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Avoiding Conflict in the Horn of Africa: U.S. Policy toward Ethiopia and Eritrea [Rush Transcript; Federal News Service]

Speaker: Terrence Lyons, Associate Professor of Conflict Resolution at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University
Presider: Princeton N. Lyman
December 15, 2006
Council on Foreign Relations

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PRINCETON LYMAN:  Welcome to all of you for this conference call and discussion.  It's my great pleasure to introduce Professor Terrence Lyons, who has just written a report, issued by the Council on Foreign Relations, called "Avoiding Conflict in the Horn of Africa:  U.S. Policy Toward Ethiopia and Eritrea."  And I can say that that report also reaches out to take in the recent developments in Somalia and the wider issues of security in the Horn.

I'm delighted to introduce Professor Lyons, who has written this report for the council.  Terrence Lyons is associate professor of conflict resolution at George Mason University, and he is at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution there.  He received his doctorate in international relations from Johns Hopkins University.  He served as a Fellow associated with the Conflict Resolution inn Africa Project at Brookings.  He's been associated with the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo.  He has written extensively on problems of security, on the prospect of elections across the continent.  He is truly one of the experts in this area.

This report, which is one of what we call a Council Special Report, is part of the council's program to produce short, timely reports on critical policy issues.

So it's my great pleasure to turn over to Professor Lyons, who will speak around five to 10 minutes, and then we'll open it up for questions.

Terry, it's over to you.

TERRENCE LYONS:  Thank you very much, Princeton.  And thank you for all your help on this Council Special Report.

It's a great pleasure to speak with all of you about the Horn of Africa, and particularly this recent analysis that I have done.  Let me try to give you a bit of a flavor of the report.  Some of you may have already had a chance to read it, but I will sort of recap some of the main points, and then I'll be very happy to take your questions.

2006 was really a remarkable year for the Horn of Africa to the extent that there was a kind of a general interlinked deterioration of conditions with escalations of conflict and deterioration of governance from the crisis in Ethiopia following the 2005 elections, to problems in Sudan and Darfur, and now most dramatically in the last six months in Somalia.

One of the main analytical points that I want to make in this report is to emphasize the linkages between these different events.  These events have their own dynamics, but they also feed on each other and feed off of each other.  So while today the most urgent question in the Horn of Africa is the rapidly and dangerously escalating conflict between the Islamic Courts and the transitional federal government within Somalia, my argument is, is that the breakdown of the Ethiopian-Eritrea peace implementation process contributes to what makes the Somali crisis particularly dangerous.  So in other words, the dangerous escalation of conflict in Somalia is inherently, and in important ways, connected to the breakdown of the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace process, the Algiers process. 

So let me say a word about the Ethiopia-Eritrea piece, and then I'll say a couple of things about Somalia, and then some things about U.S. foreign policy.

While it hasn't received much attention internationally because it's been relatively quiet, the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace process over the last year has really gone dangerously off the rails and is not receiving, I believe, the international attention that it really deserves.  The UNMEE, the U.N. Mission on Ethiopia,  and Eritrea, has been restricted by Eritrea.  There are some questions about whether it can continue to perform its functions of monitoring the cease-fire on the border, given the restrictions that Eritrea has placed on the force.  The United Nations passed a resolution over a year ago now, threatening Eritrea with sanctions unless they removed those restrictions, and Eritrea seems unphazed unfazed by these threats.

On the other hand, we have the Ethiopian-Eritrean Border Commission, which has made a determination as to where the border ought to lie, a determination of 2002, that Ethiopia has not implemented.  The key symbolic town of Badme was found to be on the Eritrean side of the border.  Ethiopia has tried to find ways to reopen elements of the agreement, but Eritrea has refused to talk.  And at this point, the EEBC, the Ethiopia-Eritrea Border Commission, has almost thrown up its hands in frustration at its inability to get Ethiopia and Eritrea to implement the agreement, and is going forward with what I'll call a virtual demarcation, and the Border Commission will draw a line based on, you know, aerial maps, rather than actually putting border markers down.

