitimacy and extremism in Somalia: “The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia must adapt or die. This is a statement of fact. Great change is afoot inside Somalia at the present time, and the new President Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed, must demonstrate that he is capable of seizing the opportunity that has been presented to him. Somalia has been effectively stateless for eighteen long years, and the people of this East African nation have suffered great many deprivations during this nightmarish period of time.”
On January 31, 2009, the New York Times also ran the election story, Moderate Elected President in Somalia. “A moderate Islamic cleric was elected president of Somalia early Saturday morning by the Somali Parliament, which was meeting in Djibouti.
“The cleric, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, headed the Islamic courts movement that governed the capital, Mogadishu, and most of southern Somalia until 2006. Some analysts had said they thought that Sheik Sharif had the best chance of all the candidates for president to unite Somalis, because of his Islamist roots and his acceptability to a variety of factions.
“Parliament was selecting a replacement for the former president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, who resigned in late December after four years in office. A former warlord, Mr. Yusuf had been widely blamed for Somalia’s deepening crisis and had been steadily marginalized.” So, this time the ICM won over the warlords.
The Times noted, “For Sheik Sharif, the burden of reconciling Somalia’s 10 million people and ending 18 years of bloodshed will be daunting. Most of Somalia is controlled by various Islamist militias, although some of the moderate Islamist groups support the government. The government itself controls only a few blocks of Mogadishu.
“The Shabab, a hard-line Islamist militia, controls most of Mogadishu and much of the southern part of the country. It has denounced the election in Djibouti as meaningless, and on Monday captured the seat of Parliament in the town of Baidoa.
Somalia has been without a functioning central government since 1991, when General Siad Barre was removed from power and the army fell into the hands of clan militias, who turned on one another and left the country largely in anarchy.”
Sadly for Somalia, member of the Islamic Conference, the League of Arab States, the Organization of African Unity, former close ally of the US, and keeper of good relations with former colonizers, Britain and Italy, and member of the UN, none of these countries or institutions, supposedly friends of Somalia, made any serious effort to assist the country post haste in its hour of crisis. The Washington Post datelined September 24, 1992, pointed out “Just thirty years after it officially became an independent nation, Somalia essentially has ceased to exist.” That might have been an exaggeration of the moment, but there is some sad truth to it.
Then, too, the abuse and poverty of Somalia, its people and resources, have contributed to the present, industry of piracy, and the CIA’s call for a presence “on the beach side” as well as in the water. As Wiki reports. “Piracy off the Somali coast has been a threat to international shipping since the beginning of the Somali Civil War in the early 1990s. Since 2005, many international organizations, including the International Maritime Organization and the World Food Programme, have expressed concern over the rise in acts of piracy.
“Piracy has contributed to an increase in shipping costs and impeded the delivery of food aid shipments. Ninety percent of the World Food Programme’s shipments arrive by sea, and ships have required a military escort. According to the Kenyan foreign minister, Somali pirates have received over US$150 million in ransom during the 12 months prior to November 2008.
As stated, “Clashes have been reported between Somalia’s Islamist fighters (who are opposed to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the pirates. In August 2008, Combined Task Force 150, a multinational coalition task force, took on the role of fighting Somali piracy by establishing a Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) within the Gulf of Aden. The increasing threat posed by piracy also caused significant concerns in India since most of its shipping trade routes pass through the Gulf of Aden. The Indian Navy responded to these concerns by deploying a warship in the region on October 23, 2008. In September 2008, Russia announced that it too will soon join international efforts to combat piracy.
“On October 5, 2008, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1838 calling on nations with vessels in the area to apply military force to repress the acts of piracy. At the 101st council of the International Maritime Organization, India called for a United Nations peacekeeping force under unified command to tackle piracy off Somalia. There has been a general and complete arms embargo against Somalia since 1992.”
Interestingly, the pirates recently have managed to arm themselves to the teeth with the profits from hijacking higher profile ships at much higher ransoms rather than smaller, more vulnerable vessels carrying trade across the Straits or employed in the coastal trade on either side of the Straits.
“In November 2008, Somali pirates began hijacking ships well outside the Gulf of Aden, perhaps targeting ships headed for the port of Mombasa, Kenya. The frequency and sophistication of the attacks also increased around this time, as did the size of vessels being targeted. Large cargo ships, oil and chemical tankers on international voyages became the new targets of choice for the Somali hijackers.
As stated, “There are discussions under way to begin an aggressive covert operation against the pirates . . .”
As mentioned earlier, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been publicly warning of this potential threat for months. In a Harpers Magazine article, a CIA official stated, “We need to deal with this problem from the beach side, in concert with the ocean side, but we don’t have an embassy in Somalia and limited, ineffective intelligence operations. We need to work in Somalia and in Lebanon, where a lot of the ransom money has changed hands. But our operations in Lebanon are a joke, and we have no presence at all in Somalia.” Take that with a grain of salt.
Wiki also points to years of toxic waste dumping in Somali waters by European nations, exacerbated by the Tsunami which spread the waste settled on the bottom, redistributing the toxic radiation, which has seriously sickened many Somalis who have eaten the fish.
Fortunately, the pirates kept out industrial fishing and gave the waters and the fish a chance to heal and repopulate. The ransom monies have contributed to reviving the coastal economies of impoverished towns. So there’s a bit of Robin Hood afoot with the pirates here as well as eco-protection. Then, too, the pirates were wise enough to handle with care their hijacked crews and expensive vessels. This takes some of the sting out of the ransoms, making them simply a cost of doing business in the region.
So goes this sketch of a very complex political picture. Coups, instability, insurgencies, counterinsurgencies, warlords, clans, pirates and now Blackwater’s newly-minted Blackwater/Ex. As to the future, I feel Somalia will be further destabilized by factionalism blamed on Al Qaeda, this to fuel more anti-Islam sentiment.
Worse-case scenario would be the introduction of a Karzai-like puppet, pro-US government as the gas and oil rights go to one the big four companies hovering like tyrannosaurs around them. But stay tuned. Today Somalia, tomorrow the world. Anything can happen as the US lands in Africa thirsty for its favorite drink, oil, with a side of natural gas, bought with bloodshed and catastrophe. Whatever happened to our Peace President, our Obama, who disliked dumb wars?
Estimates range from 300,000 to 1,000,000 slaughtered in these “dumb” wars.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer and life-long resident of New York City. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book, “State Of Shock: Poems from 9/11 on” is available at www.jerrymazza.com, Amazon or Barnesandnoble.com.