Monday, December 25, 2006

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When civil wars go transnational

Merry Christmas! In certain parts of the globe, that whole peace-on-earth-goodwill-towards-men business seems to be at a low ebb.

On its front page, the New York Times reports on two civil wars that: A) involve the United States directly or indirectly; and B) are also drawing in neighboring countries.

First, there's the obvious one -- Iraq. James Glanz and Sabrina Tavernise explain that some Iranians have had their hand caught in the cookie jar:

The American military is holding at least four Iranians in Iraq, including men the Bush administration called senior military officials, who were seized in a pair of raids late last week aimed at people suspected of conducting attacks on Iraqi security forces, according to senior Iraqi and American officials in Baghdad and Washington.

The Bush administration made no public announcement of the politically delicate seizure of the Iranians, though in response to specific questions the White House confirmed Sunday that the Iranians were in custody.

Gordon D. Johndroe, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said two Iranian diplomats were among those initially detained in the raids. The two had papers showing that they were accredited to work in Iraq, and he said they were turned over to the Iraqi authorities and released. He confirmed that a group of other Iranians, including the military officials, remained in custody while an investigation continued, and he said, “We continue to work with the government of Iraq on the status of the detainees.”

It was unclear what kind of evidence American officials possessed that the Iranians were planning attacks, and the officials would not identify those being held. One official said that “a lot of material” was seized in the raid, but would not say if it included arms or documents that pointed to planning for attacks. Much of the material was still being examined, the official said.

Nonetheless, the two raids, in central Baghdad, have deeply upset Iraqi government officials, who have been making strenuous efforts to engage Iran on matters of security. At least two of the Iranians were in this country on an invitation extended by Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, during a visit to Tehran earlier this month. It was particularly awkward for the Iraqis that one of the raids took place in the Baghdad compound of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite leaders, who traveled to Washington three weeks ago to meet President Bush....

American and Iraqi officials have long accused Iran of interfering in this country’s internal affairs, but have rarely produced evidence. The administration presented last week’s arrests as a potential confirmation of the link. Mr. Johndroe said, “We suspect this event validates our claims about Iranian meddling, but we want to finish our investigation of the detained Iranians before characterizing their activities.”

Then, according to Jeffrey Gettlemen, there's Somalia:
Ethiopia officially plunged into war with Somalia’s Islamist forces on Sunday, bombing targets inside Somalia and pushing ground troops deep into Somali territory in a major escalation that could turn Somalia’s internal crisis into a violent religious conflict that engulfs the entire Horn of Africa.

The coordinated assault was the first open admission by Ethiopia’s Christian-led government of its military operations inside Somalia, where — with tacit American support — it has been helping a weak interim government threatened by forces loyal to the Islamic clerics who control the longtime capital, Mogadishu, and much of the country.

Ethiopia’s prime minister, Meles Zenawi, said in a televised broadcast that he had ordered the action because he had no choice....

On Saturday, after several days of heavy internal fighting, Islamist leaders announced that Somalia was now open to Muslim fighters around the world who wanted to wage a holy war against Ethiopia, a country with a long Christian history, even though it is about half Muslim.

“What did you expect us to do?” said Zemedkun Tekle, a spokesman for Ethiopia’s information ministry. “Wait for them to attack our cities?”

Even before Ethiopia’s escalation on Sunday, there were alarming signs that the conflict in Somalia could quickly spiral out of control. According to United Nations officials, at least 2,000 soldiers from Eritrea, which recently waged war with Ethiopia, are fighting for the Islamists. They have been joined by a growing number of Muslim mercenaries from Yemen, Egypt, Syria and Libya who want to turn Somalia into the third front of holy war, after Iraq and Afghanistan....

American officials acknowledged that they tacitly supported Ethiopia’s approach because they felt it was the best way to check the growing power of the Islamists, whom American officials have accused of sheltering terrorists tied with Al Qaeda. A State Department spokesperson in Washington said Sunday that the United States was assessing reports of the surge in fighting in Somalia but provided no further comment.

[Hey, you forgot the possible civil war between Fatah and Hamas in Palestine!!--ed. You are correct -- but Eric Umansky has some thoughts on what the United States should not do there.]

posted by Dan on 12.25.06 at 08:29 AM


Iranian agents and fighters have been there for years and it has been openly acknowledged by us, so what do we gain by their capture?

Despite the cover story that the attack on Somalia is somehow a unilateral decision on Ethiopia's part,
the US prodding them into it is probably not a smart tactical move. I'll be really surprised if they have the staying power at all, and worse, a Christian army attack is just helping the jihadis.

posted by: Babar on 12.25.06 at 08:29 AM [permalink]

Everyone from the top, say, 5 levels of government should all be arrested, tried and hanged for their crimes in the years to come (like Pinochet and his gang of criminals). These people have been f*cking up the world for too long. They need to be held criminally responsible for all the people they have killed and all the lives they have destroyed.

posted by: joe m. on 12.25.06 at 08:29 AM [permalink]

Uh, hard to follow that last.

Nonetheless, a belated Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

posted by: Klug on 12.25.06 at 08:29 AM [permalink]

If we have evidence that Iranians are involved in combat against Americans, then in the middle of the night an Iranian military base should be turned into rubble. Then a polite diplomatic note indicating the Iranians should withdraw or face more.

(I'm not a supporter of the war but anyone on the planet who attacks an American soldier should face immediate consequences.)

As far as Ethiopia, someone has to reign in the Islamist crazies in Africa, or there will be war for another 50 years.

posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 12.25.06 at 08:29 AM [permalink]

Uh, hard to follow that last.

Don't worry about it. As near as I can tell, Dan's blog has some kind of wierd internet routing that somehow connects to the chomskyverse.

posted by: rosignol on 12.25.06 at 08:29 AM [permalink]

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