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Meles Zenawi asked US for Intel | Ethiopia’s Somalia intervention 2006

Despite the repeated media claims that Ethiopia went to Somalia ‘to do America’s dirty job’, four leaked Cables of Nov. 2006 reveal that Addis Ababa had to ask for things even a mere US ally would take for granted.

The Cables also reveal that the Ethiopian acknowledged, back in 2006, that ‘Islamists will always be part of (the government of) Somalia’ and had held secret talks with the UIC (Union of Islamic Courts, aka CIC).Vice Admiral Richard W. Hunt, Commander, Naval Surface Forces, Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet

A Cable, dated Nov. 02, 2006, indicates that PM Meles Zenawi told US officials two days earlier that Ethiopia would be grateful if the US would help locate bases of al-Shebaab, an extremist element of UIC/CIC. He also asked them to lobby the Europeans and the UN so that they would not condemn Ethiopia’s actions. [This is about three weeks after he asked the US itself not condemn Ethiopia, if the latter deploys troops in a town controlled by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia. See here]

On the other hand, the US officials were doubtful if the Ethiopian army could save the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia, according to the Cable.

It was in a meeting attended by PM Meles Zenawi and Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF HOA) Admiral Rick Hunt, DATT [Defence Attaché] Don Zedler and Charge and Chargé d’affaires Vicki Huddleston.

The Cable states that:

* We [United States] were particularly concerned by reports of the Council of Islamic Courts’ (CIC) military preparations for an attack on Baidoa, and the possibility that even with Ethiopian military assistance, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Baidoa might fall when faced with the CIC’s Al Qaeda-linked and Jihad-motivated troops known as the al Shebab. Meles reasoned that while the CIC is now stronger than the TFG, the balance can be corrected. By stopping the CIC before its ideology becomes entrenched outside Mogadishu, Somalis who are not driven by the austere ideology of fundamentalism will be ready to dialogue with the TFG and become part of the Transitional Federal Institutions. Meles’ fear is that the CIC is being pushed by al Shebab to attack Baidoa in the coming days. If this occurs, the GOE will not yet be ready to push the CIC back.

* When Chargé [d’affaires] asked the Prime Minister if he were sure that Ethiopia could win, Meles replied that defeat was unlikely but there are always imponderables. The strength of the ENDF rests on its mobility; therefore its success may well be linked to whether it can determine the location of the al Shebab Islamist forces, explosives, shoulder held missiles, Eritrean "egla" missiles, technicals and the ability of CIC to mine areas of operation. Meles concluded by saying that "we can manage, but if the CIC has Eritrea "egla" missiles, it could have a major influence on our helos." Most importantly, Meles emphasized, would be to know where the hard core elements are located. "If we know this, we can fight in specific areas and the local militias can disperse. We should not fight these groups, but to ensure that we do not we will have to know where the al Shebab is located," Meles explained. [Emphasis mine]

* [PM Meles said] if the USG can assist in any way – specifically intelligence – to counter the growing al Shebab terrorist influence, Ethiopia would be grateful. Meles also asked if the USG would discretely talk with the Europeans and the UN so that they would not condemn Ethiopia’s actions. If they condemn Ethiopia, Meles said, "it will stiffen the Jihadists." [Emphasis mine]

* When Charge asked why the CIC would attack Baidoa if it meant an Ethiopia/TFG response, Meles said that the CIC wants to provoke Ethiopia into a war in Somalia so the EU and the US will pressure Ethiopia to stop. But some in the CIC are not so sure that the US and EU will make that recommendation, and others doubt Ethiopia will bend to pressure. In response to the Charge’s urging, Meles reiterated his previous statements that Ethiopia wants to wait for the UNSC to lift the embargo on the TFG and authorize IGASOM.

It seems the US responded affirmatively to the intelligence sharing request, though the two countries didn’t even set a joint military cooperation team at least until 4-5 months later. Instead, the US chose to unilaterally carry out AC-130 airstrikes on Al-Qaeda East Africa (AQEA) cells on the run in southern Somalia, weeks after Ethiopian army dismantled UIC/CIS bases including Mogadishu.

It is certain, however, no US financial assistance was provided to the Ethiopian military operation, as revealed in two Cables of year 2007 and 2008.

A Nov. 29,2007 US Embassy Cable indicates that Ethiopia did not request financial support from the U.S. The Cable presents a remark made by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, in a meetingSenator Russell Feingold [left side] receiving the National Intelligence Distinguished Public Service Medal  for his service in the Senate Intelligence Committee and as the Committee Foreign Relations subcommittee attended by Senator James Inhofe, Congressmen Ander Crenshaw, Robert Aderholt, Dan Boren, Tim Walberg, and Mike McIntyre as well as Congressional staff members, and Ambassador Yamamoto, as follows:

The Prime Minister emphasized that it was the fight against terrorism that forced Ethiopia to take military action in Somalia against the Council of Islamic Courts and affiliated militias last year and he noted that it was a unilateral decision based on Ethiopia’s interests. Meles emphasized that Ethiopia did not request financial support from the U.S. for that endeavor, but noted that Ethiopia derived adequate satisfaction from the strong U.S.-Ethiopia cooperation since then as it was evident to Ethiopia that the U.S. "was in the same trench" as Ethiopia. Ethiopia is fighting terrorism in its own interests, he stated, "we will do it with or without the U.S., but we prefer to do it with you." [Emphasis mine].

Another Cable, dated Jan. 04, 2008, reveals that U.S. did not provide a single bullet for Ethiopia, while the latter had to bear the cost of training Somali Transitional Federal Government troops. The Cable, presenting Ethiopian National Defense Forces(ENDF) Chief of Staff Samora Yenus’s discussion with US Ambassador Donald Yamamato, states that:

Gen. Samora responded aggressively, in tone if not demeanor, that the "U.S. did not support a single bullet for our operations in Somalia." Samora reiterated the $3 million expense for five U.S. civilian contract trainers and argued that $2.5 million in C-130 spare parts "is nothing" in comparison to the sacrifices made by Ethiopian troops in Somalia without U.S. financial support.

Despite 1,500 Ethiopian troops ready to deploy to Darfur, they remain delayed, Samora argued, waiting for promised-yet-undelivered supplies from the U.S.
He highlighted that the USG had suspended additional deliveries of
HUMVEES in late-2005 as a result of the use of the HUMVEES to transport ENDF troops firing on civilian protesters during the post-2005 election violence which raised serious human rights concerns. The General reiterated his anger made to the previous U.S. Charge that "you can take back the other 16 (HUMVEES) that you gave us before that."

Despite noting that the USG’s political support is valued within the GoE, Gen. Samora ended the conversation by complaining that Ethiopia had trained 680 Somali Transitional Federal Government troops without U.S. financial support and had recently brought another 1,000 Somali troops for training. "It would be good if the U.S. helped with this," Samora lamented, "but not critical…We can do it ourselves; like everything else we do." [Emphasis mine]

Returning to the November 2006 Cables; a Nov. 03, 2006 Cable indicates that Ethiopia has no problem with Islamists ideology of the Somalia militants and acknowledges that ‘[Islamists] will always be part of (the government of) Somalia’.

