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PM wary of US condemnation; UK stopped Uganda? |Ethiopia’s Somalia intervention 2006

The Ethiopian Prime Minister was wary of a possible US condemnation about two month before launching a military offensive in Somalia against the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC, aka CIC).

The Premier also anticipated a negative reaction from the international media and ‘hard-core Islamists’, according to three Cables of US Embassy Cables Addis Ababa written at the time.

One of the Cables suggests that UK might have pressurized Ugandan not to intervene.

The three Cables, published by Wikileaks, are dated Oct. 12, Oct. 14 and Oct. 26, 2006.

The Oct. 12, 2006 Cable presents a meeting, held two days earlier, between Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Theresa Whelan – also attended by Defense Chief of Staff Samora Yenus and State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tekeda Alemu and DATT (Embassy Defense Attaché) Colonel Zedler, OSD Representative Lt. Colonel Atallah and Chargé d’affaires Vicki Huddleston.Theresa M. Whelan - Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Continuity and Crisis Management

In the meeting, Meles presented the situation and how he hopes to avert a military conflict with UIC (or CIC). The Cable summarized Meles’ argument as follows:

Meles argued that the best way to contain the Council of Islamic Courts (CIC) and stop its momentum was with physical force that could then lead to serious discussion. Lifting the arms embargo on Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and deploying a Ugandan battalion or even a smaller force would secure Baidoa [seat of the TFG] while Ethiopian forces trained the TFG troops. Meles indicated that if the international community failed to act by the end of Ramadan, Ethiopia would likely be forced to confront the CIC at Beledwyne, a town about 12 miles from Ethiopia’s border.

Ethiopia had informed the CIC that it had two red-lines that must not be crossed. One was Baidoa and the other Beledwyne. The CIC had taken a town next to Beledwyne in order to suck Ethiopia into a conflict and derail prospects of an IGAD/Ugandan peacekeeping mission to Baidoa, Meles said. If the UN acted promptly and approved the deployment of the Ugandans, then Ethiopia would show restraint. If the UNSC [Security Council] failed to act, Ethiopia would establish a buffer zone on the border and reinforce Baidoa. It would not move its troops deep into Somalia; Ethiopia would be "restrained" and its strategy would be a "holding action" to deter the CIC, Mele claimed. Containing the CIC at this point would break its momentum and allow moderates and clans to pull away from the hard-line CIC Islamist leadership. If the CIC is not contained, Meles said, it will devour all of Somalia and attempt to destabilize Ethiopia, given the large presence of Ethiopian insurgents and the backing of Eritrea for the CIC.

However, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Theresa Whelan said that ‘she doubted that there would be funding for the IGASOM [IGAD -Somalia] mission and suggested that perhaps the international community could warn the CIC not to expand further’.

The Ethiopian Premier then made the following request to the Dep. Secretary. The Cable states:

Meles asked that the US express dismay but not condemn Ethiopia if the UNSC does not approve the IGAD mission and Ethiopian forces deploy to Beledwyne, since Ethiopia would be acting in its own self defense. [Emphasis mine]

Meles also promised to let the Americans know of ‘any significant troop movements in advance’. Meles then noted that:

If there were no financing of IGAD, the anti-CIC forces would lose momentum to the Islamists, shifting odds against them, Meles warned. Nonetheless, he hoped that the US and its friends would not send the wrong signal to the Islamists should Ethiopia confront them in Beledwyne or Baidoa. Meles pointed out that the CIC likely will expect the US and others to condemn Ethiopia, but Ethiopia would be acting in its own national interest. "We hope you won’t misunderstand in Washington, we are not trying to bamboozle you," Meles said. Whelan asked if Ethiopia’s actions — establishing a buffer zone and securing Baidoa — would not speak for themselves. Meles said that the sensational media could prove unhelpful, as they were not interested in the facts but just the ideology. Unfortunately, the media seemed to ignore [Sheik Dahir] Aweys while portraying Ethiopia as doing America’s dirty work, or alternatively leading America astray with tales of jihadists. The CIC is doing an excellent job of spinning its story, Meles concluded. [Emphasis mine]

The Embassy commented later in the Cable that:

From embassy’s vantage point, the lifting of the arms embargo on the TFG and the deployment of a small IGAD/Ugandan force could prevent an Ethiopian counter attack on Beledwyne and possibly a wider war. At a minimum, the partial lifting of the arms embargo soon, along with an international statement telling the CIC that further expansion is unacceptable, would demonstrate the international community’s commitment to the TFG and might force the CIC to the negotiating table. In order to convince Ethiopia that it should not attack the CIC in Beledwyne, the international community will need to take action that will allow the TFG – as well as Puntland and Somaliland — to survive and Ethiopia to be secure from infiltration by insurgents.

The package Meles wants is the partial lifting of the embargo and a small IGAD/Ugandan battalion in Baidoa. An even more minimal package would be partial lifting of the arms embargo, an international statement, and resumed talks between the TFG and CIC, possibly including Puntland and Somaliland. Meles is convinced that a Somalia led by CIC leader Aweys — now made even more dangerous by the growing Al Shabab terrorist — is pursuing regime change in Ethiopia as well as in Somalia. As the CIC grows in strength, Meles must necessarily begin to calculate at what point will he be forced to fight while he can still win……Already hundreds of OLF, ONLF, and AIAI [Al-Itihad Al-Islamia] insurgents fighting with the CIC are moving into Ethiopia‘s Ogaden region. The Somalis have failed to stop the CIC, if the international community fails as well, Ethiopia will do it — or attempt to do it. [Emphasis mine]

Another Cable, dated Oct. 14, 2006, reveals the Ethiopian PM was wary of the reaction of the international community and ‘becoming more of a target for Islamic terrorist activities’.General Charles G. Boyd, U.S. Air Force (Ret.) - president and chief executive officer of Business Executives for National Security (BENS)

PM Meles Zenawi expressed this in an Oct. 13 meeting with US Business Executives for National Security (BENS) President and CEO General Charles Boyd, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) Rear Admiral Richard Hunt and Bennett McCutcheon Michele Huges from Joint Forces Command.