The international community, as I say, has not been, I believe, sufficiently seized of this problem.  We know from the 1998-2000 war the devastating humanitarian impact of a return to war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.  And I also think it's fair to say that neither Ethiopia nor Eritrea has demonstrated any ability or willingness to build regional peaceful relations on their own.  And so therefore, an international framework that will push both sides towards regional peacebuilding to defuse their crisis is necessary. 

Specifically on the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace process -- and then I'll say a bit more about the broader region -- let me note a couple of the policy implications. 

The first is that I believe what is needed to contain the potential conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea is a much stronger, multilateral diplomacy that is energized by key players like the United States, but also the European Union and the Africa Union, that will reinvigorate the Ethiopia-Eritrea Border Commission, and UNMEE, and this group that's called the Witnesses to the Algiers Process -- these multilateral mechanisms that were moribund for a while, revived to some extent in the last year, but now seem about to pass, we really need to get that piece right because without that multilateral constraint, the prospects for war between Ethiopia and Eritrea are much, much higher. 

In particular, I think the Ethiopia-Eritrea Border Commission's decision to go forward with this kind of virtual demarcation is an unwise and potentially dangerous decision, and the international community should urge them to reconsider.  What matters is the nature of the relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and that there is a format, a platform, an arena for them to talk, rather than rushing to implement in a technical way where the border ought to be.  So in other words, rather than emphasizing we have to finish this process and get the border demarcated, I would argue what is more important is we need to maintain multilateral arenas for Ethiopia and Eritrea to develop their relationships in a non-violent way. 

The Council on Foreign Relations report has sections on the growing authoritarianism in both Ethiopia and Eritrea, that I will say little about at the moment, except to say that the stalemate on the Ethiopian-Eritrean border feeds and in turn is fed by this growing authoritarianism.  So that in Eritrea, President Isaias Afewerki can keep the dialogue on the question of implementing the border, and Ethiopia and the international community's failures, in Asmara's point of view, rather than talking about the hard issues of elections and return to constitutional rule.  And in Ethiopia as well, the threats emanating from Eritrea help justify a crackdown on Ethiopian opposition. 

I can say more about that if people have questions, but I want to get a bit to the Somalia piece, which I think is probably animating much of your interests, and then say a few more things about U.S. foreign policy. 

So given what I've said about Ethiopia and Eritrea, my argument is that a key dynamic, a key driver behind the Somali crisis of today is this Ethiopian-Eritrean proxy war, this conflict between those two states that has been frozen at the border and has now been displaced into Somalia.  So Ethiopia has been supporting the transitional federal government in Baidoa, backing its longtime Abdullahi Yusuf, while Eritrea, consistent with a deeply ingrained pattern of supporting the enemy of one's enemy, has been providing arms and training to a range of anti-Ethiopian forces operating from Somalia -- not only the Islamic Courts, but also insurgent movements from Ethiopia, notably the Oromo Liberation Front and the Ogaden National Liberation Front. 

And so the real explosive potential of conflict in Somalia, in my mind, is less because of a fight between the TFG and the Union of Islamic Courts, but rather a region-wide war that brings in Ethiopia on one side, Eritrea on the other, and has the potential to spread across the border into Kenya and Djibouti, and really creating a region-wide conflict and humanitarian emergency.  The Islamic Courts Movement is very, very diverse, has many elements in it.  The hardline Islamists, who the Americans often point to, are indeed one element of the Islamic Courts, but they're not the only one.  But there are some within the Islamic Courts who would very much like to provoke a fight with Ethiopia.  That would allow them to use the Somali Nationalism to combine with Islam into a very powerful movement.  So -- and Ethiopia has been -- is having great difficulties in resisting those provocations.

Eritrea as well is trying to provoke Ethiopia to go into the Ogaden, to end the threats and the provocations that are coming through Somalia; not only the Islamic Courts, but the Oromo Liberation Front and the Ogaden National Liberation Front.

