Category Archives: Horn of Africa

UAE-Saudi Game of Bases: from South Arabia to Horn of Africa with Temporary Love and Money….

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

“Somali President Mohammed Mohammed Abdullahi Farmajo request for mediation Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to persuade not to complete the establishment of a military base in “Somaliland”……..”

“Somaliland signs agreement allowing the United Arab Emirates to set up a military base in Berbera with a 25-year lease…”

An interesting and unexpected development in the Middle East in recent months. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is getting deeply into the business of foreign military bases. In one sense it has been in it for many years now. From early on, the UAE has had military bases on its territory for various counties: the United States, Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands, as well as Canada (canceled after a commercial dispute). All the while vigorously criticizing foreign (non-Western) bases in Iraq and Syria. Not bad for a country of a little more than 1 million citizens (plus about 6 million foreign residents).

Now the UAE, ostensibly a part-time and wary ally of Saudi Arabia, is getting into the dubious business of establishing foreign bases of its own. Basically the UAE are (for now) the strongest foreign power in the Aden area of South Yemen, having easily outsmarted and elbowed out the Saudi Wahhabis. The Saudis are closer allies to the deposed president Hadi and his corrupt old partners in misruling Yemen (the Islah, the local Muslim Brotherhood). The UAE rulers hate nothing more than the Muslim Brotherhood.

The main Saudi problem in Yemen is that they share a long border with that country. They occasionally get tempted to test these borders. Hence their fear of any perceived foreign (non-Western) influence over Yemen, be it real or imagined. The war they have been waging on Yemen for more than two years often comes back to haunt them in the form of Yemeni retaliatory attacks on their border towns and cities. As well as Yemeni rockets, reportedly local versions of Iranian and maybe Russian missiles.The rockets are a new introduction into the war, and the Yemenis in the capital Sanaa have promised more and more potent ones to come if the Saudis do not desist.

So the Saudis are stuck in a destructive but futile genocidal bombing campaign (with strong and indispensable American and British help), as well as a worrying border war. They are cornered, while the Emiratis expand their influence in South Yemen and now in the Horn of Africa. The Emiratis can better afford it than the Saudis who need to support and subsidize about 16 million citizens (there are also about 10 million foreign residents, a few million of them reportedly illegal).

To the Horn of Africa. That area seems like a favorite place for many powers to establish military bases in recent years. The Russians (Soviets) had a large base at Berbera for years under the Marxist Siad Barre military regime of Somalia. Eritrea and Djibouti have both had bases or presences of the French, Israelis, Iranians and others (including the famous pirates). Natural for an impoverished region. Now the UAE is establishing bases in Somaliland, formerly part of Somalia, which apparently still considers it part of its sphere. To the extent that Somalia can have a sphere. There have been earlier reports of a UAE base in Eritrea as well. There have been reports of a potential UAE presence in Libya as well, but that would be a foolish undertaking.

It is not clear what is the purpose of all these foreign bases and presences by a small country like the UAE. Only Oman among GCC states has had an extensive foreign presence until the 19th century, mainly in East Africa (including Zanzibar).

Oddly the Saudis don’t seem interested in foreign bases, except in Bahrain. But that is a historic cultural thing: Saudis, especially the elite Najdis of Central Arabia, were historically a landlubber people never known as sea-going people, unlike others like the Emirates (or Oman and Kuwait).

There is more. The UAE often splits from the Saudis on Yemen. The two alleged allies support different outlooks for Yemen, but the UAE can afford it financially although they have limited human resources and need local groups as allies. Hence the Hirak Movement which wants South Yemen (capital Aden) to regain the independence it lost in 1990.

My educated guess is that the UAE has the upper hand over the Saudis in that southern part of Yemen. But they need to reckon with three groups that have been strengthened by the destructive Saudi-led air war on Northern Yemen: the Southern Secessionists, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and Islamic State (ISIS). These three groups have gained strength as the Saudis bombed their main enemies in Yemen, the Houthis.

In any case, in the end neither of these Arab allies can last in Yemen. It is already bleeding them, and will kill off many of their soldiers before they realize they have to leave. And they will leave: it has been the story of Yemen since the days of the ancient Persian and Roman empires. The rugged tribal country wears them down, and the aspiring conquerors are forced to give up and leave. A hostile foreign power cannot control Yemen, it has been the case since the days of the rule of Balqis, the Queen of Sheba.

More on this later, stay tuned.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Iranian Guns and Western Flowers for Africa ………………


 Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter                                   

“When the investigators’ breakthrough came, it carried a surprise. The manufacturer was not one of Africa’s usual suspects. It was Iran. Iran has a well-developed military manufacturing sector, but has not exported its weapons in quantities rivaling those of the heavyweights in the global arms trade, including the United States, Russia, China and several European countries. But its export choices in this case were significant. While small-arms ammunition attracts less attention than strategic weapons or arms that have drawn international condemnation, like land mines and cluster bombs, it is a basic ingredient of organized violence, and is involved each year and at each war in uncountable deaths and crimes………… Iran’s role in providing arms to allies and to those who fight its enemies has long been broadly understood. Some of these practices were most recently reported in the transfer of Fajr-5 ground-to-ground rockets to Gaza. Its expanding footprint of small-arms ammunition exports has pushed questions about its roles in a shadowy ammunition trade high onto the list of research priorities for trafficking investigators. “If you had asked me not too long ago what Iran’s role in small-arms ammunition trafficking to Africa had been, I would have said, ‘Not much,’ ”………………”

