The US ambassador to Kenya is now urging the transitional government in Somalia to talk to “moderates” in the country’s Islamist movement.

What occurred in the last few weeks was that the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) government was expelled, with tactical aid from the US as well as the involvement of the Ethiopian army; a new government has been installed. The US has also hit suspected terrorist targets in the country, though it’s unclear how successful these were.

What’s curious is that the UIC government, which had been in power for about six months, was that it managed to restore some order to the war-torn country. In fact, the new government may not be as welcome as it may seem, because that order is now threatened with the Islamists fighting back. The Ethiopians’ welcome will also come to an end soon, because the country is seen as very ambitious for influence in Somalia and those ambitions will not be welcomed by Somalis.

What the African Union peacekeepers, on their way to replace the Ethiopians, will be able to provide is unclear as well.

Right now it just seems like a very messy situation. The US ambassador in question, Michael Ranneberger, has said that all elements of Somali society should participate as long as they renounce terrorism, extremism and violence. That’s a fair statement to make, however members of the UIC have just been the victims of violence themselves, so they just may not be ready to renounce it quite yet.

Somalis who have witnessed the civilian casualties imposed on them by US air strikes on suspected terrorist targets can also be mobilized for violence and terrorism, much easier than before.


Ceasefire by Casualties

If the ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants holds, then it will be due to the success of Israeli Foreign Policy in the last few months.

The fervent attacks by Israeli Defense Forces on militant bases in Gaza and the civilian casualties that they caused have proven an effective incentive for the establishment of a truce. After Palestinian women were shot at, after 13 members of the same family were killed in the notorious Beit Hanoun incident, and after Israel failed to respond to international criticism, a truce was announced Saturday night by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

With the US, its closest ally, yielding veto power in the United Nations Security Council, the Israeli government is capable of questionable actions. In fact, the Beit Hanoun shelling drew criticism from the UN Security Council which considered a resolution against Israel. Without surprise, the US vetoed that resolution. The fact that the incident left 19 civilian casualties dead (as well as numbers of wounded), was not enough to merit criticism from the US. Instead, Ambassador John Bolton spoke of an inherent anti-Israeli bias in the United Nations.

The announcement Saturday, and the enforcement of the ceasefire on Sunday, is the result of relentless Israeli efforts to force Palestinian militants to give up their fight. They haven’t. But they have obviously felt it was in the best interest of fellow Gaza citizens that they stop their ineffectual campaign of bombing Israel with Qassam rockets. After all, the Qassam rockets lack precision and rarely hit their targets. They also leave few civilian casualties, because they usually hit non-populated areas. It simply became an unsustainable policy, with countless civilian casualties in the Palestinian Areas and the continuing occupation by Israeli Forces.

While the civilian casualties were never intended by Israel — Beit Hanoun was caused by a “technical failure,” and Israel regularly phones ten minutes before a bombing to wan civilians — they have been in Israel’s favor. The shooting at civilian women who were shielding militants at a mosque, played into the hands of Israel; it made clear that Israel would not be deterred from targeting militants, even if it meant civilian casualties. That incident occurred a few days before Beit Hanoun, which confirmed the reality of Israel’s policy, when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed regret over the incident stopping short of apologizing.

Israeli Restraint

Whenever he faced criticism over Israel’s policy this fall, Olmert has responded with the argument that Israel cannot stand silent while Palestinian militants are bombing Israel. On Sunday, however, Israel did not respond to the several rockets which were launched into Israel upon the commencement of the truce. Olmert invoked Israel’s ability to show restraint, because Israel’s mission was already accomplished. There had been enough civilian casualties to convince Fatah and Hamas to work together in reigning in militant groups.

In fact, Fatah and Hamas began talks immediately after Beit Hanoun to try and come to a unitary government.

This success of Israeli foreign policy comes at a needed time. After the failure of the Lebanon campaign this summer — Hezbollah was armed too well and actually fought back — Israel needed something to reaffirm its influence.

It got that with the Palestinian Occupied territories, by successfully forcing a ceasefire. But it couldn’t do it without unquestionable US support. And innocent Palestinian deaths.