And so it's my sense that what Addis Ababa is most worried about is not Islamic law in Mogadishu or what the Islamic Courts are doing within Somalia, but rather how these larger conflicts, the conflict with Eritrea and the conflict within Ethiopia with insurgent groups like the Oromo and the Ogadeni are fed by political developments within Somalia.  So that's what Addis Ababa is worried about, in my view, is that they see Somalia as a threat of -- from Eritrea and from other anti-EPRDF groups like the ONLF and the OLF.  So that's why I want to emphasize that recognizing the linkages, developing a global diplomatic strategy to try to reinvigorate the dangerously stalled Ethiopia-Eritrea peace process is in fact key to managing the crisis within Somalia.

Okay.  Two things, really, about U.S. foreign policy, more generally.

The first is that U.S. foreign policy towards the Horn of Africa has been episodic, has been not focused on questions like Ethiopia-Eritrea, but rather Darfur and counterterrorism issues and that what is needed is a comprehensive policy that recognizes the regional linkages, looks for opportunities in one part of this conflict system, the central link set of conflicts that will have positive impacts on other parts of the conflict system.

Let me also say about the -- well, the U.S. action, rather than pursing such a diplomatic, political, regional approach, has in fact been pushing a very narrow sense of U.S. national interest and particular concern with counterterrorism issues.  That led the United States to push for this Resolution 1725 in the United Nations.

I say in the paper that I think that resolution was both provocative but also largely symbolic; provocative because it's unambiguously designed to try to constrain, contain, if you will, the Islamic Courts, but largely symbolic because once Ethiopia was -- Ethiopian troops were no longer authorized by this resolution -- the neighboring states were excluded -- there became very little chance, very little prospect that Uganda's really going to send a meaningful force into Baidoa in the kind of time scale that is necessary to avert some -- a crisis.

And so the resolution helped link the United States ever more closely to Ethiopia -- which is dangerous for the United States; and, frankly, I don't think it's, in this case, particularly good for Ethiopia or the transitional federal government -- and in that way has made conflict and the implications of such a conflict in Somalia for U.S. interests in greater danger.

Let me conclude with that, and I'd be happy to take some questions.

LYMAN:  Thank you very much, Terry, and you've covered a lot of territory.

Let's see, operator, if there are any questions already.

OPERATOR:  Okay.  At this time, we will open the floor for questions.  If you would like to ask a question, please press the star key followed by the one key on your touch-tone phone now.  Questions will be taken in the order in which they are received.  Again, that's star, one to ask a question.

Our first question today comes from Carol Lundston Lumsden(sp).

QUESTIONER:  Hi.  I'm interested in -- you're talking about the Eritrean government in becoming more repressive, isolated and unpredictable since 2000, and I was just wondering what's the cost of that.

LYONS:  Well, the first -- maybe just to reiterate the premise, once the peace agreement was signed in 2000, Eritrea, in particular, had a very sharp decline into greater authoritarianism as some very senior Eritrean officials signed a petition looking for a political opening and in fact were arrested and have been held ever since.  The Eritrean government comes out of -- the Eritrean regime rather comes out of a very specific type of political process, and that's the process of national liberation struggle, where after many in the international community wrote off the Eritrean -- well, the prospects for an independent Eritrea.  Isaias Afewerki and the people around him persisted in the armed struggle of that their way was right, a compromise was not necessary, that by understanding the issue and being steadfast you could prevail.  And so the outcome of the war with Ethiopia reactivated those tendencies, provided the regime with a ready-made and in some ways very real threat that Ethiopia was going to threaten, was going to attack a still fledgling Eritrea state.

Maybe take one more kind of -- more -- a larger answer to the question, and that is Eritrea is a new state in a way.  It hasn't yet filled in its space or made its borders real on the ground as opposed to the colonial lines that have the international legal authority.  And so it's had tensions with each of its neighbors, and in some sense that's not surprising.  A lot of new states go through that process, and so that has led the regime -- the PLF regime in Eritrea to be very intolerant of even -- of any kind of dissent not only from political opposition, but from the media, from independent church groups, from civil society organizations, from student organizations, international NGOs.  It has really sort of closed itself off and, you know, moved into this kind of hyper defensive position.

