Somalia and Iraq in chaos

Jatin Desai
Sunday, 5 January 2020

The siege of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979 lasted for 444 days. On November 4, 1979, followers of Ayatollah Khomeini seized the compound. There were 63 US citizens inside the premises at that time. The US consulate in Benghazi was attacked on September 11, 2012 in which four US diplomats were killed.

Two recent attacks shocked the world. First the Somali capital Mogadishu was attacked and then Baghdad, Iraq. A truck bomb attacked Mogadishu on Saturday in which around 90 people died, and on Tuesday, hundreds of Iraqi citizens stormed the United States Embassy compound in Baghdad chanting ‘Death to America’. They ended siege after two days. The attack on Baghdad reminds of a siege of the US embassy in Tehran, Iran, in 1979 and the attack on US consulate in Benghazi in Libya in 2012.

Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for a truck bombing in Mogadishu. The spokesman of the terrorist organisation, Ali Mohamud Rageh, known as Ali Dhere, made the claim via the group’s official station, Radio Andalus. The militant organisation regularly carries attacks in Somalia. It wants to topple the central government backed by the United Nations (UN) and African Union peacekeeping forces. Many areas of Somalia are under the influence and control of Al-Shabaab.

Their target on Saturday was Turkish nationals and Somali forces. The Turkish engineers were in a convoy escorted by Somali army. At least two Turkish nationals died in a horrific attack. Several civilians also died in the attack. Ali Dhere regretted the death of civilians but at the same time, justified it by saying ‘protecting religion comes before saving a life.’ Al-Shabaab, like other militant organisation, is not confined to one nation. It poses a threat to the whole region. They are active in East Africa and spreading terror in Kenya, Tanzania, Yemen and Mozambique. Early this year, Al-Shabaab attacked a hotel in Kenya’s capital Nairobi and killed 21 people. Al-Shabaab also attacked a hotel in Mogadishu a few days ago. The worst attack by Al-Shabaab was in 2017 killing more than 600 people.

Somalia is witnessing Islamist militancy and ethnic war for three decades since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown. He ruled the country from 1969. Since then Somalia is lacking an effective central government and clan warfare continues. It provided space to organisations like Al-Shabaab. The US did sent troops in 1992 but withdrew it within two years.

In 2017, Turkey opened its biggest overseas base in Mogadishu. It is training Somali soldiers in the huge training facility. It can train and accommodate 1,000 soldiers at a time. Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become a close ally of Somalia. Turkey is also involved in various developmental projects. Recently, Somalia has become a place where military and diplomatic rivalry is on between Turkey and Qatar on one side and Saudi and UAE on the other side. Somalian seaports are important as it is close to vital oil routes. It also provides a route to Ethiopia.

Following the attack, the US conducted three airstrikes in two locations in Somalia killing four terrorists affiliated to Al-Shabaab. The Somalian government has become too weak and depends mainly on international troops. The scenario is such that if international troops including African Union withdraw from Somalia, then the present government will find it difficult to survive. The country is in chaos. The government is accused of corruption and incompetence.

The siege of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979 lasted for 444 days. On November 4, 1979, followers of Ayatollah Khomeini seized the compound. There were 63 US citizens inside the premises at that time. The US consulate in Benghazi was attacked on September 11, 2012 in which four US diplomats were killed.

Following protesters storming the US embassy, US President Donald Trump blamed Iran and tweeted, “They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a threat”. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei responded by saying “You can’t do anything…If the Islamic Republic decides to challenge and fight, it will do so…” In an airstrike at the Baghdad International airport, the US troops killed the head of the Iranian Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani. The killing of Soleimani is seen as a major loss to Iran. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a militia commander, was also killed in a pre-dawn attack on Friday. The scenario in the region is explosive.

The UN and international community need to play a pro-active role in Somalia and also in Iran, Iraq. The situation in Iraq, Iran needs to be handled carefully.

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