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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06ADDISABABA2763
2006-10-12 13:02:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Addis Ababa
Cable title:  

PM MELES: ETHIOPIA WILL CONTAIN THE ISLAMIC COURTS

Tags:   ET  MOPS  PREL  PTER 
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DE RUEHDS #2763/01 2851302
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O 121302Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2857
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/USCINCCENT MACDILL AFB FL IMMEDIATE
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 ADDIS ABABA 002763 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

AF FOR A/S FRAZER AND DAS YAMAMOTO FROM CHARGE HUDDLESTON

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/10/2016
TAGS: ET MOPS PREL PTER
SUBJECT: PM MELES: ETHIOPIA WILL CONTAIN THE ISLAMIC COURTS
BY FORCE IF NO UNSC ACTION

Classified By: CHARGE VICKI HUDDLESTON FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 ADDIS ABABA 002763

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

AF FOR A/S FRAZER AND DAS YAMAMOTO FROM CHARGE HUDDLESTON

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/10/2016
TAGS: ET MOPS PREL PTER
SUBJECT: PM MELES: ETHIOPIA WILL CONTAIN THE ISLAMIC COURTS
BY FORCE IF NO UNSC ACTION

Classified By: CHARGE VICKI HUDDLESTON FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).


1. (C) Summary: Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
Theresa Whelan met with Prime Minister Meles, Minister of
State Tekeda and Defense Chief of Staff Samora on October 10.
Whelan was accompanied by DATT Col. Zedler, OSD Rep Lt. Col.
Atallah and myself. Meles argued that the best way to
contain the Council of Islamic Courts (CIC) and stop its
momentum was with physical force that could then lead to
serious discussion. Lifting the arms embargo on Somalia's
Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and deploying a Ugandan
battalion or even a smaller force would secure Baidoa while
Ethiopian forces trained the TFG troops. Meles indicated
that if the international community failed to act by the end
of Ramadan, Ethiopia would likely be forced to confront the
CIC at Beledwyne, a town about 12 miles from Ethiopia's
border and on the road to the Ethiopian Somali regional
capital of Gode. Ethiopia had informed the CIC that it had
two red-lines that must not be crossed. One was Baidoa and
the other Beledwyne. The CIC had taken a town next to
Beledwyne in order to suck Ethiopia into a conflict and
derail prospects of an IGAD/Ugandan peacekeeping mission to
Baidoa, Meles said. If the UN acted promptly and approved
the deployment of the Ugandans, then Ethiopia would show
restraint. If the UNSC failed to act, Ethiopia would
establish a buffer zone on the border and reinforce Baidoa.
It would not move its troops deep into Somalia; Ethiopia
would be "restrained" and its strategy would be a "holding
action" to deter the CIC, Mele claimed. Containing the CIC at
this point would break its momentum and allow moderates and
clans to pull away from the hard-line CIC Islamist
leadership. If the CIC is not contained, Meles said, it will
devour all of Somalia and attempt to destabilize Ethiopia,
given the large presence of Ethiopian insurgents and the
backing of Eritrea for the CIC. Whelan indicated that she

doubted that there would be funding for the IGASOM mission
and suggested that perhaps the international community could
warn the CIC not to expand further. Meles asked that the US
express dismay but not condemn Ethiopia if the UNSC does not
approve the IGAD mission and Ethiopian forces deploy to
Beledwyne, since Ethiopia would be acting in its own self
defense. Meles promised again to let us know of any
significant troop movements in advance. End summary.


2. (C) Comment: From embassy's vantage point, the lifting of
the arms embargo on the TFG and the deployment of a small
IGAD/Ugandan force could prevent an Ethiopian counter attack
on Beledwyne and possibly a wider war. At a minimum, the
partial lifting of the arms embargo soon, along with an
international statement telling the CIC that further
expansion is unacceptable, would demonstrate the
international community's commitment to the TFG and might
force the CIC to the negotiating table. In order to convince
Ethiopia that it should not attack the CIC in Beledwyne, the
international community will need to take action that will
allow the TFG - as well as Puntland and Somaliland -- to
survive and Ethiopia to be secure from infiltration by
insurgents. The package Meles wants is the partial lifting of
the embargo and a small IGAD/Ugandan battalion in Baidoa. An
even more minimal package would be partial lifting of the
arms embargo, an international statement, and resumed talks
between the TFG and CIC, possibly including Puntland and
Somaliland. Meles is convinced that a Somalia led by CIC
leader Aweys -- now made even more dangerous by the growing
Al Shabab terrorist -- is pursuing regime change in Ethiopia
as well as in Somalia. As the CIC grows in strength, Meles
must necessarily begin to calculate at what point will he be
forced to fight while he can still win. The TPLF Congress has
made it clear that the Government will deal harshly with
illegal activities and address Eritrea's pressure on Ethiopia
via Somalia by dealing with the local insurgents. This means
that as long as Ethiopia is threatened externally it will
react harshly to internal challenges it considers illegal. At
the same time, the TPLF Congress agreed that the Government
had not done enough on governance and should improve its
performance on civil society, democracy and capacity
building. If the insurgents gain the upper hand, it will be
difficult to maintain momentum for creating internal
political space. Already hundreds of OLF, ONLF, and AIAI
insurgents fighting with the CIC are moving into Ethiopia's
Ogaden region. The Somalis have failed to stop the CIC, if
the international community fails as well, Ethiopia will do
it -- or attempt to do it. End comment.


