Thursday, December 28, 2006

Return to Mogadishu and the Japan-Iran connection

The only thing surprising about Ethiopia's campaign to unseat the Islamic Courts Union and install the Transition Federal Government of Somalia is how rapid their advance to Mogadishu has been. I'm pretty surprised that the ICU forces have continued to use the tactics of a conventional army so late into the conflict. It probably would have been smarter for Somali Islamists to have switched to dispersed geurrilla tactics after Ethopian troops crossed the border in serious numbers to reinforce Baidoa back on December 8th. The ICU is just too poorly armed to successfully use conventional tactics against the relatively well-heeled Ethiopian military. As the last paragraphs of the article on the conflict from today's Post suggests:
Witnesses reported seeing a large number of foreign fighters in the convoys heading south. Islamic movement leaders had called on foreign Muslims to join their "holy war" against Ethiopia, which has a majority Christian population. Hundreds were believed to have answered the call. Residents told the AP that Islamic leader Hassan Dahir Aweys had arrived in the frontline town of Jilib, 65 miles north of Kismayo, earlier Thursday with hundreds of fighters aboard 45 pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns. Islamic fighters have gone door to door in Kismayo recruiting children as young as 12 to make a last stand on behalf of the Islamic movement, according to a U.N. report citing the families of boys taken to Jilib.
Pressing local children into service is an act of desparate act of a group looking towards martyrdom, not one preparing for an insurgency. Did they learn nothing from the defeat and subsequent rebirth of the Taliban in Afghanistan? Massing militiamen just creates larger targets for Ethiopia's Russian-made attack helicopters. For those interested in the Japanese angle on the current flap over Iran's nuclear program, I would definitely suggest giving Michael Penn's "Oil and Power: The Rise and Fall of the Japan-Iran Partnership in Azadegan" a read. Its a quick read covering Japan's involvement in the exploration of Iran's Azadagen oil field and it provides a solid description of how Japan was caught between the bellicose stubbornness of the Bush and Ahmadinejad administrations. Thankfully the Japanese managed to back away from their investments without incurring huge losses, but things did get interesting - at one point the Iranians suggested the Japanese provide technical cooperation to the Iranian nuclear program as a way ensuring it is peaceful.

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