QUESTIONER:  Can you hear me?

LYONS:  Yes, I can.

QUESTIONER:  Oh, great.  Okay.  This is Carolyn Lundstonmsden (sp) again, and I hope I'm not hogging time here.  But can you talk about the -- it sounds like Eritrea has very little support.  Are there terrorist groups that are playing a hand in Eritrea at all or --

LYONS:  I don't have any information about terrorist groups per se.  It's -- there are certainly national liberation movements, insurgent groups that are fighting in the Ethiopian state who are operating out of Eritrea.  Some like the Roman Liberation Front have long-standing history and have been engaging in an armed struggle for many, many years, and I would not characterize them as a terrorist group, but rather as a significant constituency within Ethiopia that's not currently found a way or been given a way into formal politics.

As Eritrea has become, you know, increasingly isolated, it has reached out or built relations with states such as Iran most recently or Libya that certainly the United States would have concerns about, but that's partly other options have been closed down.  The relations between the United States and Eritrea are at an extremely low level in relations with the rest of Europe and other donors that have been so great either -- quite weak as well.

QUESTIONER:  Yeah.  Do we have an embassy in Eritrea?

LYONS:  We do have an embassy.  The AID mission has closed down, but we retain certainly embassy.  I presume there's an ambassador still out there. I'd have to make sure that there wasn't -- the slot wasn't closed at the moment, but we still have relations at that level.

QUESTIONER:  I was in Eritrea about 10 years ago, which is why I'm just -- it's such a beautiful country --

LYONS:  It's a wonderful place.

QUESTIONER:  Yeah.

LYMAN:  Should we see if there's another question?  I'm sorry, Carolyn, but I just want to check with the operator.  Is there someone else?

OPERATOR:  Yes, we do have a question from Michelle Kilman Keleman(sp).

LYMAN:  Michelle?  Michelle, are you there?

QUESTIONER:  Can you hear me?

LYMAN:  Michelle?

QUESTIONER:  Can you hear me?

LYMAN:  I hear you now.

QUESTIONER:  Okay.  Great.  Thanks.  Nice to talk to you.  I wanted to ask about U.S. options on Somalia.  I mean, there just seem to be no good options.  I'm wondering what advice you would be giving the State Department, the Bush administration right now.  And, you know, given the fact that they're talking about al Qaeda having such a strong foothold now in Mogadishu, whether you think the response should be much more vigorous than it's been so far.  Thanks.

LYONS:  Thank you.

Part of my answer to that is -- and it's maybe perhaps a longer-term agenda rather than a policy recommendation that relates to the immediacy of the crisis, but is to recognize that other issues in the Horn are feeding the conflict within Somalia and that there may be opportunities -- I would argue there are opportunities to move forward with things like the Ethiopia-Eritrea border conflict and political reform within the states of the Horn that would then (defuse/diffuse ?) some of the real explosive potential of the conflict within Somalia. 

But within Somalia itself, and recognizing that policymakers are facing a really difficult short-term set of conflicts -- of crises, I would urge the Bush administration and other international actors to treat the Islamic Courts within the Somali context.  First of all, they are not monolithic.  There's a lot of different forces that are coalescing at the moment around the Islamic Courts.  But there's other -- to see them as a monolithic al Qaeda cell is to misunderstand the nature of the movement, misunderstand how clan politics still cut across Somalia and shape, at least in part, the Islamic Courts movement. 

And rather than getting -- the United States has managed to work itself into the position that the Islamic Courts can now claim that their enemies are Ethiopia and the United States.  That's a very popular set of enemies if you're in Somalia; that neither the United States nor Ethiopia are regarded as having been supportive of the Somali nation of late.  Rather than allow that to be the fight, the United States against the Islamic Courts, or Ethiopia against the Islamic Courts, work with the courts on questions within Somalia.  What is their position on governance issues?  How do they see power sharing with the full range of clans?  What is their position on borders and the Ogaden and Somaliland and other places?  What is their answer on questions of women's rights and Shari'a and so on?  Have that be the debate rather than are you for or against Islam and its fight against the United States.  That's not the ground that favors Washington's interests in a stable Horn of Africa.  And I worry that the U.N. resolution helped -- has reinforced that image that the United States was working hand in hand with Ethiopia in support of the enemies of the Islamic Courts.

