Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, was featured on Press TV News Analysis discussing US foreign policy toward Syria. The program aired on December 30, 2011., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Tales of Two Conferences in London and Tunis
Imperialist-backed meetings set the stage for further interventions in Somalia and Syria
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
On February 23 and 24, back-to-back conferences were held aimed at determining the destiny of the Horn of Africa nation of Somalia and the Middle Eastern state of Syria. The fact that both gatherings took place outside the respective countries with the full support of the imperialist states guarantees that these efforts are not in the best interests of the people of Somalia or Syria.
In London, the British government spent considerable public relations capital in promoting the conference on Somalia as a turning point in the effort to purportedly stabilize the country which has been without a legitimately recognized regime since 1991. Numerous representatives of the U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) attended the event yet no one was invited from Al-Shabaab, the Islamic resistance movement that is under siege by the western-supported military forces occupying Somalia from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, and Kenya.
The African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) is attacking Al-Shabaab supporters in the capital of Mogadishu. AMISOM is composed of troops from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti. The Ethiopian Defense Forces have once again entered the fighting in Somalia having launched a major offensive in the central region taking control of the city of Baidoa.
Kenyan Defense Forces entered Somalia last October and reportedly have over 2,000 troops on the ground attacking supposed Al-Shabaab bases in an attempt to take over the port city of Kismayo and other areas in the south of the country. These military operations on the ground are being supported with U.S. drone surveillance and strikes, along with French naval forces and Israeli intelligence capability.
British Interests in Somalia
Britain’s interest in Somalia is related to its former status as a colonial power during the late 19th and 20th centuries. Most recently there have been several reports indicating that Britain is seeking to exploit and profit from the emerging oil industry in Puntland (a breakaway region of Somalia) and within existing Somalia.
The Observer newspaper published in London pointed out in an article that “Britain is involved in a secret high-stakes dash for oil in Somalia, with the government offering humanitarian aid and security assistance in the hope of a stake in the beleaguered country’s future energy industry.” The article continues noting that “away from the public focus of last week’s summit, talks are going on between British officials and Somali counterparts over exploiting oil reserves that have been explored in the arid north-eastern region of the country.” (Observer, Feb. 27)
This same article quotes Abdulkadir Abdi Hashi, the Minister for International Cooperation in Puntland, in north-east Somalia where the first oil is expected to be extracted in March, as saying “We have spoken to a number of UK officials, some have offered to help us with the future management of oil revenues. They will help us build our capacity to maximize future earnings from the oil industry.”
The conservative estimates related to Somalia oil reserves are put at 4 billion barrels (worth approximately $500 billion today). Other claims say that Puntland alone has the potential yield of 10 billion barrels, placing it among the top 20 countries in the world for petroleum resources.
The Observer article says that “it is the extent of oil deposits beneath the Indian Ocean that is most exciting Somali officials. One said the potential was comparable to that of Kuwait, which has more than 100bn barrels of proven oil reserves. If true, the deposits would eclipse Nigeria’s reserves—37.2bn barrels—and make Somalia the seventh largest oil-rich nation.”
In addition to Britain, where BP has expressed an interest, Canada, the U.S. and China are also seeking ways to get involved in the initial onslaught of production. Despite the claims made in regard to oil exploration, the British Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell denied the government had commercial interests in Somalia.
Nonetheless, this is not the first time that imperialist-oriented efforts to shape developments in Somalia have taken place. Previous direct and indirect military interventions in Somalia have failed to stabilize the country in the interest of the West.
In 1992-93, Somalis rose up and resisted the U.S. Marines and the United Nations so-called peacekeepers forcing them to leave the country. A 2006-2009 invasion and occupation by Ethiopia at the aegis of the U.S. failed to resolve the internal crises.
This current effort has drawn skepticism as well from various sources of opinion in Africa and around the world. Richard Dowden, the Director of the Royal African Society, an academic group in Britain, said in an essay that “The agenda of the Somali politicians at Lancaster House on Thursday (Feb. 23) was clear: to get the British and Americans to fight their war for them or pay others to do it and bomb their enemies.” (African Arguments, Feb. 27)
Yet the current politico-military situation in Somalia is not the war of the Somalian politicians but that of the imperialist states that will stand to benefit the most from the forceful subjugation of the country and the exploitation of oil, waterways and other strategic resources throughout the Horn of Africa region. Even Dowden noted that “Hilary Clinton spoke as if this was simply an extension of the American war on terror.”
In fact the U.S. policy in Somalia represents the continuation of the same policies from successive administrations as it relates to the region. “Terrorism” is abstractly used as a justification and rationale for escalating the process of destabilization.
Tunis Hosts “Friends of Syria” Conference
The following day on February 24 in the capital of Tunisia another conference was held under the sponsorship of the so-called “Friends of Syria.” This initiative grew out of the failure of the U.S. and other imperialist states to get the United Nations Security Council endorsement for a war against Syria.
Russia and China vetoed the resolution calling for the total isolation of Syria. Both Russia and China refused to recognize the conference in Tunis which was attended by over 60 nations and numerous opposition groups claiming to represent dissidents in Syria as well as high-ranking officials from the Western states and their Arab allied governments.
The conference was condemned by the Syria government which dubbed the gathering as the “Enemies of Syria.” Several hundred pro-Syrian demonstrators attempted to storm the conference saying that it should not be held inside the North African state which is undergoing a political transformation process since January 2011 after a popular uprising toppled former dictator Ben Ali.
Ezz Eddine Koutali, the spokesman for the Baath Party in Tunisia, stated that “The Baath party condemns the use of violence against protesters and the use of methods of oppression (by the Tunisian police) against our protesters. Although the popular movement that was on the sidelines of the cursed conference was peaceful and civilized, we were surprised by the use of excessive force by security forces directly under the orders of the Minister of Interior.” (Tunisia Live, Feb. 26)
Koutali also stressed that the “Friends of Syria” conference was held “under the supervision of American imperialism.” He also rejected the Tunisian government’s collaboration in this effort stating that “The conference was organized by figures representing American imperialism such as Hilary Clinton and the Zionist John McCain. We reject the use of our pure land to achieve conspiracies.”
Clinton struck out against Russia and China saying that their position in support of non-interference in Syria was “despicable.” A statement issued by the Russian government said “The invitations to attend the Tunis meeting were issued to some parts of the opposition, but representatives of the Syrian government were not invited.” (Middle East Online, Feb. 21)
According to Russia, “This means that the interests of the majority of the Syrian population, which supports the authorities, will not be represented. We cannot accept the offer to attend this meeting.”
Anti-Imperialists Must Oppose Imperialist Intervention in Somalia and Syria
Inside the western capitalist states it is important for the peace and anti-war movements to protest the current efforts by the imperialists to occupy both Somalia and Syria. The internal conflicts in Somalia and Syria must be resolved by the people of these respective countries absent of outside interventions.
In Somalia, the imperialists have regional designs on the Horn of Africa and other areas of the continent. The war against Libya is a profound illustration of the objective character of U.S. and European foreign policy during this period.
The war against Syria is also directed against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Syria has taken a principled stand against the Israeli Zionist regime that is backed by U.S. imperialism.
Iran is a close ally of Syria and both states support the Hezbollah resistance party in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, Palestine. It is the aim of imperialism to seek the destabilization and liquidation of any political forces in Africa and the Middle East who take positions independent of the West.
Also both destabilization campaigns are directed towards weakening the influence of China and Russia who have opposed U.S. and British imperialism in Syria and Iran. Both Syria and Somalia will continue to be a focal point for western intrigue in Africa and the Middle East in the months to come.