Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Somali Government Asks for Russian Help Against Pirates

Actually, my headline is not entirely accurate. The Somali government isn’t just appealing to the Russians for help, but also to the Americans, the EU, Tuvalu, and presumably the good citizens of Bismarck, North Dakota — to anyone who can help get rid of those pesky pirates off the coast of Somalia.

The Somali “government” is a joke — how can there be a government of an utterly failed state?

If we lived in the real world, instead of a Postmodern Multicultural Fantasy Theme Park, this “government” of Somalia would have been shot by the warlords and thrown into the ditch a long time ago. But with the UN to prop him up, and Western aid to pay for his pinstripe suits and fax machine, Abdullahi Yusuf gets to make-believe that he’s the president of Somalia…

…a president who just happens to need the help of the Russians and the Americans to protect coastal waters of his country from the predations of his own people. According to The Washington Post:

Somali Leader Embraces Foreign Assistance Against Pirates

With U.S. warships offshore and a Russian missile frigate on the way, Somalia’s president, Abdullahi Yusuf, said Wednesday that he welcomed international intervention against Somali pirates roaming a main East-West shipping route.

The hijacking last Thursday of a Ukrainian-operated vessel carrying T-72 tanks and other weapons has galvanized the world’s leading navies after more than 60 other pirate attacks this year on ships off Somalia and in the nearby Gulf of Aden.

The defense chiefs of eight E.U. countries joined the fight Wednesday, agreeing to move toward creating a maritime security force against piracy, French Defense Minister Hervé Morin said in Paris.

In Somalia, Yusuf urged Somalis to turn against the pirate gangs.

“I also call on the international community to act quickly on what is happening in Somali waters as well as onshore,” he told reporters in the capital, Mogadishu. “We must do everything we can to stop piracy off the coast of Somalia.”

Wait a minute! What’s this “we”, Mr. Yusuf? Are you calling on the generosity of the American taxpayer to help you deal with Somali nationals in Somali coastal waters who prey on international shipping?
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What, exactly, is the function of your government? What are do your responsibilities consist of, besides nibbling the canapés at inter-agency cocktail parties? What do you think governments actually do?

Obviously, controlling piracy along your coasts is not part of the job description.

The pirates, on the other hand, are so powerful that they’ve imposed an embargo on the country. Those ragtag bands of guys wearing dirty singlets and carrying AK-47s and RPGs — somehow they’ve managed to embargo the entire nation of Somalia.

They make Blackbeard look like an amateur.

The pirates had imposed an “embargo” against Somalia and other countries by preventing trade and food deliveries, he said.

The pirates are holding the Ukrainian-operated Faina a few miles off eastern Somalia. They have demanded $20 million for the release of the vessel and its crew of 13 Ukrainians, seven Russians and one other Eastern European. The ship’s captain died of natural causes shortly after the hijacking, the pirates have said by satellite telephone.

The United States has deployed an unspecified number of warships and aircraft within sight of the Faina, and U.S. Navy officials have said they are intent on ensuring that the pirates do not unload the arms.

And what about the Russians?

Russian navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said Russian commanders hope for a peaceful end to the hijacking, independent and state news agencies reported Wednesday.

“Taking forceful measures, for obvious reasons, is an extreme measure, as this could create a threat to the lives of the international crew of the cargo ship,” Dygalo was quoted as saying.

But Somalia, for some reason, doesn’t expect the Russians to be as peaceful as the Americans in their handling of the pirates:

Somalia’s ambassador to Russia, Mohammed Mahmud Handule, said Somalia had authorized Russia “to fight the pirates in the sea and on the coast.” He praised Russia’s deployment and said Somalia was “not satisfied” with the results of actions taken by other navies. He did not specify the countries.

Well, the Danes paid the ransom. The French recovered their ship and its crew while bumping off a pirate or two in the process. And the Task Force has managed to chase off some of the pirates before they could capture their prey. So the results have been mixed so far.

But Somalia is ready to grease the Russian palm in hopes of a little quid pro quo:

Handule also said Somalia would follow Russia in recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two breakaway regions of Georgia. Few other countries have done so; the move is seen as condoning Russia’s invasion of Georgia in August.


Yusuf is head of a near-powerless Somali government that is propped up by the United States and other countries and by an occupying military force from neighboring Ethiopia. In recent weeks, fighting between government forces and Islamist insurgents has intensified.

The Communist dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted from power in Somalia in 1991. Ever since then, for seventeen long years, Somalia has been a failed state without a functioning government. Despite all the international aid, the intervention of the US military, and the efforts if the UN, it remains a political basket case.

If this were the real world, Somalia would either be overrun by a Taliban-style dictatorship, or carved up into pieces and divided among its neighbors.

But, as I said, this is not the real world.