The meeting was also attended by representatives of seven US corporations – Marbill Management General Partner Bill Campbell, Access Industries Executive Vice President Peter Thoren, Arnold and Porter Partner Ramon Marks, The White Oak Group Managing Partner Chris Melton, Wachovia Corporation Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel Mark Treanor, Boies and McInnis Partner Mary Boies,  and Associated Press East Africa Bureau Chief Chris Tomlinson – as well as BENS’ Senior Vice President Eric Flanning, and Chargé d’affaires Vicki Huddleston.

Meles underlined to the US delegation that Ethiopia sees ‘a UN-supported IGAD/Ugandan force and a lifting of the arms embargo to shore up the TFG as the best solution’, indicating that ‘an IGAD force could focus on training the TFG military, halt the spread of the UIC and open meaningful dialogue between the two parties’. However, he noted that:

Absent of an international solution, Meles explained that Ethiopia is prepared to do battle with the UIC in Somalia. Meles indicated that before making a final decision he will wait for the November United Nation’s Security Council meeting where he hopes a favorable will be made to lift the arms embargo and deploy the IGAD/Ugandan battalion.

The Premier’s preference for ‘a UN-supported IGAD/Ugandan force’ was based on his apprehension of the possible down sides of launching a military operation in Somalia. According to the Cable:

Meles acknowledged that there will be consequences to any Ethiopian military operation in Somalia. In addition to "disquiet" from the international community, Meles said that Ethiopia would likely move up on the priority list of the enemies of Islam, thereby becoming more of a target for Islamic terrorist activities. Meles argued that "hard-core Islamists" have always thought of Ethiopia as being in the "Crusader" camp, so drawing the ire of Islamists will be nothing new. But, the conflict could devolve into a Christianity versus Islam scenario, warned Meles. For this reason, Meles reiterated that his preference was for an international solution to the situation. [Emphasis mine]

About two weeks later, PM Meles Zenawi had a meeting with another US delegation, according to a  Cable, dated Oct. 26, 2006.Carlton W. Fulford, Jr. - a retired United States Marine Corps four-star general who served as Deputy Commander in Chief, United States European Command (DCINCEUR)

The US delegation included Ret. Gen Carl Fulford and Amb. Peter Chaveas from the African Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), Gen. Remkis from EUCOM J5 and Michael Phelan, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer and was accompanied by Chargé d’affaires Vicki Huddleston.

According to the Cable:

PM Meles told visiting Gen. Fulford and SFRC staffer Michael Phelan that delays and problems with IGASOM deployment might leave Ethiopia to face the Council of Islamic Courts (CIC) alone, but that he hoped to hold off on military intervention until around mid-November. He said the delay should allow the UNSC to consider a partial lifting of the UN arms embargo as well as improve weather conditions for military operations in Somalia.

While the Ethiopian Premier simply indicated that "a prominent member of the Commonwealth" is pressuring Uganda not to deploy troops in Somalia, the US officials speculated in the Cable that it might be Britania. The Cable states:

The PM indicated that Ugandan troops might no longer be available for deployment in IGASOM due to pressure to desist from "a prominent member of the Commonwealth." Meles alleged that funding for the CIC was coming from salafist Muslims in the Gulf as well as Sufists from Egypt and Sudan. Eritrea was using these funds to supply Russian-made, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft and anti-tank weaponry. Meles said the GOE’s goal in a military operation would be to force the disintegration of CIC forces, whom he predicted would collapse back into sub-clan level militias pursuing their own interests.

The Prime Minister said that he had recently received private communications from the Ugandan Government informing him that due to "pressure from a prominent member of the Commonwealth," (note: probably the UK) Uganda would not be able to deploy in Somalia within an acceptable time frame. The Ugandan government had said that it had received signals that to deploy would be "inconsistent" with serving as host of the upcoming Commonwealth Summit. Meles bemoaned the loss of the "international cover" that Uganda would have provided for efforts to stop the CIC, but said that Ethiopia was prepared to handle the task directly alone if necessary. He also noted that the costs of the operation would increase over time. [Emphasis mine]

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Read below the full text of the three Cables.

Note: This is the second 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) OR find all the posts in the series – here (link).

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Reference ID – 06ADDISABABA2763
Created – 2006-10-12 13:02 
Released – 2011-08-30 01:44
Classification – CONFIDENTIAL
Origin – Embassy Addis Ababa

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/10/2016
TAGS: ET MOPS PREL PTER

SUBJECT: PM MELES: ETHIOPIA WILL CONTAIN THE ISLAMIC COURTS BY FORCE IF NO UNSC ACTION
Classified By: CHARGE VICKI HUDDLESTON FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).