LYMAN:  Michelle - and Terry, if you don't mind --

LYONS:  Sure.

LYMAN:  I would add another element to this.  This is Princeton Lyman.  That we need -- the U.S., in my view, needs to reach out to some of the supporters of this Islamic movement.  When you look at the U.N. report as to where they're getting support from abroad, it includes countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.  These are countries that perhaps have more influence with that movement directly than we do, and we need a mechanism to engage them on the issues that worry us about the Islamic Court movement.  And we need a structure, a diplomatic structure for doing that, which I don't yet see in place.

LYONS:  I think that's right, that this needs to move up the list of diplomatic priorities so that it does become a matter that's raised in the course of the relationships with Egypt and Saudi Arabia and other countries.

LYMAN:  Are there other questions, Operator?  Is anybody else waiting?

OPERATOR:  Okay, we have no further questions at this time.  And just a reminder:  If you would lie to ask a question, please press the star key followed by the "1" key on your touch-tone phone.

LYMAN:  I'll then use this opportunity, Terry, to ask you a question, if I may.

LYONS:  Sure.

LYMAN:  And that goes to the other side of the question that we got from Carolyn Lundston msden(sp).  And that's on the Ethiopia side.  What is driving the political situation internally in Ethiopia?  How is that being affected by the regional situation?  And if you can, just add in a little word about where the diaspora comes in on this.

LYONS:  Yeah.  It's hard to have a short answer to that, but let me try.  Ethiopia had a remarkable political opening in May 2005, when they had really quite competitive multiparty elections that the opposition did very, very well, particularly in urban areas, but other areas as well, in Harar region, but really across the country; a real, unmistakable vote that many people -- I won't say the majority, but it's hard to say -- but there's a sizeable constituency within Ethiopia that wants change, that have had 14 years, 15 years of EPRDF rule and is looking for something new.

Unfortunately, rather than getting that, or rather than the elections serving as the first step of a process of change, the EPRDF government cracked down, arrested the main political opposition leadership within Ethiopia, as well as some important journalists and civil society leaders, and had them on trial for the past year.  And so that really -- that resulted in what I've called the criminalization of dissent, that it is now extremely dangerous to express or to mobilize around dissent within Ethiopia. 

Now, the diaspora -- the EPRDF, the government in Ethiopia, regards the diaspora as one of its main opponents and, in fact, has indicted some of the main leaders in the diaspora for these charges of conspiracy, actually genocide and conspiracy, that arose in the post-election crisis.  The diaspora is a very significant presence in North America, and particularly in Washington.  And it is also quite diverse.  There's significant support for the Oromo Liberation Front within the diaspora as well.  But a key, very vocal group that are -- were supporters of the CUD, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party, whose leaders are now in jail.  And they have been -- they have provided some of the resources that allowed opposition groups to mobilize within Ethiopia.  Their websites and list-serves and other kind of new media -- radio stations, for example, that broadcast across the Internet -- have been a main way to mobilize within Ethiopia.  And in a significant way, the diaspora has helped shape the political debates that take place within Ethiopia.  Now, I would note that they played a role both in the political opening of 2005, as well as the subsequent crisis.

The other thing about the diaspora, at least here in North America, is they've become very well organized and really quite skilled at lobbying.  They've formed organizations and have pressed Congress to pass legislation, have made their positions known within the World Bank, and within the State Department, and other institutions of power, and in a very professional way are now a major constituency that Washington policymakers are taking into account.  So the diaspora is part of this equation.

LYMAN:  Operator, are there other questions on the line?

OPERATOR:  We do have three questions, and our first one comes from Miss Lundston (sp)Ms. Lumsden.