Previous posts about the Somali pirates:

2005 Nov 5 Barbary Pirates Redux
    8 Update on the Somali Pirates
    14 The Mother Ship
2006 Mar 24 The Jamaica-Somalia Connection
  Apr 8 The Taliban, Somali-Style
  Jul 5 Pirates in the Strait
2007 Jun 5 Somali Pirates Take Danish Hostages
    6 The Territorial Waters of a Failed State
    8 Q-Ships for the Somali Coast?
    11 Pirates Demand Ransom for Danish Seamen
    13 Q-Ships, Pirates, and the Waters off Somalia
    25 The Danica White Runs Out of Food and Water
  Jul 11 Gossip-Mongers in Denmark
    21 The Danica White: Eight Weeks and Counting
  Aug 22 The Danica White Has Been Released
  Nov 24 Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Snaps
2008 Apr 21 A Spanish Danica White?
    29 Reputed $1.2 Million Paid to Free Spanish Hostages...
  May 2 A No-Pursuit Policy for Pirates
  Aug 23 Targeting the Somali Pirates
    23 More on Task Force 150
  Sep 8 Danish Ship Averts Pirate Attacks
    11 Those Undeterred Somali Pirates
    26 The Russians are Chasing the Somali Pirates
    26 A Quarrel Among Pirates


awake said...

Sink the pirates, yet find a way to miss enough, while targeting, to obliterate Somalia.

That would be a start. j/k.

Seriously, dealing with Somali pirates?

Anonymous said...

Since when do you deal with pirates?

The Royal Navy, back in the days, got rid of them by sinking them where they found them. And hanging those few leaders who survived.

Great, now we're going to negotiate with pirates. What's next? Negotiate with terrorists and dictators instead of giving them a damn good thrashing?

Anonymous said...

Given how Somali Muslims are cracking down on any Muslim exhibiting "foreign" (read: non-Muslim) customs and being generally nasty to non-Muslims, in what significant sense would a Taliban-style dictatorship change anything?

Henrik R Clausen said...

Since when do you deal with pirates?

Since the first sailor 'went pirate'.

Historically, there has been many way to deal with pirate scum. Hanging is a favorite of many, but in these timid days paying ransom (taken from honest, working people) is frequently preferred. The side effect that paying pirates for their 'work' encourages them is conveniently ignored - it'll hit someone else's ship next time, right?

The Russians, knowing more about the value of money than the rest of the world, may see things in a different way. Dealing with pirates 'the Russian Way' probably implies aiming and using oversize guns against their petty boats, and hopefully delivery of explosives at very high velocity to their home bases.

Oh? You meant 'striking a deal' with pirates? I can tell you one thing: Commie-infested labor unions in Denmark are very eager to do so.

But back to the real deal. If the Russians go in with real power and give the surviving pirates a good incentive to change business, the Somali government, proppet up by US and UN, will recognize the breakaway republics in the Caucasus.

That would put the US government in a strange dilemma. Denounce the government they support? Unlikely. Remove the support? More unlikely - the government would rather go bankrupt than revoke support to dubious regimes. This will be interesting to watch.

Baron Bodissey said...

randian -- what significant sense would a Taliban-style dictatorship change anything?

The "change" would come with central control, the creation of a powerful new sharia state. The Islamists would claim a monopoly on violence, and the warlords would gradually come to heel. Brigandage would eventually cease, and all extortion and theft would be carried out in a Koran-sanctioned fashion by the new state.

The pirates, if they continued to ply their trade, would be like the Barbary pirates and give the emir his portion of the take. But it's more likely that the new government would find it prudent to rein them in, in order to avoid international repercussions.

Obviously it's not in our interests to have a Taliban-style government running Somalia. But the alternative we have chosen -- propping up a pretend government that is unable to exercise any governance -- is a stupid alternative.

It would have been more in our interest to let the Kenyans and the Ethiopians (non-Islamic states) do as they wish with Somalia. But the results would be brutal and not at all democratic, so we obviously can't do that. We're stuck.

Henrik R Clausen said...

Wait a minute! What’s this “we”, Mr. Yusuf? Are you calling on the generosity of the American taxpayer to help you deal with Somali nationals in Somali coastal waters who prey on international shipping?

Mr. Yusuf is a Muslim, isn't he? He will expect those he considers lesser humans to do the practical work for him.

US government does that - for paper money. This will of course come to an end one day.

It would have been more in our interest to let the Kenyans and the Ethiopians (non-Islamic states) do as they wish with Somalia.

Indeed. We protect our shipping, and let Somalia fight until the will to do so is broken. Our delicate and limited interventions always leave the opponents with the will to fight intact, and that just doesn't work.

Russia leads a more sensible foreign policy. Rather than policing the entire planet with dubious efficiency, they take care of only what is percieved as their own interest, with a vengeance.

Now, it looks like they might get Ukraine their ship - and their tanks - back. That will predictably create real gratitude in Ukraine, who will see that Russia protects their interests. The Russians are selective, and will be seen as protecting their friends. Which in turn makes it attractive to be friendly to Russia.

The US government and EU are too confused to act in a similar stringent and effective manner.

ɱØяñιηg$ʇðя ©™ said...

Ever heard about parley? :p

closed said...

We can help the Somalis deal with pirates .. but they won't like the help they get.

The first bit of help should be using naval fire to level those new rich pirtae loot paid for neighborhoods that have sprung up.

Then carpet bombing areas that tolerate pirates.

Continue until the mention of piracy causes locals to hang the wannabe pirate.

Henrik R Clausen said...

'President' Yusuf might be taking money from both sides:

Report implicates Somali president in piracy

Boy, this stinks...