1. (C) Summary:  Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Theresa Whelan met with Prime Minister Meles, Minister of State Tekeda and Defense Chief of Staff Samora on October 10.  Whelan was accompanied by DATT Col. Zedler, OSD Rep Lt. Col. Atallah and myself.  Meles argued that the best way to contain the Council of Islamic Courts (CIC) and stop its momentum was with physical force that could then lead to serious discussion.  Lifting the arms embargo on Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and deploying a Ugandan battalion or even a smaller force would secure Baidoa while Ethiopian forces trained the TFG troops.  Meles indicated that if the international community failed to act by the end of Ramadan, Ethiopia would likely be forced to confront the CIC at Beledwyne, a town about 12 miles from Ethiopia’s border and on the road to the Ethiopian Somali regional capital of Gode.  Ethiopia had informed the CIC that it had two red-lines that must not be crossed.  One was Baidoa and the other Beledwyne. The CIC had taken a town next to Beledwyne in order to suck Ethiopia into a conflict and derail prospects of an IGAD/Ugandan peacekeeping mission to Baidoa, Meles said.  If the UN acted promptly and approved the deployment of the Ugandans, then Ethiopia would show restraint.  If the UNSC failed to act, Ethiopia would establish a buffer zone on the border and reinforce Baidoa. It would not move its troops deep into Somalia; Ethiopia would be "restrained" and its strategy would be a "holding action" to deter the CIC, Mele claimed. Containing the CIC at this point would break its momentum and allow moderates and clans to pull away from the hard-line CIC Islamist leadership.  If the CIC is not contained, Meles said, it will devour all of Somalia and attempt to destabilize Ethiopia, given the large presence of Ethiopian insurgents and the backing of Eritrea for the CIC.  Whelan indicated that she doubted that there would be funding for the IGASOM mission and suggested that perhaps the international community could warn the CIC not to expand further.  Meles asked that the US express dismay but not condemn Ethiopia if the UNSC does not approve the IGAD mission and Ethiopian forces deploy to Beledwyne, since Ethiopia would be acting in its own self defense. Meles promised again to let us know of any significant troop movements in advance. End summary.

2. (C) Comment:  From embassy’s vantage point, the lifting of the arms embargo on the TFG and the deployment of a small IGAD/Ugandan force could prevent an Ethiopian counter attack on Beledwyne and possibly a wider war.  At a minimum, the partial lifting of the arms embargo soon, along with an international statement telling the CIC that further expansion is  unacceptable, would demonstrate the international community’s commitment to the TFG and might force the CIC to the negotiating table. In order to convince Ethiopia that it should not attack the CIC in Beledwyne, the international community will need to take action that will allow the TFG – as well as Puntland and Somaliland –  to survive and Ethiopia to be secure from infiltration by insurgents. The package Meles wants is the partial lifting of the embargo and a small IGAD/Ugandan battalion in Baidoa. An even more minimal package would be partial lifting of the arms embargo, an international statement, and resumed talks between the TFG and CIC, possibly including Puntland and Somaliland. Meles is convinced that a Somalia led by CIC leader Aweys — now made even more dangerous by the growing Al Shabab terrorist — is pursuing regime change in Ethiopia as well as in Somalia. As the CIC grows in strength, Meles must necessarily begin to calculate at what point will he be forced to fight while he can still win. The TPLF Congress has made it clear that the Government will deal harshly with illegal activities and address Eritrea’s pressure on Ethiopia via Somalia by dealing with the local insurgents.  This means that as long as Ethiopia is threatened externally it will react harshly to internal challenges it considers illegal. At the same time, the TPLF Congress agreed that the Government had not done enough on governance and should improve its performance on civil society, democracy and capacity building.  If the insurgents gain the upper hand, it will be difficult to maintain momentum for creating internal political space. Already hundreds of OLF, ONLF, and AIAI insurgents fighting with the CIC are moving into Ethiopia’s Ogaden region. The Somalis have failed to stop the CIC, if the international community fails as well, Ethiopia will do it — or attempt to do it. End comment.

3. (U) This cable was not cleared by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Theresa Whelan. 
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4. (C) PM Meles told DAS Whelan that the objective of the CIC is to rule all of Somalia by whatever means possible, including talks in Khartoum, subversive activities, and the force of arms.  If the CIC takes control of Somalia, it will not be a force for stability.  The jihadist base of the CIC will expand into a jihadist state.  This, Meles said, is illustrated by the fact that those fighting with the CIC — Eritrea, OLF, ONLF, and AIAI –  want to destabilize Ethiopia.  Ethiopia is portrayed as the enemy of Islam and the "Israel of the region"; at the beginning of Ramadan, the CIC declared a jihad against Ethiopia.  The PM argued that the hard line CIC leadership under Aweys is an arch enemy of Ethiopia, and it is this leadership that controls the outside funding, arms and training that are fueling the CIC successes in Kismayo and along the Ethiopian/Somali border.  In Meles’ view, these recent victories mean that the only way the CIC can be stopped is if it loses momentum; clan and ideological difference will then separate factions and break apart the CIC.

