Sunday, December 19, 2010

WikiLeaks Reveals U.S. Twisted Ethiopia's Arm to Invade Somalia

WikiLeaks Reveals U.S. Twisted Ethiopia's Arm to Invade Somalia


By Rob Prince

Foreign Policy in Focus

December 8, 2010


By mid 2007, the 50,000 Ethiopian troops that invaded

Somalia in late 2006 found themselves increasingly

bogged down, facing much fiercer resistance than they

had bargained for as Somalis of all stripes temporarily

put aside their differences to stand together against

the outside invader.


As the military incursion turned increasingly sour,

then US Under Secretary of State for Africa, Jendayi

Frazer, who taught at the University of Denver's Korbel

School of International Studies in the 1990s, insisted

that, prior to the invasion, the United States had

counseled caution and that  Washington had warned

Ethiopia not to use military force against Somalia.

Frazer was a close collaborator with former U.S.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, for whom there

also is a strong University of Denver connection.

Frazer certainly tried to distance the United States

from responsibility for the Ethiopian invasion in a

number of interviews she gave to the media at the time.


But one of the released WikiLeaks cables, suggests a

different picture, one that implicates Frazer in

pressing Ethiopia's President Meles Zenawi to invade

its neighbor. The content of the cable is being widely

discussed in the African media. It exposes a secret

deal cut between the United States and Ethiopia to invade Somalia.


If accurate -- and there is no reason to believe the

contrary -- the cable suggests that Ethiopia had no

intention of invading Somalia in 2006 but was

encouraged/pressured to do so by the United States

which pushed Ethiopia behind the scenes. Already bogged

down in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time, the

Bush Administration pushed Ethiopia to invade Somalia

with an eye on crushing the Union of Islamic Courts,

which was gaining strength in Somalia at the time.


At the time of the invasion there was little doubt that

the Ethiopian military incursion was "made in

Washington." Like so many other WikiLeaks cables, this

one merely puts a dot on the "i" or crosses the "t" on

what was generally known, although it does give

specific information about Jendayi Frazer's deep

involvement in the affair.


According to the cable, as the main U.S. State

Department representative in Africa, Frazer played a

key role, spearheading what amounted to a U.S.-led

proxy war in conjunction with the Pentagon. At the same

time that she was pushing the Ethiopians to attack,

Frazer was laying the groundwork both for the attack in

the U.S. media and for a cover-up, by claiming that

although the United States did not support Ethiopian

military action, she could understand "the Somali

threat" and why Ethiopia might find it necessary to go to war.


Frazer spread rumors of a possible jihadist takeover in

Somalia that would threaten Ethiopian security. Turns

out that media performance was little more than a

smokescreen. The U.S. military had been preparing

Ethiopia for the invasion, providing military aid and

training Ethiopian troops. Then on December 4, 2006,

CENTCOM Commander, General John Abizaid was in Addis

Ababa on what was described as "a courtesy  call."

Instead, the plans for the invasion were finalized.


At the time of the Somali invasion, Zenawi found

himself in trouble. He was facing growing criticism for

the wave of repression he had unleashed against

domestic Ethiopian critics of his rule that had

included mass arrests, the massacres of hundreds of

protesters and the jailing of virtually all the

country's opposition leaders. By the spring of 2006

there was a bill before the U.S. Congress to cut off

aid to Zenawi unless Ethiopia's human rights record

improved. (His human rights record, by the way, has not

improved since. Given how the United States and NATO

view Ethiopia's strategic role in the "war on

terrorism" and the scramble for African mineral and

energy resources, Western support for Zenawi has only

increased in recent years).


In 2006, dependent on U.S. support to maintain power in

face of a shrinking political base at  home -- a

situation many U.S. allies in the Third World find

themselves -- and against his better judgement, Zenawi

apparently caved to Frazer's pressure. Nor was this the

first time that Frazer had tried to instigate a U.S.

proxy war in Africa. Earlier as U.S. ambassador to

South Africa, she had tried to put together a

"coalition of the willing" to overthrow Mugabe's regime

in Zimbabwe, an initiative that did not sit so well

with South Africa's post-apartheid government and went



The 2006 war in Somalia did not go well either for the

United States or Ethiopia. Recently a State Department

spokesperson, Donald Yamamoto, admitted that the whole

idea was "a big mistake," obliquely admitting U.S.

responsibility for the invasion. It resulted in 20,000

deaths and according to some reports, left up to 2

million Somalis homeless. The 50,000 Ethiopian invasion

force, which had expected a cake walk, instead ran into

a buzz saw of Somali resistance, got bogged down and

soon withdrew with its tail between its legs. The

political result of the invasion was predictable: the

generally more moderate Union of Islamic Courts was

weakened, but it was soon replaced in Somalia by far

more radical and militant Islamic groups with a more

openly anti-American agenda.


As the situation deteriorated, in an attempt to cover

both the U.S. and her own role, Frazer then turned on

Zenawi, trying to distance herself from fiasco using an

old and tried diplomatic trick: outright lying. Now

that the invasion had turned sour, she changed her

tune, arguing in the media, that both she and the State

Department had tried to hold back the Ethiopians,

discouraging them from invading rather than pushing

them to attack. The WikiLeaks cable tells quite a

different story. In 2009, the Ethiopian forces

withdrew, leaving Somalia in a bigger mess and more

unstable than when their troops went in three years

prior. Seems to be a pattern here?



Rob Prince is the publisher of the Colorado Progressive Jewish News.


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