The Nov. 03, 2006 presents a summary of ‘a series of meetings’ that Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer Michael Phelan had during his visit to Ethiopia a week earlier. Mr. Phelan met with General Samora Yonus, Chief of General Staff, Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), and Tekeda Alemu, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, during his stay.

According to the Cable:

* Tekeda said that, though Eritrea is always an issue for Ethiopia, Somalia is the major priority at this time. Though he characterized accusations that Ethiopia would react hastily to regional conflict as "hogwash," he did say that Ethiopia would respond to defend its "national interests." When asked if he is confident that a peaceful solution in Somalia is possible, Tekeda responded that, "it depends." Though he said that support within the African Union for intervention is gaining strength, he expressed doubt that an IGASOM force would be approved before the CIC moves on Baidoa. He also reported that Foreign Minister Seyoum had productive talks with Kenyan and Ugandan presidents on a recent trip, and that discussions will continue during the upcoming China-African summit in Beijing. When asked whether religion is a factor in Ethiopia’s involvement in Somalia, Tekeda responded saying, "To begin with, Ethiopia is not strictly speaking a Christian country," and that "the values of the CIC are not (our) problem until they attempt to extend them (to Ethiopia)." However, he added that if Ethiopia did not involve itself in Somalia, then Baidoa and subsequently Puntland, Somaliland and the rest of the country would fall under control of the CIC. He concluded that, "Islamists will always be part of (the government of) Somalia – that will not change. But the jihadists cannot be allowed to take charge." [Emphasis mine]

* [General] Samora was blunt in his prioritization of regional matters for Ethiopia, saying, "I have forgotten about Eritrea for now. They are doing their job in Somalia," in reference to allegation that Eritrea is training and supplying the CIC. During the meeting he repeatedly conveyed Ethiopia’s position on support for the TFG, indicating that "we will not let them be attacked," and adding that, "If we are provoked, we will not stop."

A Cable dated Nov. 15, 2006, presents an insightful summary of the threats gathering in Somalia against Ethiopia and the region at the time. The Cable written by the departing Charge d’Affaires Vicki Huddleston to State Department Ass. Secretary Jenday Frazer and the newly appinted Ambassador Donald Yamamoto states that:

Somalia’s Islamic Courts (CIC), led by Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, according to Embassy Nairobi, "has had one consistent agenda and this is the establishment of an extremist Islamic state in Somalia" and to that end "(he) is willing to countenance significant bloodshed to achieve it." Aweys’ CIC over the past six months has morphed from providing security in Mogadishu into a radical movement fueled by the militant Shabaab ("youth"). They are now in open battle with the semi-autonomous region of Puntland and attempting to subvert Somaliland. The CIC — with support from Al Qaeda East African operatives, foreign resources and other Jihadist fighters — is poised to attack Baidoa, the headquarters of the shaky Transitional Federal Government. If successful, the Islamists will have not just overturned a legitimate government — set up by Somalis, the region and the international community after fourteen years of chaos — but it will then establish itself as the radical Islamic government of southern Somalia.

The goal of pan-Somali nationalist Aweys is the powerful idea of "Greater Somalia" that Siad Barre thought he could create by invading Ethiopia. This invasion prolonged the bloody DERG regime, left thousands homeless and dead and was only resolved in Ethiopia’s favor by the Soviet and Cuban troops and equipment. If successful in defeating the TFG at Baidoa, Aweys’ forces will gain momentum; already daily flights of men and equipment are pouring into Mogadishu for an attack on Puntland and Somaliland in the expectation that this will unite Somalia. At the same time, insurgents from Oromiya (the OLF) and the Ogaden (the ONLF), backed by Eritrea, will move east into Ethiopia. The ONLF intends to break off Ethiopia’s Somali region, uniting it with a Greater Somali state. The OLF will either ensure that there is regime change in Addis Ababa or separate Oromiya from Ethiopia. In the end, Ethiopia’s enemies — most notably Eritrea — would be successful in breaking up Ethiopia and ousting Meles.

To the south, Kenya’s northern provinces with substantial Somali populations would be laid open to subversion and eventual partition. Even CIC-friendly Djibouti would come under pressure to exchange its moderate Islam for a more radical posture. Admittedly, the above is the worse case scenario. Undoubtedly, the CIC will meet greater resistance as it attempts to govern different clans within Somalia and conquer territories of neighboring states. But even a best case scenario, should the CIC win at Baidoa, gives the CIC and through it Al Qaeda a country of 10 million people from whence it can attack moderate Muslim and Christian countries, as well as Western interests, in Africa. There should be no doubt about this, given that Somalia harbors the terrorists who blew up our embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam.

Interestingly, the Cable claims that Meles has listened to our[United States] advice not to attack the Islamic Courts’.

Another Cable, dated Nov. 28, 2006, reveals that Ethiopia had secret talks with UIC (aka CIC) in London and invited them for further talks in Addis Ababa, but they didn’t accept the invitations, apparently, as it would be ‘recognizing’ Ethiopia.

The Cable is a summary of the discussions that took place one week earlier, during a farewell call, between the departing Chargé d’affaires Vicki Huddleston and Deputy Foreign Minister Tekeda Alemu.

According to the Cable:

* The former Charge [Chargé d’affaires] told Tekeda that Ethiopia was moving more troops and equipment to the Somali border and asked what Ethiopia had planned. Tekeda explained that Ethiopian continues to leave the door open for dialogue and it was preferable to armed conflict. He said that the CIC has been invited to talks in Addis Ababa but, thus far, the CIC has been reluctant to take the offer. Tekeda noted that the GOE has been in constant dialogue with the CIC through its representatives in London, but the GOE insists that any meaningful talks must be held in Addis Ababa. Tekeda said that once the CIC becomes "serious" about holding substantive talks, Ethiopia is ready. [Emphasis mine]

* Huddleston asked Tekeda if the GOE had thought about advocating for a TFG that better reflected Somalia’s population. Tekeda said that at this point and given the TFG weakened status, it wasn’t worth it to shuffle positions in the TFG. He noted, however, that a "successful" dialogue between the TFG and CIC would result in some incorporation of the CIC into the TFIs. He said that Hawiye representation in particular would likely be strengthened. Tekeda posited that the TFG needed to be better at its public diplomacy effort. He said that the TFG needed to focus on denying the CIC momentum, rather than reversing the situation. Tekeda suggested that the TFG target moderates and give them an alternative to the CIC.

* The former Charge told Tekeda that Ethiopia was moving more troops and equipment to the Somali border and asked what Ethiopia had planned. Tekeda explained that Ethiopia continues to leave the door open for dialogue and it was preferable to armed conflict.

Ethiopia’s reason détre for a military intervention in Somalia is outlined in another Cable dated Nov. 28, 2006.

The Cable presents the Ethiopian Prime Minister asking the Parliament to pass ‘a proposed resolution, which declared Ethiopia’s desire for peaceful relations with Somalia, but retiterated the hostile actions taken by the CIC previously mentioned by the Prime Minister. It highlighted the "clear and present danger" the CIC represented to Ethiopian sovereignty and expressed Parliament’s support for the GOE in taking "all measures deemed necessary" to deal with the threat’.