5. (C) According to Meles, physical force must be combined with talks because the CIC will only negotiate when forced to do so.  Meles said the best option is for the Somalis — the TFG, Puntland, and Somaliland — to themselves stop the CIC. So far the Somalis have been unable to do so, however, and will not be able to do so unless the TFG is strengthened by a partial lifting of the arms embargo.  This would permit the deployment of a peacekeeping force that would provide security in Baidoa while Ethiopia trains the TFG’s 5,000 troops.  According to General Samora, Ethiopia has two force protection/training teams in Baidoa numbering from 70 t0 100 and one training team in Puntland.  If a Ugandan battalion provided security in Baidoa, the Ethiopians could train greater numbers of TFG troops.  Samora estimated that within three months the TFG would be in a position to defend itself.  Meles estimated that the Ugandan battalion would be needed for about six to nine months and that it would arrive with only small arms.  General Samora said that it was not the intention of the Ugandan forces to use Kismayo as an entry point, contrary to claims by the CIC; rather, these troops would be air lifted directly to Baidoa or travel from Kampala via Moyale to Baidoa.  The Ethiopians would provide all the heavy weapons and back-up, should the Ugandans be attacked. The price tag suggested by the Ugandans appeared to be high, given that they will need only lodging, food, and per diem, according to Samora.

6. (C) Meles argued that the strategy of the CIC is to suck Ethiopia into a war because the CIC believes that the international community will rally against Ethiopia.  The CIC propaganda that Ethiopians will serve as a rally point for Somalis to attack the TFG is wrong.  Ethiopia has had excellent relations with Somalis over the last ten years. When Ethiopian troops entered Somalia to back up Baidoa, the Somali population did not reject their presence. Samora pointed out that over 200,000 Somalis live in Addis Ababa and many travel to Somalia; Ethiopia has been far more welcoming than other neighboring countries.  (Comment: it is ironic that the majority of Ethiopians who are currently in Somalia – seemingly without problems – are fighting for the CIC!  End comment.)  The presence of the IGAD/Ugandan peacekeepers would be an ideal way to contain the CIC and reinforce the TFG, but it is not happening fast enough, Meles complained. As a result, the CIC is trying to preempt IGAD by gaining momentum though successful occupation of Kismayo and border towns.

7. (C) Meles pointed out that the CIC has crossed one of Ethiopia’s two "red-lines", which are Baidoa and Beledwyne. The CIC has taken Kaliber, a small town close to Beledwyne located nine miles from the Ethiopian town of Ferfer on the road to Gode, a regional capital of  Ethiopia’s Somali region.  "This puts US in a spot," Meles said. "If we don’t respond, we will be seen as bluffing.  But if we act, then we will subvert the IGAD peacekeeping mission."  Meles said that the CIC knows that Baidoa and Beledwyne are red lines, but moved ahead to provoke Ethiopia.  He said he is worried that the CIC might imagine that Ethiopia is not reacting because of pressure from the international community, and will therefore continue to expand.  Still, Meles said, Ethiopia is ready to refrain from an attack on the CIC at Beledwyne in the expectation of an IGAD package.  Meles said that Ethiopia could use Ramadan as an excuse not to confront the CIC over Beledwyne, but would have to ask the US and the UK to speed up (UNSC work on the arms embargo and IGASOM.)  Once Ramadan 
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was over, Ethiopia would have to act, Meles warned.

8. (C) While awaiting action on partial lifting of the arms embargo and approval of an IGASOM, Ethiopia has taken precautionary measures, Meles said.  The Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) is protecting the bridge at Luk on the road from the border to Baidoa.  As in the past, Ethiopian forces will move into the staging ground behind Baidoa to protect it from a CIC assault.  The ENDF is building up its forces in Ferfer and on the border.  So, Meles warned, "after Ramadan we will be ready to act if the UNSC fails to act and Uganda doesn’t arrive.  If we move militarily, we will reinforce Baidoa and train and equip the TFG in Baidoa and then withdraw.  We will also be prepared to disrupt the CIC movement into Puntland and Somaliland.  We have some troops in Galacayo now.  If we move toward Beledwyne, then this would be a thorn in the back of the CIC as it moves on Puntland.  We would not go further than Beledwyne and then return," Meles claimed.  Stopping the CIC movement will encourage clans to fall out of the CIC orbit, including possibly Kismayo.  The GOE’s objective would be containment of the CIC, not a military movement beyond setting up a buffer on the border and reinforcing Baidoa and Puntland, the PM explained.  This strategy was reinforced by State Minister Tekeda’s observation that Ethiopia is urging an alliance among the TFG, Puntland and Somaliland.  Ethiopia’s position on Somaliland has already shifted toward more accommodation on some kind of autonomy.

9. (C) When Meles said that Ethiopia could avoid a confrontation with the CIC if the Ugandans were to provide security for Baidoa, DAS Whelan asked how that would work; wouldn’t there be the same scenario, she asked?  Meles replied that Ethiopia would have to restrain itself and not take the CIC out of Beledwyne.  But the CIC would understand that Ethiopia’s actions were dictated by its cooperation with the international community and not as weakness.  Whelan then asked if it would not be tempting for the CIC to attack the Ugandans.  Meles replied that the CIC would test the Ugandans, but that if there were an attack, Ethiopian troops could legitimately come to their rescue.  Ethiopia and Uganda had worked well together in Sudan and could do so in Somalia.  Whelan pressed Meles, pointing out that already the CIC apparently feared Ethiopian power because they had backed down on attacking Baidoa. Given this scenario, why was Uganda’s presence in Baidoa necessary, she queried?  Meles said, "It is not enough; the CIC will devour all of Somalia because they are succeeding and that allows them to gain momentum. They must be stopped before they become too powerful."