3. (U) This cable was not cleared by Deputy Assistant
Secretary of Defense Theresa Whelan.

SIPDIS

ADDIS ABAB 00002763 002 OF 004




4. (C) PM Meles told DAS Whelan that the objective of the CIC
is to rule all of Somalia by whatever means possible,
including talks in Khartoum, subversive activities, and the
force of arms. If the CIC takes control of Somalia, it will
not be a force for stability. The jihadist base of the CIC
will expand into a jihadist state. This, Meles said, is
illustrated by the fact that those fighting with the CIC --
Eritrea, OLF, ONLF, and AIAI -- want to destabilize
Ethiopia. Ethiopia is portrayed as the enemy of Islam and
the "Israel of the region"; at the beginning of Ramadan, the
CIC declared a jihad against Ethiopia. The PM argued that
the hard line CIC leadership under Aweys is an arch enemy of
Ethiopia, and it is this leadership that controls the outside
funding, arms and training that are fueling the CIC successes
in Kismayo and along the Ethiopian/Somali border. In Meles'
view, these recent victories mean that the only way the CIC
can be stopped is if it loses momentum; clan and ideological
difference will then separate factions and break apart the
CIC.


5. (C) According to Meles, physical force must be combined
with talks because the CIC will only negotiate when forced to
do so. Meles said the best option is for the Somalis -- the
TFG, Puntland, and Somaliland -- to themselves stop the CIC.
So far the Somalis have been unable to do so, however, and
will not be able to do so unless the TFG is strengthened by a
partial lifting of the arms embargo. This would permit the
deployment of a peacekeeping force that would provide
security in Baidoa while Ethiopia trains the TFG's 5,000
troops. According to General Samora, Ethiopia has two force
protection/training teams in Baidoa numbering from 70 t0 100
and one training team in Puntland. If a Ugandan battalion
provided security in Baidoa, the Ethiopians could train
greater numbers of TFG troops. Samora estimated that within
three months the TFG would be in a position to defend itself.
Meles estimated that the Ugandan battalion would be needed
for about six to nine months and that it would arrive with
only small arms. General Samora said that it was not the
intention of the Ugandan forces to use Kismayo as an entry
point, contrary to claims by the CIC; rather, these troops
would be air lifted directly to Baidoa or travel from Kampala
via Moyale to Baidoa. The Ethiopians would provide all the
heavy weapons and back-up, should the Ugandans be attacked.
The price tag suggested by the Ugandans appeared to be high,
given that they will need only lodging, food, and per diem,
according to Samora.


6. (C) Meles argued that the strategy of the CIC is to suck
Ethiopia into a war because the CIC believes that the
international community will rally against Ethiopia. The CIC
propaganda that Ethiopians will serve as a rally point for
Somalis to attack the TFG is wrong. Ethiopia has had
excellent relations with Somalis over the last ten years.
When Ethiopian troops entered Somalia to back up Baidoa, the
Somali population did not reject their presence. Samora
pointed out that over 200,000 Somalis live in Addis Ababa and
many travel to Somalia; Ethiopia has been far more welcoming
than other neighboring countries. (Comment: it is ironic
that the majority of Ethiopians who are currently in Somalia
- seemingly without problems - are fighting for the CIC! End
comment.) The presence of the IGAD/Ugandan peacekeepers
would be an ideal way to contain the CIC and reinforce the
TFG, but it is not happening fast enough, Meles complained.
As a result, the CIC is trying to preempt IGAD by gaining
momentum though successful occupation of Kismayo and border
towns.


7. (C) Meles pointed out that the CIC has crossed one of
Ethiopia's two "red-lines", which are Baidoa and Beledwyne.
The CIC has taken Kaliber, a small town close to Beledwyne
located nine miles from the Ethiopian town of Ferfer on the
road to Gode, a regional capital of Ethiopia's Somali
region. "This puts US in a spot," Meles said. "If we don't
respond, we will be seen as bluffing. But if we act, then we
will subvert the IGAD peacekeeping mission." Meles said that
the CIC knows that Baidoa and Beledwyne are red lines, but
moved ahead to provoke Ethiopia. He said he is worried that
the CIC might imagine that Ethiopia is not reacting because
of pressure from the international community, and will
therefore continue to expand. Still, Meles said, Ethiopia is
ready to refrain from an attack on the CIC at Beledwyne in
the expectation of an IGAD package. Meles said that Ethiopia
could use Ramadan as an excuse not to confront the CIC over
Beledwyne, but would have to ask the US and the UK to speed
up (UNSC work on the arms embargo and IGASOM.) Once Ramadan

ADDIS ABAB 00002763 003.2 OF 004


was over, Ethiopia would have to act, Meles warned.