This is news only because for the past two centuries the West, mainly Europe, has considered Africa as its own turf. The private market and testing ground for its weapons. I have no doubt of the results if you survey all the weapon exports into Africa, and which weapons have killed the most people. Western weapons probably have killed more Africans in the past quarter century than any other source of weapons in the past thousand years. European weapons have probably killed more Africans during the past two or three centuries than any other weapons from any other source have done for the past five thousand years. (No mention of slavery is needed, that was long ago). Western and more recently Russian and Chinese, and perhaps a few others.
Suddenly the NY Times and one of its writers throws in Darfour and Iran in one sentence. I doubt that they flew Iranian warplanes over Darfour. Almost all the killing weapons originated from outside the Middle East. I also doubt that much of the bullets or machetes used to massacre civilians were made anywhere in the Middle East. The killing fields from Rwanda to Liberia to Sierra Leone to the Congo and the rest of the African tragedies were nourished by weapons from the West (mainly) and then Russia and China and maybe a couple of other sources.
No doubt the Iranians supply some weapons to their allies in Africa, some of them unsavory repressive allies. No doubt these pale compared to the other sources I mentioned. No doubt many of the allies of Western powers in Africa are no sweethearts either. No doubt hypocrisy is not monopolized by one side.


No Business Like Oil Business: Burma as Libya or Sudan, Arabian Jeanne d’Arc, Maid of Hijaz….…….


    Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter                          
                                Neck of the woods

Remember the long ago old days, until a few weeks ago, when Myanmar (actually Burma) was on the “dreaded list”? Not as dreaded as the Cuban or Iranian or the Sudanese list, but dreaded nevertheless. Wait: did I add “Sudan” to the list? Isn’t that the Arab African country whose president has an arrest warrant for him since March 2009? An arrest warrant by the International CourtOfSomethingOrAnother. Yet he is selling oil as freely as, say, Saudi Arabia or Texas or Alaska. I need to research this some more, the legal aspects of it. The sale of oil and the import of weapons. Then the way he travels freely around the Middle East. You’d think Interpol, which is always eager to arrest Saudi dissidents and send them back home to be flogged and beheaded (Kashghari, et al), would act against al-Bashir as soon as his sorry arse lands in Cairo or Tehran or other places.
Back to Burma. Weren’t the ruling military junta accused of smuggling everything under the sun only a few weeks ago? Precious stones, rubies, drugs, possibly people including trafficking in “mothers”? And committing “small” genocides here and there? Doesn’t this sound a little like the Qaddafi deal with the West in Libya a couple of years before the Arab uprising? Would Tony Blair again show up and kiss the cheeks (both cheeks) of the junta leader? One difference: Libya did not have someone like Aung San Suu Kyi. That would be funny: a Libyan or Syrian or Egyptian Aung San Suu Kyi.
If there was some Arab woman like her, she can’t be a Muslim Brother. Would she be a Muslim Sister or a Muslim Mother? Maybe the next time some Saudi woman gets behind the wheels and drives a car the West would declare her an Arabian Jeanne d’Arc, Maid of Hijaz (sorry, Najdis). The Scandinavians would quickly give her a Nobel Prize for driving under duress for fifteen minutes. Some may claim that she would probably deserve it as much as that Yemeni lady, certainly as much as Arafat.


Iranian Faces and Egg: USS John Stennis, the Muslim Arab Pirates, about Hormuz……….

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   


Iran on Saturday welcomed the rescue of 13 Iranian sailors by a U.S. Navy ship, calling it a “humanitarian act……….. The sailors were on a fishing boat that had been hijacked by pirates in the Arabian Sea, near the Strait of Hormuz. According to the Navy, a helicopter from the destroyer USS Kidd spotted a suspect pirate boat alongside the Iranian vessel on Thursday. The destroyer is part of the USS John Stennis Strike Group, which moved into the Arabian Sea from the Persian Gulf last week………..

Somebody in Iran have egg on their faces today.
So the Iranian IRGC commanders and a couple of ayatollahs made a lot of the departure of the USS John Stennis from the Persian-American Gulf last week. Some of them warned the US navy ship not to return to the Gulf, or else.
Sure enough, the USS John Stennis Strike Group was not about to return anytime soon. Nobody knew it was on a divine mission for these same ayatollahs. It was destined to save a lot of Iranian sailors and fishermen from Somali pirates, from fellow Muslims (and full-fledged member of the Arab League although the Arab depots seem not to care about how many Somalis are killed or starve every year).
Apparently the Somali pirates have now expanded their theater of operations beyond the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden. They are now at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, threatening the petroleum waterway.


The Arab World’s Second Somalia, or is it Sudan?………

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   


The Arab World has one completely failed state: Somalia, which is not even identifiable as a state anymore (or Arab for that matter). It has one nearly failed states: Sudan which has staved off Somalization by giving the Southerners their freedom (unlike Abraham Lincoln). Then there is Yemen. As for Yemen? I believe it will become an unidentifiable state, like Somalia, possibly with the South regaining the independence it foolishly gave away in 1990 to join the tribal North. Northern Yemen is truly in danger of falling completely apart, American drones and Saudi war planes notwithstanding.

No, Libya is not likely to become a failed state. It may try to become a failed state during the next few years, many African states that were ruled by long-term despots have headed that way. But Libya is a potentially rich country with a relatively high degree of national identity. Besides, it is too close to Europe to be allowed to fail as a state: who is going to stop all them boats?