Donnerstag, 23. Dezember 2010

Somalia - Escalation or Entanglement?

The United Nations Security Council voted to increase the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) from 8.000 to 12.000 troops, with Uganda being the likely contributor for the additional soldiers. Kampala has been urging for a more robust mandate for quite a while now and has also maintained that it would be willing to send reinforcements, should someone else pick up the bill (i.e. the US). I am surprised that the move did not get any media attention (then again, its silly season anyway) and that it is being made, although I haven't noticed that we formulated a different strategy or reviewed the existing one. I'll be commenting more on this story in January.

On that note: I am home for Christmas season, so I won't be blogging for the rest of the year. In the meantime: Merry Christmas.

Freitag, 17. Dezember 2010

On Korea - Good Night and Good Luck

Anyone who has paid attention to the crisis in Korea and, well, crises anywhere else, will have noticed that the wikileaks cables did not reveal anything new. And those who aren't interested won't read the cables anyway. Take as exhibit A the cable saying that the tanks discovered aboard the MS Faina, captured a little while ago by a bunch of pirates off the coast of Somalia, were indeed designated for the Government of Southern Sudan. Anyone with a vested interest in the Horn of Africa knew that all along. Or take as exhibit B Chinese government officials referring to Kim Jong Il as a spoiled child that does not know how to behave itself (Hail to the conquering heroes, I've been making that point for well over a year now). But what is interesting to note is that here finally the international community is already on the same terms. In his memoirs Decision Points George W. Bush made the exact same comparison. North Korea behaving like a child that wants attention and in order to get it would occasionally throw its food on the floor (which is remarkable, given that there isn't that much food in North Korea). 

Well, that much is true today more than ever. North Korea has threatened to attack South Korea, should Seoul follow through with its live fire exercises. Sorry, Kim, bummer (go back to visiting factories that produce virtually nothing). Kim Jong Il has overplayed his hand, he has unleashed more acts of war in 2010 than in previous years, sunk a South Korean frigate, shelled a South Korean island and re-engaged his enrichment program. So when former DNI Dennis C. Blair says that South Korea will bomb North Korean targets next time Kim instigates one of his war crimes, he is probably right. There is only so much a sovereign nation can bear and when someone is fighting a war with you only to get some international attention, there comes a point at which you'll have to be hitting back or else loose the little freedom you enjoy. So next years first skirmish is probably going to take place on the Korean peninsula. How Kim Jong Il will respond to a serious counterattack is anybodys guess.

Samstag, 4. Dezember 2010

Some News from Iraq

It is a story that did not attract much attention, though it certainly would have deserved it. Iraqi security forces have arrested Hudhayfah al-Batawi. Who exactly is that, you might ask and to that crucial question the well-informed response is that he has been the leader of the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq. One wonders why the story has not gained much traction with the media. But truth is that Iraq has not been anyone's foreign policy priority and not in Europe in particular. The opposition to the 2003 campaign against Saddam has largely translated itself in a reluctance to get involved with Iraq now, even though its government enjoys democratic legitimacy and the security situation has improved considerably. But maybe its also due to the fact that Iraqi security forces arrested the previous leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq as well (Munaf Abdul Rahim al-Rawi as recently as March 2010) and killed his successor in April (Abu-Ayyub al-Masri), decapitating – to employ a term that has been the purview of the terrorists – the once so powerful insurgent group. It is also good news for two other reasons: First this group was responsible for the killing of Christians earlier this year. The government and its security forces seem intent to protect religious minorities and they follow through on it. Against all rumours and bets on its demise, Iraq’s democracy might still be fragile but the trend toward consolidation seems to hold.