Ethiopia: Iran Steps In As Eritrea Attacks

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June 19,2008: For several years Eritrea and Iran have made friendly diplomatic gestures and discussed economic cooperation. In mid-May the gestures and discussions took the form of a major conference between Eritrea's leader Isaias Afwerki and Iranian president Mahmud Ahmadinejad. This resulted in Ahmadinejad announcing that Iran and Eritrea saw "no limit for expansion of mutual cooperation."" Iran and Eritrea shared "common views on the regional and global issues" and that they were prepared "to resist" the hegemonic system (the American-led global system).

Iran and Eritrea are both outlaws of sorts and outlaw nations, and, like terrorists, always connect. South Africa during apartheid is a premier example, but North Korea, Libya and Saddam's Iraq, and to a degree Taiwan, have followed the same circuitous and sub rosa path.

In late Spring 2008, Eritrean suddenly confronted Djibouti. Djibouti has big friends; it hosts the US Horn of Africa task force and a French base. France and Djibouti have had a mutual defense agreement since 1977 when Djibouti became independent from France.

But Djibouti, like Eritrea, sits on the Bab al Mandab, the strait connecting the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea. Iran sits on the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean.

This isn't a conspiracy theory, it's geo-strategic choke point reality. Local and even tribal issues actually propel many small-scale conflicts around the globe, but geography attracts other interested parties and troublemakers. Radical Islamists were very interested in the Achenese rebellion on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Yes, they shared religious concerns but Aceh province also bordered the entrance to the Straits of Malacca, which connect the Indian Ocean to the Pacific.

Closing another two or three choke points demonstrates a global ability to damage.

The US Navy will tell you this is tough to do and the Navy is correct. But if an admiral tells you he hasn't thought about such an outlaw power play, he's spinning you.

June 17, 2008: Eritrea stated that it would not try to find a diplomatic solution to its border dispute with Djibouti. Eritrea contended that a diplomatic negotiation would be a "media tit for tat" that would "aggravate a fabricated problem."

June 16, 2008: Djibouti admitted that a dozen Djiboutian soldiers were killed in the June 10 firefight with Eritrea. Some of the wounded appeared to have died since the June 10th attack. The total number of wounded Djiboutian troops is somewhere between 98 and 108. Djibouti also claimed that "several" French warships are being sent to Djibouti and will deploy off the Ras Doumeira peninsula. France confirmed that a frigate and a helicopter carrier had arrived off Djibouti. A third is scheduled to arrive. France has around 3000 troops based in Djibouti (2850 is one fairly hard figure). The US has around 1200. most of whom are engaged in logistical support, training, and developmental aid operations. The US troops, however, are heavily armed and can be easily reinforced.

June 12, 2008: The UN condemned Eritrea for instigating the border clashes with Djibouti. The UN Security Council statement said that military action against Djibouti had occurred in "Ras Doumeira and Doumeira Island." The UN also noted that Eritrea had raided the Ras Doumeira peninsula on April 16.

June 10, 2008: Eritrean and Djiboutian soldiers engaged in a firefight on the border that left at least six soldiers dead and as many as 60 wounded. Djibouti reported an extended firefight in the Mount Gabla area (north Djibouti). The African Union has sent a "fact finding mission" to Djibouti, but it appears the fact-finders are behind the trigger pullers.

The Ogaden National Liberation Army (ONLA, a wing of the ONLF) announced that it has begun an "offensive" in Ethiopia's Ogaden desert region. One of the key areas the ONLA claimed to be on the attack is in Dhagah-Madow district. The ONLA also claimed that it had defeated the Ethiopia government's "May offensive" in the Ogaden.

June 7, 2008: The Red Sea Afars Democratic Organization (RSADO), an anti-Eritrean government, claimed that its fighters had killed 12 Eritrean soldiers in attacks conducted on May 30 and June 1. There were no independent reports confirming the claim. Interesting enough, the RSADO press statement about the June 1 attack described a very plausible attack in a very likely place. The RSADO said its fighters hit a convoy in the town of Ramot (along a major Eritrean road). The May 30 attack consisted of several firefights around Gobaado.

June 6, 2008: Tensions have increased between Djibouti and Eritrea. A slice of their mutual border has been in dispute since the early 1990s when Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia. In 1996 and 1999 clashes occurred over control of the Ras Doumeira peninsula on the Red Sea.

June 3, 2008: Ethiopia estimated that 4.5 million of its citizens need some type of food aid. The drought is one reason, but rising international food prices is another.

May 20, 2008: The presidents of Eritrea and Iran met in Iran to discuss new trade and cooperation agreements between their two countries.

 

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