Arguing that the government’s first preference was still negotiation, the Prime Minister stated that ‘we can’t avoid the problem. If peace is not possible, based on international law we will take steps commensurate with the present danger’, according to the Cable.

Defending the proposed resolution, the PM argued that:

the resolution would strengthen the GOE’s hand in negotiations because it would counter two major misperceptions among CIC leaders. The first was that the GOE would not take military action against the CIC without international backing. "They need to see that we can and will do this," Meles said. The second misperception was that a GOE declared of war on Somalia would provoke an internal political crisis in Ethiopia. This was also false, the PM asserted. Thus by authorizing the executive to act rapidly when and if the situation becomes intolerable, Parliament would actually be strengthening the GOE’s hand to make peace.

Claiming that his government had no problem with Somalia per se, nor even with the CIC as a whole, Prime Minister Meles indicated that ‘CIC was now being led by extremist elements who constituted a "clear and present danger" to Ethiopia’.

Meles outlined three measures which he claimed constituted a "direct attack" on Ethiopia by the CIC:
— A public declaration of Jihad against Ethiopia;
— A public declaration of the CIC’s intent to unify "Greater Somalia," including portions of Ethiopia; and
— Arming, training and transporting violent insurgents (OLF and ONLF) into Ethiopia. Meles also noted the close coordination between the CIC and the Eritrean Government with the common goal of overthrowing the [ruling party] EPRDF.

Commenting on the position of the international community:

Meles said, the international community had been understandably less resolute. After all, the CIC had not declared jihad against the United Nations, but against Ethiopia. For this reason, the GOE could not refrain from defending itself while waiting for the approval of others who were not facing the brunt of the CIC. The PM asserted that the GOE would follow the established international principle that those who are attacked can take commensurate measures in their own defense. "Not all countries will support us, since countries respond to their own interests" Meles said, but pledged to seek international support for Ethiopia’s actions. In any case, the GOE would have to pay the price to defend the country.

The Parliament approved the resolution after a week of inter-party negotiations.

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Read below the full text of the four Cables of Nov. 3, Nov. 15, and Nov. 28, 2006.

For the full text of Nov. 15, 2006 Cable quoted above see Wikileaks | Top US diplomat: ‘Time to stop hating Ethiopia’ – (link).

For the 2007 and 2008 Cables quoted above, see Wikileaks: US didn’t sponsor Ethiopia’s Somalia intervention [full text] – (link) and Wikileaks: Ethiopian Army rebuffs US probe into N. Korean ties [full text] – (link), respectively.

Note: This is the third post of the Ethiopia’s Somalia intervention 2006 series. The series presents about 17 US Embassy Cables from Oct-Dec. 2006 which casts light on the role of US and other parties on the eve of Ethiopia’s Dec. 2006 military operation in Somalia. You can Catch-up with the first post – here (link), the second post – here (link) OR find all the posts in the series – here (link).

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Reference ID – 06ADDISABABA2914
Created – 2006-11-02 05:21
Released – 2011-08-30 01:44
Classification – CONFIDENTIAL

Origin
– Embassy Addis Ababa

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SUBJECT: THE ISLAMISTS BATTLE FOR BAIDOA AND BEYOND
Classified By: CHARGE VICKI HUDDLESTON FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).

1. (C) Summary:  Prime Minister Meles met with Admiral Rick Hunt, DATT Don Zedler and Charge at our request October 30. We were particularly concerned by reports of the Council of Islamic Courts’ (CIC) military preparations for an attack on Baidoa, and the possibility that even with Ethiopian military assistance, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Baidoa might fall when faced with the CIC’s Al Qaeda-linked and Jihad-motivated troops known as the al Shebab.  Meles reasoned that while the CIC is now stronger than the TFG, the balance can be corrected.  By stopping the CIC before its ideology becomes entrenched outside Mogadishu, Somalis who are not driven by the austere ideology of fundamentalism will be ready to dialogue with the TFG and become part of the Transitional Federal Institutions.  Meles’ fear is that the CIC is being pushed by al Shebab to attack Baidoa in the coming days.  If this occurs, the GOE will not yet be ready to push the CIC back.  Rather, they will defend Baidoa to the end. When the rains end by mid-November, Ethiopia will be ready for a second phase of operations, which would use the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) as the cutting edge to go after al Shebab and push the CIC back to Mogadishu. Meles hopes that a UNSC resolution lifting the arms embargo on the TFG and authorizing IGASOM will be forthcoming before mid-November so that the TFG can protect itself with international backing and Ethiopia can reinforce them.  Meles pointed out that there are many friendly southern Somalis, as well as Puntland and Somaliland, that welcome Ethiopia’s commitment.  We are watching with considerable concern as the CIC surround Baidoa.  This concern is only enhanced by the growing recruitment and strength of the militant al Shebab and its close ties to the East African al Qaeda branch.  We find it difficult not to agree with Meles that the CIC has no interest in dialogue with the TFG when they see a complete victory at hand.  Even more worrisome is the fact that Ethiopia, while committed to defending Baidoa, is not as well positioned to do so. In fact, as Meles pointed out, Ethiopia’s advantage lies in its mobility but its tanks are hampered not only by the rainy season but by lack of information about where al Shebab (the real enemy), its technicals, and its missiles are located.  We were not reassured to hear Meles say that Ethiopia does not yet have a concept of operations.  If Ethiopia and the TFG lose Baidoa, the CIC, and especially al Shebab, will be empowered and will attract more domestic and foreign fighters, as well as more arms and resources.  Puntland will be its next target, followed by Somaliland.  As al Shebab fighters move forward, so too will militant Islam.  Meles asked if we can help. Hopefully we can do so in discrete but meaningful ways, because in the end this is our battle as well.  End Summary.

2. (C) On October 30 CJTF-HOA Commander Admiral Hunt presented to Prime Minister Meles his thoughts about the Somalia situation, including the need for an exit strategy and a clear idea of the desired end state that Ethiopia, the Horn and the African Union would find satisfactory.  He asked what would happen next if Baidoa were to fall to the Islamic Courts, and queried the PM about ways in which Puntland and Somaliland could withstand both the ideological and military thrust of the CIC.  He urged Ethiopia to review its strategic considerations and move cautiously as the CIC, especially the al Qaeda-linked al Shebab are a determined enemy.  Hunt asked whether there were ways in which the USG might promote an improved environment that would result in negotiations and avoid conflict, perhaps by encouraging the Mogadishu business community to play a moderating role. 
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NEED TO SHIFT THE BALANCE OF POWER TO BACK TO TFG
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3. (C) Meles thanked Hunt for his observations, and then pointed to the structural imbalance between the TFG and the CIC.  He said the TFG is disadvantaged by the lack of a motivating force because it is not clan based.  This means that TFG President Youseff must negotiate everything among the clans, thus there is little cohesion.  Worse, without the motivation of clan or ideology the TFG will remain weak in the face of its enemies. Permanently shifting clan alliances 
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also weaken the TFG. The Rahanwein — who are the majority in Baidoa shift alliances because  historically they have been maltreated by other clans.  As a result, their political antenna is highly attuned to who holds the money and arms that can assure them of ending up on the winning side.  An additional weakness for the TFG is that the Hawiye are displeased that the Darood hold the presidency, possibly explaining the logic of Hawiye involvement in the assassination attempt on Youseff.  According to Meles, a close relative of an important Hawiye was the suicide bomber.  The CIC motivation being both clan and ideology is only somewhat weakened by the fact that Somalis are not naturally attracted to the strict ideology of radical Islam. The majority of the CIC is driven by clan loyalty, but the expanding Al Shebab militants linked with Al Qaeda are driven by radical Muslim ideology.