QUESTIONER:  Hi.  Just one more question, and I'll stop.  I was just wondering how much, if at all, Islam plays a role in the tensions.

LYONS:  Well, both Ethiopia and Eritrea have significant Muslim populations, as well as Christian populations.  Ethiopia is probably pretty close to evenly divided between Christians and Muslims, although it has a kind of historical identity as a Christian state, with significant numbers of Muslims among the Oromo, and the Somali, and the Afar, and a whole host of significant ethnic groups.  In the past, Islam within Ethiopia has tended to be kind of local, moderate, not tied to larger international Islamic movements.  And I think that's still true. 

There's a possibility that if there is a -- one of the reasons to worry about an Ethiopian-Islamic Courts really pitched battle is that it might change the usual moderate attitudes of Ethiopian Muslims, and that would contribute to destabilizing the region.  But the fight between Ethiopia and the Islamic Courts I would argue is not about Islam, it's about security worries that the Ethiopian state has with relation to Eritrea and the OLF, ONLF, and a desire from the Islamic Courts to expand their zone of control, to move forward with their state-building project.

QUESTIONER:  Thank you.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Liz Harper(sp).

QUESTIONER:  This is Liz Harper(sp) from the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.  A question about how the courts fund their operations.  Where are they getting money?

LYONS:  Yeah, the -- some of that goes back to the question -- the point that Princeton Lyman was making, is the -- the U.N. report that monitors -- well, there's a U.N. committee established to monitor the arms embargo on Somalia, which is -- the arms embargo is full of holes and there's all kinds of weapons flowing into Somalia.  But they also -- they track the relationships between other states and actors within Somalia, and they have -- they report links to Saudi Arabia and to other states in the Arab world and to Egypt and that presumably some of the funding is coming through those channels.

QUESTIONER:  To the courts.

LYONS:  Say that again.

QUESTIONER:  So some of the funding is --

LYONS:  Through the courts --

QUESTIONER:  -- so the courts are involved arms trafficking.

LYONS:  Right -- is coming from external states:  Libya, Saudi Arabia and the other states that are identified in the U.N. report.  But another source comes from within Somalia, the Somali business community.  Many within the Somali business community have been willing to cooperate with courts because the courts have brought stability, have brought the reduction of violence.  Within Mogadishu, for example, the port was able to open, businessmen are able to do more -- engage in more extensive trading because of the stability that the courts have brought.  And so they are providing some of the resources that keep the Islamic Courts operating.

QUESTIONER:  How much are you talking about?

LYONS:  In terms of level of dollars?

QUESTIONER:  Yeah, from the business class.

LYONS:  Yeah, I wouldn't have any accurate measure of that.  The total -- taking it from a military point of view, the Islamic Courts do far more than have a militia, they do a lot of --

QUESTIONER:  Absolutely.  Yeah.

LYONS:  -- justice, and, you know, they're doing lots and lots of things.  But their military in terms of how many soldiers are actually -- how many militia men are actually mobilized is not that large because you don't need that many in order to be very powerful within Somalia.  So -- but I don't really have any independent information about the level of support.

QUESTIONER:  Yeah, it seems like they sort of have a -- you know, a quasi government, so I was wondering how they cut that impact and people paid.

A follow-up question, going to -- looking at the region, does Uganda take a side on all of this?

LYONS:  Uganda is --

QUESTIONER:  And Kenya.

LYONS:  Yeah.  The -- Kenya -- the peace talks that resulted in the transitional federal government were held in Nairobi with Kenyan diplomats playing an important role, and the Kenyans have been very proud of that effort, as I think they deserve to be.  That was a difficult set of negotiations, and they skillfully contributed to their conclusion.  And so they're reluctant to see the transitional federal government be, you know, pushed by the wayside.

On the other hand, they have -- you know, there are plenty of Somalis in northern Kenya, Somali refugees very heavily present in northern Kenya, and so Kenya is -- has been active in trying to find some kind of power-sharing deal or cease-fire or a way that the courts and the transitional federal government can coexist or to deescalate the conflict.