10. (C) Whelan pointed out that if the problem was simply the difference between an Ethiopian and African Union (AU) flag in Baidoa, the TFG could put up an AU flag as the AU had given its blessing to the IGASOM.  Funding is a problem, she pointed out, because of Darfur and Liberia.  It appeared that a smaller Ugandan force could probably do the job because it seemed that Meles’ desire was principally a show of support by the region and AU for the TFG, given that Ethiopia would provide the real support/backup for the peacekeeping mission.  Meles replied that he hoped that we would find some way to help.  Whelan replied that the Ugandan/IGAD mission was difficult for the US and we would have to make hard choices. She asked Meles if Uganda was really willing to support the TFG, especially as it appeared that the government might be returning to combat with the Lord’s Resistance Army.  Meles said that he believes that President Museveni would provide the forces if he asks, but financing for maintenance and per diem would be required.

11. (C) If there were no financing of IGAD, the anti-CIC forces would lose momentum to the Islamists, shifting odds against them, Meles warned.  Nonetheless, he hoped that the US and its friends would not send the wrong signal to the Islamists should Ethiopia confront them in Beledwyne or Baidoa.  Meles pointed out that the CIC likely will expect the US and others to condemn Ethiopia, but Ethiopia would be acting in its own national interest. "We hope you won’t misunderstand in Washington, we are not trying to bamboozle you," Meles said.  Whelan asked if Ethiopia’s actions — establishing a buffer zone and securing Baidoa — would not speak for themselves.  Meles said that the sensational media could prove unhelpful, as they were not interested in the facts but just the ideology.  Unfortunately, the media seemed to ignore Aweys while portraying Ethiopia as doing America’s dirty work, or alternatively leading America astray with 
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tales of jihadists.  The CIC is doing an excellent job of spinning its story, Meles concluded.

12. (C) Meles reiterated that the best way forward was to convince the Somali people that the CIC was not going to win.  Whelan pointed out that if the Ugandan/IGAD can not deploy because of lack of funding, then it might be prudent for Ethiopia to obtain the AU’s support for any proposed intervention.  If the AU considers it legitimate for Ethiopia to respond to a CIC probe of the Ugandans in Baidoa, would the AU not see it as legitimate for Ethiopia to respond should the Ugandans not be there?  Meles responded that the AU would not condemn Ethiopia’s actions, but it was probably not prudent for the AU to actively support Ethiopia, given the history of misunderstandings in Somalia.  But if IGAD were in Baidoa, then it would be different, as the AU would be expected to back it.  Whelan then asked if it would stop the CIC if the US, EU, and AU publicly endorsed Ethiopia’s redlines of Beledwyne and Baidoa.  She asked if it would be helpful if the international community made a statement that the CIC should not expand beyond its current borders, as this would be seen as a threat, and pursue discussions with the TFG.  Meles replied that such a statement was unlikely to stop CIC probes.  If Ethiopia must act alone, Meles asked that the US express its dismay, but not dissatisfaction.  I asked that Meles continue to inform US of any significant Ethiopia troop movement.  Meles said that we would be informed in advance.
HUDDLESTON

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Reference ID – 06ADDISABABA2776
Created – 2006-10-14 10:58
Released – 2011-08-30 01:44
Classification – CONFIDENTIAL
Origin – Embassy Addis Ababa

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TAGS: MOPS PREL PTER ET

SUBJECT: PM MELES: ETHIOPIA PREPARING TO GO AGAINST CIC IN NOVEMBER IF NO APPROVAL OF IGAD BATTALION 
REF: ADDIS ABABA 2763 
Classified By: CHARGE VICKI HUDDLESTON FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).

1. (C) Summary. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told Business Executives for National Security (BENS) President and CEO General Charles Boyd, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), CJTF-HOA Commander Rear Admiral Richard Hunt, and Charge October 13 that he sees a UN-supported IGAD/Ugandan battalion stationed in Baidoa and a lifting of the arms embargo to shore up the TFG as the solution to containing the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and stopping their march to consolidate power throughout Somalia by defeating the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), and absorbing via subversion and force of arms Puntland and Somaliland. Meles said that an IGAD Ugandan battalion would focus on providing security in Baioda.  This would allow Ethiopia to train TFG troops, thereby reinforcing the TFG so that the UIC would be forced to hold meaningful talks with them.  Absent of an international solution, Meles explained that Ethiopia envisions confronting the UIC in a major battle in order to damage and disgrace them, and thereby stop their advance and encourage division within the CIC. Meles indicated, however, that he would prefer an international solution and therefore will wait for the United Nation’s Security Council to deliberate the lifting of the arms embargo and the IGAD/Ugandan battalion. If approval is not forthcoming then Ethiopia will move to contain the UIC sometime in November. Meles said that he will continue to work with the United States and United Kingdom and keep the two countries informed about Ethiopia’s intentions. Comment: Meles hopes that by telling us and the UK of his military plans, we will move to avert the confrontation by pushing through a UNSC resolution.  According to AU Deputy Mazemhaka, there is no arms embargo on the TFG and therefore it does not have to be lifted.  However, the AU and indeed the international community want UN approval for lifting the embargo and the IGAD battalion.  Endorsement of these concepts via the Somali Contact Group and other international fora will also be useful. End Summary.

2. (C) The meeting with the Prime Minister was also attended by MFA Acting Director of Europe and North America Desk Almaz Amha and the remainder of the BENS delegation, including Marbill Management General Partner Bill Campbell, Access Industries Executive Vice President Peter Thoren, Arnold and Porter Partner Ramon Marks, The White Oak Group Managing Partner Chris Melton, Wachovia Corporation Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel Mark Treanor, Boies and McInnis Partner Mary Boies, BENS Senior Vice President Eric Flanning, Associated Press East Africa Bureau Chief Chris Tomlinson, and Bennett McCutcheon Michele Huges from Joint Forces Command.  The Ambassador’s special assistant served as notetaker.  This message was not cleared by General Boyd.