4. (C) Meles complained that the TFG was sapped from inside by these conflicting loyalties and lack of strong outside support.  At the same time, Meles said that the TFG remains critical because it provides the long-term answer for Somalia — the transitional federal institutions serve as the basis for building domestic and international legitimacy. "Politically, the TFG is not mobilized," Meles emphasized. The job of the international community — and Ethiopia — is to compensate for the imbalance between the TFG and the CIC. The advantage of Puntland and Somaliland, which Meles sees as the last line of defense against the CIC, is their clan affiliations and their common history of success and failures around which they can rally.  At this point, Meles said, it is critical to "beef-up" Somaliland and Puntland economically so that they can withstand the coming attack from the CIC. Meles said the USG could be instrumental in providing humanitarian (and developmental) support that would reinforce these independent regions.  The TFG could also be strengthened for the long term if it has access to resources, the PM claimed.  Therefore the USG might encourage the Europeans to make available the fifteen million euros given to the African Union for Somalia.

5. (C) More critically, the gains of the CIC must be reversed.  According to Meles, the CIC’s strength has been reinforced by disarming of the militias of the businessmen, undercutting the potential for opposition in southern Somalia. "The CIC is fired up by its victories and the difficulties the USG faces in Iraq and Afghanistan," Meles said.  The CIC hard-liner leaders understand that clans cannot form the base of their movement and are being replaced by the ideology-based al Shebab. (Comment:  Post understands that there is an effort by al Shebab to recruit clan militias to radical Islam.  We also understand that some clans are asking foreign donors to send arms directly to them so as to avoid becoming subservient to a radical ideology or al Shebab. End comment.) 
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CIC WILL NOT NEGOTIATE UNTIL STOPPED MILITARILY
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6. (C) Meles said that the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) strategy would be to push the CIC back to Mogadishu, the only place where the radical Islamic ideology is entrenched.  The longer the delay in pushing back the CIC, the greater the range of conversion.  For now, however, the only area where they are entrenched is Mogadishu. The best case scenario, according to Meles, is that the businessmen and other pragmatic elements in Mogadishu would split if the CIC were bottled up in Mogadishu.  This would allow dialogue with the TFG and moderate CIC elements to move forward. "Right now, the Jihadists would have to be stupid to dialogue with a weakened and surrounded TFG.  Their objective is only to legitimize themselves so they can take power," Meles stated.  Meles recalled that although the TPLF and other rebels wanted the USG on their side when they were about to defeat Ethiopia’s former Derg regime, they saw no reason to negotiate power sharing when it was evident to the rebels that they could completely defeat the Derg. Meles warned that the international community should not bank on dialogue at this point when the CIC is sure that victory is at hand. One of the reasons the Arab League is biased toward the CIC is 
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because of the imbalance between the CIC and the TFG. Therefore the balance of power must change to favor the TFG if the TFG is to succeed. 
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KEY TO VICTORY: FINDING AL SHEBAB UNITS
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7. (C) At the end of the rainy season — mid-November or a bit later, as rains have been unusually heavy — Ethiopia can move to redress the military balance between the TFG and the CIC, Meles said.  Meles said that an attack on Baidoa by the CIC could come at any moment given that they have troops only a few miles away from the city; however, the rains may prevent the attack.  Meles stated strongly that if the CIC does attack Baidoa, Ethiopia would be acting legally to help the TFG confront the attack and push the CIC back to Mogadishu.  Meles plans to use the ENDF as "the cutting edge" fighting with al Shebab and the Islamists, not the clans. The Somalis could then "pick up the pieces," and liberate southern Somalia Meles said.  Outside humanitarian and developmental resources could then build up the transitional federal institutions, making them more capable and representative.  Radical Islam would be marginalized, but not ousted. "That will be a matter of years," Meles warned. 
8. (C) When Charge asked the Prime Minister if he were sure that Ethiopia could win, Meles replied that defeat was unlikely but there are always imponderables.  The strength of the ENDF rests on its mobility; therefore its success may well be linked to whether it can determine the location of the al Shebab Islamist forces, explosives, shoulder held missiles, Eritrean "egla" missiles, technicals and the ability of CIC to mine areas of operation.  Meles concluded by saying that "we can manage, but if the CIC has Eritrea "egla" missiles, it could have a major influence on our helos."  Most importantly, Meles emphasized, would be to know where the hard core elements are located.  "If we know this, we can fight in specific areas and the local militias can disperse.  We should not fight these groups, but to ensure that we do not we will have to know where the al Shebab is located," Meles explained.

9. (C) Meles said that given these factors it is difficult to come up with a concept of operations. If the USG can assist in any way – specifically intelligence – to counter the growing al Shebab terrorist influence, Ethiopia would be grateful. Meles also asked if the USG would discretely talk with the Europeans and the UN so that they would not condemn Ethiopia’s actions.  If they condemn Ethiopia, Meles said, "it will stiffen the Jihadists."   He added, "we will protect Baidoa to the very last – there will be no retreat from Baidoa."  In response to the Charge’s query, Meles said that if the CIC attacked before ENDF troops could respond with a push out of Baidoa, it would likely result in a two-phase action.  First would come the battle for Baidoa, which would begin with a CIC attack; then this would be followed by a wider campaign led by the TFG and ENDF — if no diplomatic solution is found — in mid- to late November.  Once the CIC was bottled up in Mogadishu, perhaps US pressure might help shut off the money coming in to the CIC from Dubai, he added. 
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CIC COUNTING ON INTERNATIONAL CONDEMNATION OF ETHIOPIA
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10. (C) When Charge asked why the CIC would attack Baidoa if it meant an Ethiopia/TFG response, Meles said that the CIC wants to provoke Ethiopia into a war in Somalia so the EU and the US will pressure Ethiopia to stop.  But some in the CIC are not so sure that the US and EU will make that recommendation, and others doubt Ethiopia will bend to pressure. In response to the Charge’s urging, Meles reiterated his previous statements that Ethiopia wants to wait for the UNSC to lift the embargo on the TFG and authorize IGASOM.  Although this allows the CIC to acquire more arms and expertise, Ethiopia also needs to prepare its logistics in any case.  A greater danger than an arms build-up in the CIC is the spread of Islamist Jihad ideology, Meles argued.  For now, Ethiopia has friends in Somalia as 
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well as in Puntland and Somaliland that are determined not to fall to that ideology.  Meles concluded that he looks forward to many more conversations and communications on this topic.
HUDDLESTON
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Reference ID – 06ADDISABABA2927
Created – 2006-11-03 09:42
Released – 2011-08-30 01:44
Classification – CONFIDENTIAL

Origin
– Embassy Addis Ababa

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ADDIS ABABA 002927
SIPDIS 
SIPDIS
DEPARTMENT FOR AF/E
LONDON, PARIS, ROME FOR AFRICA WATCHER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/30/2016
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER PHUM ET ER

SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA: SFRC STAFFER PHELAN VISIT TOUCHES ON WAR IN SOMALIA, DEMOCRACY AT HOME
REF: A. ADDIS ABABA 02877
     ¶B. ADDIS ABABA 02872
     ¶C. ADDIS ABABA 02865
Classified By: CHARGE VICKI HUDDLESTON FOR REASONS 1.4(b)AND(d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: In a series of meetings during a visit to Ethiopia, SFRC Staffer Phelan inquired about issues at the forefront of Ethiopian politics ) engagement in Somalia and progress in deepening democracy.  Regarding Somalia, Phelan was told by GoE officials that Ethiopia is ready to eliminate the threat of jihadists, if and when the CIC moves into Baidoa.  The Ethiopia military is confident that any conflict with the CIC will be quick and decisive.  On domestic matters, Phelan engaged with opposition parliamentarians and encouraged them to continue their dialogue with the GoE to foster a stronger democracy.  He also discussed with GoE officials the ongoing trial of CUD leadership, stressing that the USG is closely following the proceedings to ensure that the trial is speedy, fair and transparent.  END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer Michael Phelan visited Addis Ababa October 25-27 and held a series of meetings to discuss regional security matters as well and the internal Ethiopian political environment.  Those meetings which were primarily focused on regional security matters included LTG Samora Yonus, Chief of General Staff, Ethiopian National Defense Forces; (ENDF), Tekeda Alemu, State Minister for Foreign Affairs; and an Ambassadors lunch hosted by Charge which included numerous European and African Ambassadors to Ethiopia.   In the meeting with LTG Samora, Charge and SFRC Staffer Phelan were joined by CJTF-HOA Admiral Hunt, DATT Donald Zedler and Poloff.  In the meeting with Tekeda, Charge and SFRC Staffer Phelan and Poloff were joined by USG delegation including Ret. Gen Carl Fulford and Amb. Peter Chaveas from the African Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), Gen. Remkis from EUCOM J5. SFRC Staffer Phelan also met with PM Meles (reftels A and B).

3. (SBU) SFRC Staffer Phelan discussed internal political issues with Minister of Information Bereket Simon, as well as with opposition leaders Dr. Merera Gudina, United Ethiopian Democratic Front (UEDF); Lidetu Ayalew, United Ethiopian Democratic Party-Medhin (UEDP-Medhin); Bulcha Demeksa, Oromo People Democratic Movement (OFDM); and Ayele Chamisso, Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP).  Phelan was accompanied in both of these meetings by P/E Counselor and Poloff.  Phelan also met with the Chairman of the Independent Inquiry Commission, Mekonnen Dilgasa (reftel C). 
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SOMALIA CONTINUES AT FOREFRONT OF ETHIOPIAN EXTERNAL ISSUES
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4. (C) In a wide ranging discussion with various European and African Ambassadors to Ethiopia, Charge and SFRC Staffer Phelan surveyed participants on reactions to the current situation in Somalia, resulting in spirited deliberations how best to move forward.  French Ambassador Stephan Gompertz reported that though Paris has not yet decided on how to proceed, there are essentially two options ) either fully support dialogue through the Khartoum talks, or push for action in assembling the IGASOM force from Uganda ) both of which he admitted have serious disadvantages.  European Union Ambassador Tim Clarke said that the EU has also not been able to present unified support for either option, as EU countries differ widely in opinion.  This was evident during the discussion as German Ambassador Class Knoop voiced doubts at the CIC’s sincerity in finding an agreement at the Khartoum talks, whereas Italian Ambassador Rafaelle de Lutio said that, while maintaining pressure on the CIC is necessary, the international community should concentrate on ensuring that the talks continue. The Ugandan DCM, Idule Amoko, reported that Uganda is prepared to send peacekeeping troops if and when such a decision is made by the AU and the international community.  Canadian Ambassador Yves Boulanger remarked that, either way, conflict between CIC and the Somali TFG, and by extension Ethiopia, is likely unavoidable.  Despite the myriad opinions on the most effective way to prevent war in Somalia, most Ambassadors agreed that additional delays by the international community will likley be counterproductive.

5. (C) In discussing regional issues, Deputy Foreign Minister 
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Tekeda said that, though Eritrea is always an issue for Ethiopia, Somalia is the major priority at this time.  Though he characterized accusations that Ethiopia would react hastily to regional conflict as "hogwash," he did say that Ethiopia would respond to defend its "national interests." When asked if he is confident that a peaceful solution in Somalia is possible, Tekeda responded that, "it depends." Though he said that support within the African Union for intervention is gaining strength, he expressed doubt that an IGASOM force would be approved before the CIC moves on Baidoa.  He also reported that Foreign Minister Seyoum had productive talks with Kenyan and Ugandan presidents on a recent trip, and that discussions will continue during the upcoming China-African summit in Beijing.  When asked whether religion is a factor in Ethiopia’s involvement in Somalia, Tekeda responded saying, "To begin with, Ethiopia is not strictly speaking a Christian country," and that "the values of the CIC are not (our) problem until they attempt to extend them (to Ethiopia)."  However, he added that if Ethiopia did not involve itself in Somalia, then Baidoa and subsequently Puntland, Somaliland and the rest of the country would fall under control of the CIC. He concluded that, "Islamists will always be part of (the government of) Somalia – that will not change.  But the jihadists cannot be allowed to take charge."

6. (C) LTG Samora was blunt in his prioritization of regional matters for Ethiopia, saying, "I have forgotten about Eritrea for now.  They are doing their job in Somalia," in reference to allegation that Eritrea is training and supplying the CIC.  During the meeting he repeatedly conveyed Ethiopia’s position on support for the TFG, indicating that "we will not let them be attacked," and adding that, "If we are provoked, we will not stop."   LTG Samora claimed that the CIC was receiving significant help from abroad, including training and arms from Eritrea, and 14 battalions of rebel fighters from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Ogadan National Liberation Front (ONLF), as well as unspecified help from Arab counties. Despite this, he was very confident that if Ethiopia engages the CIC following an attack on Baidoa, that the conflict would be short-lived.  "we will not go in for the long-term," he said, adding, "We will do it quickly." LTG Samora claimed that, "the Islamists do not have the support of the people," and that they are fundamentally weak since their military strength comes from Ethiopian rebels. He acknowledged that the ENDF is currently training 4 units of TFG soldiers in Baidoa, but that they desperately need equipment to fight advancing UIC.  He said that the ENDF is prepared to supply light arms and ammunition, but that the TFG army needs larger equipment in order to defeat the CIC on its own. 
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ETHIOPIAN OPPOSITION DISCUSS POLITICAL SPACE
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7. (SBU) In response to SFRC Staffer Phlelan’s question about political improvements following their decision to join parliament, opposition parliamentarians were divided (as usual) in their answers. While UEDP-Medhin Lidetu praised the GoE for opening up political space and engaging the opposition on democratic development, others were more critical.  OFDM chief Bulcha, in a decidedly negative tone, said that the best thing about joining parliament was that that he was "not thrown in jail" (a reference to the jailed CUD leadership).  Pressed by the Charge, the more resilient parliamentarians conceded that in fact the inter-party dialogues seemed to be progressing, but that the most important factors – reform of the National Election Board (NEB) and the media law – were yet to be finalized.  Lidetu said that he current NEB does not have the confidence of the voters, but that he expects the GOE to appoint new, independent leadership.  He pointed out that once discussions on the NEB and media law are concluded, fair competition will be possible in next year’s local elections.  Oromo leaders Bulcha and Merera were less positive, emphasizing that their party members continued to be jailed.  Bulcha told Phelan that, regarding the detention of Oromos, PM Meles told him the GoE would "arrest them, investigate, and then release those that are not (proved to be) OLF."  Merera added that he feels "the democracy process is frozen," and that he sees no benefit by having chosen to participate in parliament.  Ayele demonstrated that he was in between these two extremes.  On 
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one hand, he said that the CUD has "suffered more than any other party.  Our supporters were jailed, beaten and tortured."  However, since the reformation of the CUDP in early 2006, he reported that the party is now in dialogue and working with the government.  Specifically, he mentioned that "before we could not gather (our) people together to talk, or we would be thrown in jail," but recently in a meeting with PM Meles, Ayele was told, "You can now organize, if it is done peacefully."