Uganda is -- has offered troops as part of this U.N. peacekeeping deal to send troops to Baidoa to protect the transitional government there, but that was an offer that was made kind of in the abstract some time ago.  Now that the actual resolution has been passed and key states like Ethiopia are no longer empowered or no longer authorized under that resolution to send in troops, there's been some reconsideration within Uganda, because traditionally Uganda is not extensively engaged in Somalia.  They don't share a border.  They don't have a history of contact in the same way that Kenya and Ethiopia do.

QUESTIONER:  Okay.  And could I ask one last question?  What do you anticipate to happen next as far as either the U.N. resolution or in the region?

LYONS:  The greatest kind of short-term worry is that Ethiopia will intervene in a larger way than it already has.  And there are Ethiopian troops in Somalia protecting the transitional federal government, but that Ethiopia will believe that it has to strike back at the Islamic Courts.  Meles Zenawi was quoted in The New York Times the other day as having told General Abizaid that it was time to cripple the Islamic Courts and that he could do it in one or two weeks.  I don't know if that's a true quote.  As I said, it's from the New York Times story. 

But if that reflects an attitude within Ethiopia that now is the time to strike, that is very worrisome because the concern would be not whether the Ethiopians can strike, but that they become bogged down.  The idea that you could get into Somalia quickly and then leave quickly was not the experience of the U.N. forces in the early '90s when the United States got bogged down, and it's not the experience of the United States in Iraq today.  That it's very, very difficult to do that kind of quick strike and then leave.  There's nothing significant to bomb, for example, that would really affect the Islamic Courts. 

So it's a very hard military challenge.  But that would be the worry, that the next step will be what does Meles Zenawi do, does he think that now is the time to take action in Somalia with the Islamic -- some within the Islamic Courts, with Eritrea and others really, I think, trying to provoke this fight.

The U.N. resolution, I think, has the ill effect of associating the United States with Ethiopia in this context, but it does not have an effect of actually putting troops on the ground, because it does not authorize Ethiopian troops, and the Ugandans are not coming any time soon.

QUESTIONER:  Okay, thank you.

LYONS:  Very welcome.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Richard Roth.

QUESTIONER:  Good afternoon.  I haven't really been able to listen as these conference calls tend to go during the daytime.  I wish they were actually at midnight, when I can focus.  But hello to both of you and all ships at sea.

MR.LYMAN      :  Hello, Richard.

QUESTIONER:  So I really haven't been able to -- I'm going to look at the notes later.  And maybe you covered this, so I'll stick with a safe answer -- question, maybe nobody did, about the new secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon.  What should he be doing about Somalia, and how far up on his radar screen do you really think it is?  And could he play a new role as a fresh face?

LYONS:  Boy, that is a great question.  I'm not sure I have any strong insight.  The U.N. resolution that is now -- you know, was passed unanimously by the Security Council, including by the African and other -- you know, not just the United States, but China and Russia and the African members of the committee and so forth -- of the Security Council -- is the kind of the standing document with regard to Somalia.  What that resolution does is provides the legitimacy for an Africa force.  I would not urge the United Nations to push to get that Africa force in the field quickly or to put great stock that this African force is really going to be able to contain the conflict.

Second point that I think the U.N. ought to be seized with, the new secretary -general needs to focus on, is the U.N. role on the Ethiopian-Eritrean borer.  The U.N. peace mission there is really floundering.  Outrageous restrictions have been placed on it by the Eritreans.  The U.N. threatened sanctions unless the restrictions were moved.  The restrictions have not been removed.  The Eritreans have actually escalated their fight, this struggle with the United Nations, by arresting the Eritreans who were working with the United Nations and so forth.  That I think that unattended, the Ethiopia-Eritrea border issue could escalate.  And in the context of a fight between Ethiopia and Somalia, those conflicts would feed off each other and would really create a very dire situation in the region.  So I guess that's my response to that.

LYMAN:  Operator, are there further questions?