MELES PAINTS A PICTURE
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3. (C) General Boyd asked Meles how the United Nation’s "reluctance to move in an effective way" and the African Union’s "inability to move quickly" to deploy an IGAD force affected Ethiopia’s military strategy vis-a-vis Somalia. Meles explained that any policy on Somalia has to reflect the forces involved in the conflict.  He boiled the players down to two sides:  the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and those who oppose the UIC, indicating that the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Puntland, and Somaliland are the primary forces of opposition.  Meles said the TFG’s strongest assets are that its transitional charter has the support of most of the clans and that it has been recognized internationally by the United Nations and the African Union.  He added that the TFG suffers, however, from an inability to protect itself and lack of cohesion amongst government officials.  Meles explained that Puntland has strong ties to the TFG because the current TFG President established Puntland and that it opposes the UIC because it’s  "uncomfortable" with the clans in Mogadishu.  Similarly, Somaliland’s support of the TFG stems from its desire to remain independent.  Meles said that the transitional charter, not necessarily the TFG, is the future of Somalia.

4. (C) Meles continued by explaining the how the UIC gained influence and eventually become large and powerful enough to launch its campaign against the TFG.  Meles said that regional Islamic courts were originally formed to protect against predatory warlords and gained support of locals by proving responsive to law and order issues.  Islamic courts, 
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he noted, were not organized as one entity rather individual units established by different clans/sub-clans.  He said the Islamic courts were initially parochial in nature, not ideological.  The Islamic courts began to change into a more cohesive and aspiring organization once "global Islamic" movements linked to Osama bin Laden and other violent sects were invited to infiltrate its ranks.  Meles said that these global Islamic movements are comprised of two major groups: the Saudi-influenced Wahabists and Egyptian-influenced Sufis.  Meles said that Islamic courts ceded leadership positions to members of these Islamic movements because they provided "enlightened" leaders, experience in establishing networks, and financial support.  Meles noted that Somalia’s characteristic clan and sub-clan structure is still paramount and its relationship with these external Islamic groups could be a source of contention within the UIC structure.

5. (C) In addition to support from Islamic groups outside of Somalia, Meles said that Eritrea continues to align itself with the UIC.  He explained that while Eritrea is not naturally inclined to side with an Islamic-based movement like the UIC, it understands that Islamists in Somalia could serve to destabilize Ethiopia.  Meles added that Eritrea provides military training, equipment and support to the UIC as well as to dissident groups within Ethiopia, such as AIAI, Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).  Eritrea, Meles noted, is allied with Islamist groups for geo-political reasons rather than ideological. Meles mentioned that Iran was nominally supporting the UIC but it’s involvement was limited because Iranians are Shia and Somalis Sunni.  Meles said that Libya, too, was likely supporting the UIC but its involvement was difficult to gage as it might be attempting to undermind the Wahabis.

6. (C) Given the loose and various entities comprised to makeup the UIC, Meles asked what was keeping the alliance together.  He said the primary reason is the UIC is seen as successful and this has created momentum that must be broken.  Given the two different groups that make up the UIC there could be a break – if the UIC suffered a defeat – between the clan based courts and the ideologues like Aweys who control the leadership because they control the resources from abroad.  The UIC’s success also is a result of the TFG’s organizational weakness and "feeble" military.  Additionally, although Somaliland has a common interest in fighting radical Islamists, the TFG’s unwillingness to recognize its independence limits Somaliland’s commitment.  Puntland the home of President Yussef is Yussef’s refuge should the TFG fall so it will not initiate but defend itself. Meles  argued that the international community must assist in reinforcing the TFG both by building leadership and military capacity as it was created by the region and the international community. By shoring up the TFG it can serve as the vehicle for the formation of a more representative government.  But this can not happen unless the TFG is seen as a serious entity by the UIC  as it will not seriously negotiate with a weak TFG. Ethiopia also encourages greater support and commitment from Puntland, Somaliland, the African Union and the international community to the TFG. The UIC may ride its momentum to complete a country-wide victory if "someone from the outside" does not intervene.

MELES WILL WAIT FOR UN ACTION
—————————–
7. (C) Meles told the group that he sees a UN-supported IGAD/Ugandan force and a lifting of the arms embargo to shore up the TFG as the best solution.  Meles said that an IGAD force could focus on training the TFG military, halt the spread of the UIC and open meaningful dialogue between the two parties.  Absent of an international solution, Meles explained that Ethiopia is prepared to do battle with the UIC in Somalia.  Meles indicated that before making a final decision he will wait for the November United Nation’s Security Council meeting where he hopes a favorable will be made to lift the arms embargo and deploy the IGAD/Ugandan battalion. Meles said that he will continue to work with the United States and United Kingdom and keep the two countries informed about Ethiopia’s intentions.