8. (SBU) Information Minister Bereket told SFRC Staffer Phelan that the Ethiopian-American relationship is "at its best right now."  Economically, Ethiopia is on the right track, he said, and cited economic growth rates and falling unemployment.  Bereket said that focus of the GoE right now is improving practices of good governance.  He added, however, that Ethiopia is culturally and religiously complex and that an improving political situation requires that all parties to work together.  He said that the GoE is committed to changing, learning from its past shortcomings.  As an example, he referred to the violence of November 2005, in which "remnants of the former Derg military regime organized street violence and created a bad situation in which many people died, including 7 police officers."  He said that the GoE formed an independent commission to look into the situation and the GoE,s response.   Regarding the trial of the CUD leadership, Phelan stressed the need to resolve the matter quickly and to reduce some of the more serious and difficult to prove charges.  However, Bekeket responded that the GoE remains convinced that those in jail are responsible for the violent clashes last year and that the trial will continue on until the courts render a verdict. 
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COMMENT: COLLISION COURSE IN SOMALIA, DEMOCRACY TAKING ROOT
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9. (C) SFRC Staffer Phelan’s meetings in Ethiopia primarily concentrated on the current situation in Somalia and the democratic process following the events of 2005.  Regarding Somalia, it was clear from GoE officials that Ethiopia is prepared to confront the CIC and that, if or when Ethiopia engages, it intends to eliminate the threat of jihadists.  On internal matters, Phalen stressed the importance of continuing the multi-party dialogues as a means of creating greater space for opposition parties and strengthening Ethiopia’s developing democracy.  Phelan also pressed the GoE to quickly resolve the ongoing trial of the CUD leaders and to reduce some of the more serious and difficult to prove charges.  However, the GoE remains steadfast that those in jail are responsible for the widespread violence and destruction and that the trial must run its course.  Bereket stressed that, in the end, whatever verdict is decided, the GoE will not appeal.
HUDDLESTON
****************

Reference ID – 06ADDISABABA3114
Created – 2006-11-28 10:22
Released – 2011-08-30 01:44
Classification – CONFIDENTIAL
Origin – Embassy Addis Ababa

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 003114
SIPDIS 
SIPDIS
A/S FRAZER 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/10/2016
TAGS: MOPS PREL PTER SO SU DJ ER ET

SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA: DEPUTY FM TALKS ABOUT DIALOGING WITH CIC, SOMALILAND INDEPENDENCE, EEBC DECISION 
Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR KEVIN SULLIVAN FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).

1. (C) Summary.  Deputy Foreign Minister Tekeda Alemu told Vicki Huddleston on November 20 (during a farewell call) that Ethiopia preferred to dialogue with the CIC rather than enter into armed conflict.  Tekeda said that Ethiopia had invited the CIC to talks in Addis Ababa, and the "ball was now in the CIC court."  Tekeda recognized that a successful dialogue with the CIC would result in government body that merged both TFG and CIC representatives.  Tekeda advocated for recognition of Somaliland, pointing out that it would be critical to get Egypt on board.  He said, however, that meaningful and lasting dialogue would not be possible until the CIC expelled the jihadists, Eritreans, and other outside forces.  Tekeda asked the USG help to organize the international community and particularly African countries to support independence for Somaliland to contain the growing CIC.  With regard to the EEBC’s recent announcement that it planned to move forward with border demarcation based on a coordinates, Tekeda said he did not understand the EEBC’s decision given Eritrea’s violation of 1640 and current occupation of the TSZ.  End Summary.

2. (SBU) Huddleston met with Deputy Foreign Minister Tekeda Alemu and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director of Europe and North America Almaz Amha for a farewell call on November 20. Huddleston told Tekeda that the US will continue to seek a stronger a partnership with Ethiopia and help the country with its evolving democracy and internal/regional threats. Huddleston explained that the US will continue to push Ethiopia on its human rights record and moving forward on a resolution to the border conflict with Eritrea.

SOMALIA
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3. (C) The former Charge told Tekeda that Ethiopia was moving more troops and equipment to the Somali border and asked what Ethiopia had planned.  Tekeda explained that Ethiopian continues to leave the door open for dialogue and it was preferable to armed conflict.  He said that the CIC has been invited to talks in Addis Ababa but, thus far, the CIC has been reluctant to take the offer.  Tekeda noted that the GOE has been in constant dialogue with the CIC through its representatives in London, but the GOE insists that any meaningful talks must be held in Addis Ababa.  Tekeda said that once the CIC becomes "serious" about holding substantive talks, Ethiopia is ready.

4. (C) Huddleston asked Tekeda if the GOE had thought about advocating for a TFG that better reflected Somalia’s population.  Tekeda said that at this point and given the TFG weakened status, it wasn’t worth it to shuffle positions in the TFG.  He noted, however, that a "successful" dialogue between the TFG and CIC would result in some incorporation of the CIC into the TFIs.  He said that Hawiye representation in particular would likely be strengthened. Tekeda posited that the TFG needed to be better at its public diplomacy effort. He said that the TFG needed to focus on denying the CIC momentum, rather than reversing the situation.  Tekeda suggested that the TFG target moderates and give them an alternative to the CIC.

SOMALILAND
———-
5. (C) Huddleston asked the Deputy Foreign Minister about the CIC’s efforts and successes to subvert Somaliland.  Tekeda said that Somaliland will "hold firm," but it’s in need of capital (money) to continue holding off the CIC’s advances into the region.  Tekeda said that recognition of Somaliland as an independent nation by the international community is the only way to limit the CIC’s growth and ambitions of a "greater Somalia."  Tekeda suggested that the US and UK lobby African countries, particularly South Africa, Congo Brazzaville, and Zambia, to support Somaliland independence. He said that Arab League opposition might be neutralized even though Libya would be opposed to Somaliland’s independence, if Egypt could be swayed.  Tekeda explained how Djibouti would be against independence because of the Arab League’s influence over the country, but added that Egypt could play a pivotal role in getting Djibouti to a neither for or against stance on the issue.