OPERATOR:  No, sir, there are no further questions at this time.

LYMAN:  Let me ask, then, one.  I want to follow up on a question from Liz Harper. 

Terry, in your report, you said that given the military balance that had existed more or less between Eriteria and Ethiopia before this Somali crisis, that it was unlikely that Eritrea would initiate a new war because the balance of power would have been clearly on the Ethiopian side.  I'm wondering now, with Ethiopian troops increasingly focused on Somalia, and given the facts that Isaias is not always a rational man, that there is a danger now, a greater danger now that the Eritrea and Ethiopia border issue could blow up again.

LYONS:  Yeah, I do think that the sort of sustained stalemate on the border is now at risk because of the escalating proxy war in Somalia.  And so a scenario of Ethiopia getting bogged down in Somalia with some significant number of troops deployed there might provoke an Eritrea that has been extremely frustrated with the Algiers peace process (that) has been stalled and that Ethiopia has not accepted the border demarcation.  So if Ethiopia is tied down in Somalia, that there would be pressure within Eritrea to seize what the Ethiopia-Eritrea border commission has declared to be theirs, and that's the town of Badme; in other words, to create facts on the ground that would be consistent with the International Border Demarcation, but through a process of unilateral military action.  That would -- so that the -- what has been a border -- what has been a stable border between Ethiopia and Eritrea could become very unstable because of the escalating conflict within Somalia.

Also, in time, I suppose, if Ethiopia feels that the provocations coming from Somalia -- the Eritrean provocations coming through Somalia are better -- have to be -- the only way to address them is to engage in regime change in Asmara, they might make -- take a decision that it's better to go north across the Ethiopian-Eritrean border rather than into the desert of Somalia.  I think that would be -- Ethiopia would become bogged down in Eritrea in the same way that it would be bogged down in Somalia, but I think the threat of those kinds of military moves increases as conflict in Somalia escalates.

LYMAN:  Thank you.

Operator, do you have another question there?

OPERATOR:  No, sir, there are no questions at this time.

LYMAN:  Well, let me ask one more, and then we'll wrap it up, if I can, Terry, and that's to follow up on Richard Roth's question about the role of the secretary-general.

As you pointed out, the U.N. resolution sort of gives him marching orders which are of a very particular kind.  But do you think he could rise above that to play a broader diplomatic role in spite of that resolution, reaching out more broadly than either we or the U.N. resolution does to other countries and to see if there's a way to calm down the situation?

LYONS:  Well, in some ways, maybe that is the serendipitous part of having a new secretary-general is that he, more than Kofi Annan perhaps, can look at these questions fresh and say, you know, what can I as the secretary-general of the United Nations do at a broader, more regional level, and thereby try to activate some of these regional processes that you were referring to earlier, discussions with Saudi Arabia and Egypt about what they really are -- what are their goals in Somalia, really trying to strengthen a diplomatic initiative for power sharing between the Islamic Courts and the Transitional Federal Government, really pushing to enforce the arms embargo -- which is also a U.N. marching order, to have an arms embargo on Somalia, with a limited exception in this latest resolution -- but through those activities creating a larger, multilateral, international framework that looked at the issues regionally and through their linkages -- I mean, beyond the Horn of Africa regionally to include the Arab world that is inherently linked to the conflict.

LYMAN:  Thank you.  Any other questions?

OPERATOR:  Just a reminder.  If you would like to ask a question, please press the star key followed the one key.

LYMAN:  If there are none, we can wrap up, and I want to make sure there are no further questions.

OPERATOR:  No, sir, there are no further questions.

LYMAN:  Well, then I want to thank all of you who participated, and above all to thank Professor Terry Lyons.  You can download this report through the Council on Foreign Relations website -- www.cfr.org -- or I think it also shows you a way to order hard copies.  And I recommend the report.  It's really a first-class piece of work.

Terry, thank you very much for today and for all your work on this report, and thanks to everybody, and to everybody, happy holidays.

LYONS:  Thank you, everybody, from me as well.  It's been a pleasure.

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