8. (C) CJTF-HOA Admiral Hunt asked if the Prime Minister was certain that Ethiopia would win in a confrontation with the UIC.  Meles said that while the UIC army may have had its way with disorganized warlords, it is no match for the skilled and professionalized Ethiopian military.  Meles explained that the ENDF (Ethiopian National Defense Forces) would move 
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quickly to "break the back" of the UIC.  Meles envisioned that his army would not take Mogadishu, rather it would confront the UIC close to the border, allowing the Somalis themselves to confront or break away from the UIC.  He said that the operation would likely consist of infantry and mechanized forces rather than air assets.  Meles noted that the UIC is likely armed with hand-held surface to air missiles, RPGs and low quality Russian anti-tank missiles provided by Eritrea, but not with advanced anti-armor capability as Eritrea did not share this technology.  Meles said that the ENDF could chose a large battle so that the UIC would be sufficiently wounded and this would then result in their retreat to Mogadishu.  Meles said, TFG force would fight on the front lines and Ethiopian troops were serve merely as a "stiffening backbone."  Meles added that the operation would not require a redeployment or movement of troops away from the Eritrean border.  Given Ethiopia’s previous military operations in Somalia in 1996 and 1999, Meles emphasized his Government has long prepared for "one and half wars" and is ready and capable of handling conflicts on two fronts.

9. (C) Meles acknowledged that there will be consequences to any Ethiopian military operation in Somalia.  In addition to "disquiet" from the international community, Meles said that Ethiopia would likely move up on the priority list of the enemies of Islam, thereby becoming more of a target for Islamic terrorist activities.  Meles argued that "hard-core Islamists" have always thought of Ethiopia as being in the "Crusader" camp, so drawing the ire of Islamists will be nothing new.  But, the conflict could devolve into a Christianity versus Islam scenario, warned Meles.  For this reason, Meles reiterated that his preference was for an international solution to the situation.

MELES ON INSURGENCIES AND DEMOCRATIZATION
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10. (C) In response to a question about Somalia’s impact on Ethiopia’s internal situation, Meles said Eritrea is promoting insurgencies within the country, but Ethiopians are not ready to pickup arms.  Meles acknowledged that his government has problems with people in the urban areas of Ethiopia, but points to his party’s support in rural areas as the real base of support.  Though, Meles noted, pastoralist areas in the Somali region have been problematic for the government as development programs have not moved at a fast enough pace.  Meles indicated that his approach to working in the Somali region have changed.  According the Meles, the government had previously tried to work solely with "modern" leaders while ignoring more "traditional" leaders, like clan elders.  Meles said that the government is trying to correct this mistake and work with both groups.

11. (C) When pushed by the BENS delegation to defend Ethiopia’s commitment to democracy and rule of law, Meles said that democratization and rule of law are critical to the continued stability of the country.  He added that adequate opportunity for peaceful dissent was a top priority.  He argued that progress on both democratization and rule of law was a "matter of survival" and the "only option" for Ethiopia.
HUDDLESTON
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Reference ID – 06ADDISABABA2872
Created – 2006-10-26 17:12
Released – 2011-08-30 01:44
Classification – CONFIDENTIAL
Origin – Embassy Addis Ababa

VZCZCXRO1329
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #2872/01 2991712
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 261712Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3035
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ADDIS ABABA 002872
SIPDIS 
SIPDIS  
AF FOR A/S FRAZER AND DAS YAMAMOTO
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/26/2016
TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS ASEC PTER UNSC SO ET

SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA:  MELES HOPES TO DELAY SOMALIA INTERVENTION UNTIL MID-NOVEMBER 
Classified By: CHARGE VICKI HUDDLESTON FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).

1. (C) SUMMARY:  PM Meles told visiting Gen. Fulford and SFRC staffer Michael Phelan that delays and problems with IGASOM deployment might leave Ethiopia to face the Council of Islamic Courts (CIC) alone, but that he hoped to hold off on military intervention until around mid-November.  He said the delay should allow the UNSC to consider a partial lifting of the UN arms embargo as well as improve weather conditions for military operations in Somalia.  The PM indicated that Ugandan troops might no longer be available for deployment in IGASOM due to pressure to desist from "a prominent member of the Commonwealth."  Meles alleged that funding for the CIC was coming from salafist Muslims in the Gulf as well as Sufists from Egypt and Sudan.  Eritrea was using these funds to supply Russian-made, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft and anti-tank weaponry.  Meles said the GOE’s goal in a military operation would be to force the disintegration of CIC forces, whom he predicted would collapse back into sub-clan level militias pursuing their own interests.  Low-level CIC representatives had told GOE reps that they would leave Ethiopia in peace if the GOE agreed not to impede the creation of a unified, CIC-run state in Somalia, but PM said the GOE had rejected the offer.  The goal of Ethiopian military action would be to push back the CIC, deliver territory and time back to the TFG and train the TFG to defend itself.  End Summary.