BORDER 
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6. (C) Huddleston explained to Tekeda the USG’s concern about the EEBC’s decision to demarcate the border based on coordinates and pushed the Deputy Foreign Minister to continue dialogue with the Witnesses.  Tekeda said that the GOE did not understand the EEBC’s decision and questioned why the EEBC was "rewarding" Eritrea for violating 1640 and occupying the TSZ.  Huddleston said that Ethiopia’s decision not to attend the November 20 EEBC meeting sent the wrong signal to the international community.  Tekeda lamented that if the current situation with Eritrea did not exist, the two countries would be formidable allies and a powerful force against the "problems" in Somalia.  Huddleston told Tekeda that the current border impasse was one of Ethiopia’s greatest challenges and its resolution key to Ethiopia’s democratic and economic development.
YAMAMOTO
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Reference ID – 06ADDISABABA3115
Created – 2006-11-28 10:24
Released – 2011-08-30 01:44
Classification – CONFIDENTIAL
Origin – Embassy Addis Ababa

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 ADDIS ABABA 003115 
SIPDIS 
SIPDIS
AF FOR A/S FRAZER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/23/2016
TAGS: PGOV MOPS PREL ASEC ET SO ER

SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA: PARLIAMENT CONSIDERS AUTHORIZATION OF WAR ON CIC 
REF: ADDIS ABABA 2911 
Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR KEVIN SULLIVAN FOR REASONS 1.4 (b) AND (d).

1. (U) SUMMARY:  In a remarkable session on Nov. 23, Prime Minister Meles asked Parliament to approve a resolution stating Ethiopia’s desire for peaceful relations with Somalia, but authorizing "any measures necessary" to respond to the Council of Islamic Court’s (CIC) declared jihad against Ethiopia.  He argued that three measures taken by the extremists — the declaration of the jihad, the call for uniting Somali populations in the Horn in a "Greater Somalia" and direct support for insurgents in Ethiopia — posed a "clear and present danger" to Ethiopia.  The PM went even further, claiming that CIC support for infiltrating (ONLF and OLF) insurgents into Ethiopia constituted an attack on the country.  Any Ethiopian military action would be legitimate self-defense, rather than a preemptive attack, he concluded. Oromo opposition leader Bulcha Demeksa pointed out the potential for an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia to result in international condemnation, as well as a reduction in needed development assistance.  Meles countered that not all countries would condemn Ethiopia, and that in any case the country would have to pay whatever price was necessary to defend itself.  Senior opposition figure Beyene Petros worried that the proposed resolution would be misinterpreted as a declaration of war on Somalia, to which Meles replied that he hoped the resolution would strengthen the GOE’s hand in negotiations to avert armed conflict.  Beyene stated that his party did not want to be responsible for a divided vote on an issue of national security and urged Meles to consider compromise language for the resolution.  In a stunning move, Meles — whose ruling EPRDF has a super-majority of votes in Parliament — thanked Beyene for his non-partisan approach and agreed on the spot to consultations with party leaders on compromise language.  The chamber burst into spontaneous applause, with both opposition and ruling party MPs joining in.  The result of the consultations is still unknown.

2. (C) SUMMARY COMMENT:  The draft resolution further confirms the GOE’s earnest preparations for war with the CIC — unless Ethiopia’s clear willingness to military force is sufficient to force CIC concessions in negotiations.  At the same time, debate of the issue put Ethiopia’s first multi-party Parliament and its democratic culture to the test.  The opposition showed unusual coherence and effectivenss in challenging Meles, expressing the uneasiness many Ethiopians feel about the impending conflict, but also reflecting the belief of many that the country does indeed face a threat in the CIC and must prepare to defend itself. A "vanguard party" with Marxist roots, the EPRDF is little accustomed to prior consultations with the opposition, particularly on grave issues of national security.   The PM’s willingness to grasp Beyene’s outstretched hand in such a public setting struck many as a significant development in Ethiopia’s political evolution.  End Comment and Summary.

3. (U) The Ethiopian Parliament met on Nov. 23 to hear PM Meles engage in the first open "question time" as provided for in newly-adopted Parliamentary rules of procedure, and to consider a draft GOE resolution authorizing (implicitly) the use of force in Somalia.  Pol/Econ Counselor joined other diplomats in the gallery to observe what proved to be a remarkable session. 
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QUESTION TIME: INTER-FAITH CLASHES, INFLATION AND SOMALIA
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4. (U) Meles addressed questions submitted in advance by both opposition and ruling party MPs.  (When opposition leader Bulcha Demeksa of the Oromo Federal Democratic Movement (OFDM) asked why there were not more questions, the Speaker responded that only four had been submitted.)  The first question concerne the GOE’s response to widespread Muslim-Christian clashes in southwestern Oromiya region in September.  Meles conveyed results from the authorities’ investigation of the incidents, which found that Muslim "Hawarge" extremists had exploited a deadly but limited incident arising out of a Christian bonfire celebration to launch a campaign of church burnings, killings and forced 
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conversions.  The PM reported that 13 Christians and 6 Muslims had been killed, and 600 homes and 5 churches burned.  Six Protestant churches had been converted to mosques. Federal police had been deployed to assist overwhelmed local authorities.   Meles emphasized that recently-installed phone lines in the area had been used effectively by extremists to spread misinformation and mayhem rapidly.  Federal police had been deployed to assist overwhelmed local authorities. Several hundred people had been arrested in connection with the violence, Meles said, thanks in large part to help from chastened community leaders.  A joint interfaith commission was now working to prevent further outbreaks.  The PM mentioned that some less principled religious leaders on both sides were disseminating DVD’s with footage of the violence in order to propogate the unrest in Addis Ababa and other places.  He urged community leaders and parents to join the GOE in promoting a return to Ethiopia’s tradition religious tolerance and peace.

5. (SBU) In response to a question, the PM also returned to a topic he has dealt with in other recent Parliamentary debates: rising prices on consumer staples.  Meles acknowledged once again that rising prices for grain and other food were making life difficult, especially for the urban population and pastoralists.  The PM urged MPs not to react emotionally to the problem, but rather look at the root causes for inflation.  He claimed that the underlying problem was the increasing orientation of farmers toward cash crops for export and away from food production for internal use. This had both decreased the supply of grain somewhat and increased the number of consumers for grain.  He also acknowledged that marketing problems had prevented farmers from receiving the proper incentives to increase food production, but said the GOE would introduce measures to address those problems in the coming months.  The ongoing harvest would also further reduce prices, which had already begun to drop.  The PM ruled out the use of subsidies of price controls to deal with inflation and assured MPs that markets would adjust on their own to the gap between supply and demand.  (COMMENT:  It is interesting to note that the ruling EPRDF, often accused of lingering Marxism on economic policy, remains staunchly opposed to distortionary food subsidies often employed by more populist governments.  END COMMENT.) 
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SOMALIA:  WE ARE ALREADY UNDER ATTACK
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6. (U)  PM Meles laid out to Parliament the GOE’s stark view of the situation in Somalia.  He claimed that while the GOE had no problem with Somalia per se, nor even with the CIC as a whole, the CIC was now being led by extremist elements who constituted a "clear and present danger" to Ethiopia.  Meles outlined three measures which he claimed constituted a "direct attack" on Ethiopia by the CIC: 
— A public declaration of Jihad against Ethiopia;
— A public declaration of the CIC’s intent to unify "Greater Somalia," including portions of Ethiopia; and
— Arming, training and transporting violent insurgents (OLF and ONLF) into Ethiopia.  Meles also noted the close coordination between the CIC and the Eritrean Government with the common goal of overthrowing the EPRDF. 
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AUTHORIZATION FOR "ALL MEASURES NECESSARY"
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7. (U) In order to confront the situation, Meles discussed GOE efforts to engage the CIC in negotiations on two occasions to obtain a commitment to end the group’s threats against Ethiopia and change its policies.  These attempts had been rebuffed.  The PM argued that the GOE had a right to defend itself and had been preparing to do so.  The GOE’s first preference was still negotiation — an option for which there was still time — but stated that "we can’t avoid the problem.  If peace is not possible, based on international law we will take steps commensurate with the present danger."  He asked that the Parliament support this course of action. EPRDF Whip Shiferaw Jarso presented the GOE’s proposed resolution, which declared Ethiopia’s desire for peaceful 
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relations with Somalia, but retiterated the hostile actions taken by the CIC previously mentioned by the Prime Minister. It highlighted the "clear and present danger" the CIC represented to Ethiopian sovereignty and expressed Parliament’s support for the GOE in taking "all measures deemed necessary" to deal with the threat. 
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OPPOSITION QUESTION NEED FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION
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8. (U) Several members of the opposition raised their hands to object to the tabling of the resolution without adequate discussion.  Beyene Petros of the UEDF took the floor to warn that "hostile countries might interpret this resolution as a declaration of war."  He supported the GOE’s efforts to prepare for war and urged the Council of Ministers to continue its efforts in this regard.  Beyene argued that it was unhelpful for Parliament to pass a measure without having done its own investigation into the threat.  He concluded that, "we have no intention to deny the GOE support on this issue, since this is a matter of national security, but we must be careful how our actions are interpreted." Bulcha Demeksa of the Oromo Federal Democratic Movement (OFDM) objected to authorizing what he called a "preemptive strike" against the CIC because it would be in contravention of international law.  Such illegal action could isolate Ethiopia and make the country vulnerable to reductions in badly-needed assistance.  Bulcha argued that the GOE should prepare militarily, but respond to CIC aggression only when its forces crossed into Ethiopian territory.  "The first to shoot will be a pariah," he concluced. 
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MELES: WE MUST SHOW CIC THAT WE ARE WILLING TO PAY THE PRICE
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9. (U) Meles first thanked opposition speakers for treating the issue of Somalia as a national, rather than a partisan, matter.  He reiterated, however, that the CIC had already declared war on Ethiopia and "taken measures against us."  He emphasized in particular the CIC’s assistance to Ethiopian insurgent groups in infiltrating Ethiopian territory.  An attack had taken place against the country, Meles insisted, but the GOE had reacted with restraint so far in order to seek a peaceful solution.  There had been no rush to war. Meles denied that the proposed resolution was a declaration of war, and summarized the message of the measure as follows: 1) we want the problem with the CIC solved peacefully; but 2) an attack has already occurred, and the situation could reach a point where it requires a response; we are ready to respond.  The PM argued that the resolution would strengthen the GOE’s hand in negotiations because it would counter two major misperceptions among CIC leaders.  The first was that the GOE would not take military action against the CIC without international backing.  "They need to see that we can and will do this," Meles said.  The second misperception was that a GOE declared of war on Somalia would provoke an internal political crisis in Ethiopia.  This was also false, the PM asserted.  Thus by authorizing the executive to act rapidly when and if the situation becomes intolerable, Parliament would actually be strengthening the GOE’s hand to make peace.

10. (SBU) The PM dwelt for some time on the matter of international support for Ethiopian intervention. He made a careful distinction between the problem among Somalis (i.e. the TFG and the CIC), which Somalis alone would have to resolve, and problems between the CIC and Ethiopia, which the GOE would have to deal with itself.  Concerning relations among Somalis, the GOE supported the positions of the African Union, IGAD and the rest of the international community in favor of dialogue.  On this point, the GOE would not be isolated.  On the second point, Meles said, the international community had been understandably less resolute.  After all, the CIC had not declared jihad against the United Nations, but against Ethiopia.  For this reason, the GOE could not refrain from defending itself while waiting for the approval of others who were not facing the brunt of the CIC.  The PM asserted that the GOE would follow the established international principle that those who are attacked can take commensurate measures in their own defense.  "Not all 
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countries will support us, since countries respond to their own interests" Meles said, but pledged to seek international support for Ethiopia’s actions.  In any case, the GOE would have to pay the price to defend the country. 
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REACHING ACROSS THE AISLE?
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11. (SBU) After Meles’ rebuttal of opposition objections, Beyene Petros told Parliament that his party did not wish to be responsible for a divided vote on such a grave issue.  He urged PM Meles to consider compromise language for the resolution.  In a stunning move, Meles — whose ruling EPRDF has a super-majority of votes in Parliament — thanked Beyene for his non-partisan approach and agreed on the spot to consultations with party leaders on compromise language.  The entire chamber burst into spontaneous applause, with both opposition and ruling party MPs joining in.  Meles instructed party representatives to consult in a private meeting and then report back with the results of their work.  Parliament then voted nearly unanimously in favor of a resolution in favor of the consultations.

12. (C) Pol/Econ Counselor spoke privately to Beyene Petros on Nov. 27 to check on the progress of talks on the resolution.  Beyene said that his UEDF had worked much of the weekend to develop alternate language to tone down the resolution.  He said his party objected to Parliament authorizing "any measures necessary," since the Council of Ministers was already charged with the defense of the country, as well as to language on support for insurgent groups, which some of his members (presumably the Oromo National Congress) felt could justify later GOE measures against them.  Beyene said that these edits had been rejected by EPRDF Shiferaw, but noted with some trepidation that the PM himself had summoned Beyene for a meeting on Nov. 28 to discuss the issue.   He expressed concerns that too much compromise with the GOE could split his party. 
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COMMENT: POTENTIAL CONFLICT PUTS DEMOCRACY TO THE TEST
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13. (C) The draft resolution further confirms the GOE’s earnest preparations for war with the CIC — unless Ethiopia’s clear willingness to military force is sufficient to force CIC concessions in negotiations.  At the same time, debate of the issue put Ethiopia’s first multi-party Parliament and its democratic culture to the test.  The opposition showed unusual coherence and effectiveness in challenging Meles.  A "vanguard party" with Marxist roots, the EPRDF is little accustomed to prior consultations with the opposition, particularly on grave issues of national security.  The PM’s willingness to grasp Beyene’s outstretched hand in such a public setting was a significant step forward in democratic politics.  It remains to be seen how much the GOE and the opposition will be prepared to compromise to preserve national unity in the face of an external threat. The opposition expressed the uneasiness many Ethiopians feel about the impending conflict, but also reflected the belief of many that the country does indeed face a threat in the CIC and must prepare to defend itself. End Comment.
YAMAMOTO
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Go to the Wikileaks archive OR the Ethiopia’s Somalia intervention 2006 series archive for related posts.

Source: HornAffairs.com

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