2. (C) A USG delegation including Ret. Gen Carl Fulford and Amb. Peter Chaveas from the African Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), Gen. Remkis from EUCOM J5 and Michael Phelan, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer, called on Prime Minister Meles Oct. 26.  Charge and Pol/Econ Counselor accompanied the group.  The ACSS delegation was visiting Addis to inaugurate a new ACSS annex, the first in Africa, on the compound of U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa.  Phelan is conducting a multi-nation visit in East Africa.  The Prime Minister welcomed the establishment of the ACSS in Addis. Most discussion focused on Somalia; a separate message will report on discussion of the report of Independent Commission of Inquiry into domestic political violence in 2005. 
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CIC A POWERFUL MONSTER WITH FEET OF CLAY
—————————————–
3. (C) Phelan asked for the PM’s view on the situation in Somalia.  Meles called Somalia the most important challenge to Ethiopia’s security.  He said the CIC had capitalized on chaos in Somalia by providing social services, security and stability that people wanted.  They had used this achievement as an entry point for imposing their radical Islamic agenda on a country whose Muslims had always practiced tolerance. The PM said that the Somali sub-clan militias fighting under the CIC were not a real threat, but their foreign-financed Jihadist leadership was.  He called the CIC in general "a powerful monster emerging, but with feet of clay."  The CIC had momentum and funding now which were keeping its disparate, clan-based elements together.  Their agenda was to exploit this momentum to remove the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) as well as provisional governments in Somaliland and Puntland.  "Once they control all of Somalia, they have lots of ideas about a broader Caliphate," he added.  He also referred to "international brigades" of extremist volunteers from Indonesia, Pakistan and elsewhere to provide training, including in suicide bomb attacks. 
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Eritrean Arms Bought with Foreign Funds
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4. (C) The PM said that the normally anti-Islamic Eritrean Government was pursuing a short-sighted policy of aiding jihadists, apparently in the hopes that the extremists "would attack Ethiopia before they attack us."  Meles claimed that the Eritreans had provided the CIC with Russian-made, shoulder-fired anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry.  The funding, he said, had come from both salafist individuals and charities in Gulf States as well as Sufist elements in Egypt and Sudan.  He noted that the GOE had observed some tension between the two groups in training camps in Somali, but that their unusual cooperation was continuing.  When Gen. Fulford 
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asked if the conflict in Somalia were not simply a proxy war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Meles replied that the two issues were separate.  There was a genuine threat from Islamists in the region that would exist with or without Eritrean help;  Eritrea was simply trying to take advantage of it. 
——————————————
CIC Not Interested In Talks, Sharing Power
——————————————
5. (C) Meles told the group that the CIC had demonstrated through its handling of Khartoum talks with the TFG that it was not going to accept a negotiated solution, nor did it see the necessity of sharing power with the TFG.  The CIC had continued its territorial expansion in spite of two cease-fires signed in Khartoum.  The PM also revealed that low level reps from the GOE and CIC had held discussions recently in Nairobi.  In that exchange, the CIC had indicated that the GOE was the only obstacle standing between it and achieving its goal of a united Somalia.  If the GOE were willing to stand back and allow the CIC to consolidate control in Somalia, the CIC promised to leave Ethiopia in peace.  According to the PM, GOE reps responded that although Ethiopia had not yet acted militarily, it would never accept the CIC’s agenda and would intervene to stop it if others did not.  The GOE had urged the CIC to work out a power-sharing arrangement with the TFG, but the reps had also declined. "At least there was clarity on both sides," Meles concluded. He added that if the CIC were stopped militarily, clan militias would resume their traditional loyalties and healthier elements of the CIC could be incorporated into the TFG.  Jihadists could not be eliminated altogether, Meles predicted, but they could be marginalized. 
——————————————— —
Uganda Sidelined, Ethiopia Prepared to Act Alone
——————————————— —
6. (C) The Prime Minister said that he had recently received private communications from the Ugandan Government informing him that due to "pressure from a prominent member of the Commonwealth," (note: probably the UK) Uganda would not be able to deploy in Somalia within an acceptable time frame. The Ugandan government had said that it had received signals that to deploy would be "inconsistent" with serving as host of the upcoming Commonwealth Summit.  Meles bemoaned the loss of the "international cover" that Uganda would have provided for efforts to stop the CIC, but said that Ethiopia was prepared to handle the task directly alone if necessary.  He also noted that the costs of the operation would increase over time.

7. (C) The PM said that the GOE planned to wait until the UN Security Council’s planned consideration of a resolution to partially lift the arms embargo in early November before launching any military operation against the CIC.  Weather conditions in Somalia would also improve in mid-November, he added, making ground-based military action easier.  He caveated his remarks, however, but noting that the CIC might act preemptively to catch the GOE before it was fully ready. Such an action might force the GOE’s hand, but Ethiopia might still "take some punches" until the rainy season ended.

8. (C) The objective of Ethiopian operations would be to push the CIC back to Mogadishu, "liberate" parts of Somalia for a TFG takeover and train the TFG to defend itself, Meles explained.  He said that Ethiopia could not fight the Islamists itself forever, but was confident that the TFG could be trained to handle the job itself.  The PM pointed to Ethiopia’s previous experience with TFG President Abdullai Yusuf in Puntland, where Yusuf had taken help from Ethiopia but had eventually built a self-sufficient militia able to cope with extremists. 
———————————
USG Understands GOE Position Best
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9. (C) Gen. Fulford asked whether IGAD countries and the African Union (AU) would support military action to defend the TFG.  Meles replied that he was confident of support from 
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Kenya and Uganda.  In fact, President Museveni wanted Ethiopia to move more quickly.  The AU, meanwhile, "should at least not pose a problem."  Meles said that the GOE had discussed the issue with leaders in the AU Commission and believed there was an understanding on this point.  He told Fulford that Eritrea was of course on the side of the CIC, and that Djibouti was taking a position somewhat closer to the CIC as well.  Sudan might not support an Ethiopian military operation, but was unlikely to do anything against it.  Beyond the region, Meles said that the USG understood Ethiopia’s position the best, while the UK had recently shown signs of ambivalence about Somalia.  The PM said the GOE would try to "firm them up."  He expected that the EU might issue negative statements about an military operation, but suggested that he would be prepared to live with that.
HUDDLESTON

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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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