8. (C) While awaiting action on partial lifting of the arms
embargo and approval of an IGASOM, Ethiopia has taken
precautionary measures, Meles said. The Ethiopian National
Defense Force (ENDF) is protecting the bridge at Luk on the
road from the border to Baidoa. As in the past, Ethiopian
forces will move into the staging ground behind Baidoa to
protect it from a CIC assault. The ENDF is building up its
forces in Ferfer and on the border. So, Meles warned, "after
Ramadan we will be ready to act if the UNSC fails to act and
Uganda doesn't arrive. If we move militarily, we will
reinforce Baidoa and train and equip the TFG in Baidoa and
then withdraw. We will also be prepared to disrupt the CIC
movement into Puntland and Somaliland. We have some troops
in Galacayo now. If we move toward Beledwyne, then this
would be a thorn in the back of the CIC as it moves on
Puntland. We would not go further than Beledwyne and then
return," Meles claimed. Stopping the CIC movement will
encourage clans to fall out of the CIC orbit, including
possibly Kismayo. The GOE's objective would be containment
of the CIC, not a military movement beyond setting up a
buffer on the border and reinforcing Baidoa and Puntland, the
PM explained. This strategy was reinforced by State Minister
Tekeda's observation that Ethiopia is urging an alliance
among the TFG, Puntland and Somaliland. Ethiopia's position
on Somaliland has already shifted toward more accommodation
on some kind of autonomy.


9. (C) When Meles said that Ethiopia could avoid a
confrontation with the CIC if the Ugandans were to provide
security for Baidoa, DAS Whelan asked how that would work;
wouldn't there be the same scenario, she asked? Meles
replied that Ethiopia would have to restrain itself and not
take the CIC out of Beledwyne. But the CIC would understand
that Ethiopia's actions were dictated by its cooperation with
the international community and not as weakness. Whelan then
asked if it would not be tempting for the CIC to attack the
Ugandans. Meles replied that the CIC would test the
Ugandans, but that if there were an attack, Ethiopian troops
could legitimately come to their rescue. Ethiopia and Uganda
had worked well together in Sudan and could do so in Somalia.
Whelan pressed Meles, pointing out that already the CIC
apparently feared Ethiopian power because they had backed
down on attacking Baidoa. Given this scenario, why was
Uganda's presence in Baidoa necessary, she queried? Meles
said, "It is not enough; the CIC will devour all of Somalia
because they are succeeding and that allows them to gain
momentum. They must be stopped before they become too
powerful."


10. (C) Whelan pointed out that if the problem was simply
the difference between an Ethiopian and African Union (AU)
flag in Baidoa, the TFG could put up an AU flag as the AU had
given its blessing to the IGASOM. Funding is a problem, she
pointed out, because of Darfur and Liberia. It appeared that
a smaller Ugandan force could probably do the job because it
seemed that Meles' desire was principally a show of support
by the region and AU for the TFG, given that Ethiopia would
provide the real support/backup for the peacekeeping mission.
Meles replied that he hoped that we would find some way to
help. Whelan replied that the Ugandan/IGAD mission was
difficult for the US and we would have to make hard choices.
She asked Meles if Uganda was really willing to support the
TFG, especially as it appeared that the government might be
returning to combat with the Lord's Resistance Army. Meles
said that he believes that President Museveni would provide
the forces if he asks, but financing for maintenance and per
diem would be required.


11. (C) If there were no financing of IGAD, the anti-CIC
forces would lose momentum to the Islamists, shifting odds
against them, Meles warned. Nonetheless, he hoped that the
US and its friends would not send the wrong signal to the
Islamists should Ethiopia confront them in Beledwyne or
Baidoa. Meles pointed out that the CIC likely will expect
the US and others to condemn Ethiopia, but Ethiopia would be
acting in its own national interest. "We hope you won't
misunderstand in Washington, we are not trying to bamboozle
you," Meles said. Whelan asked if Ethiopia's actions --
establishing a buffer zone and securing Baidoa -- would not
speak for themselves. Meles said that the sensational media
could prove unhelpful, as they were not interested in the
facts but just the ideology. Unfortunately, the media seemed
to ignore Aweys while portraying Ethiopia as doing America's
dirty work, or alternatively leading America astray with

ADDIS ABAB 00002763 004 OF 004


tales of jihadists. The CIC is doing an excellent job of
spinning its story, Meles concluded.


12. (C) Meles reiterated that the best way forward was to
convince the Somali people that the CIC was not going to win.
Whelan pointed out that if the Ugandan/IGAD can not deploy
because of lack of funding, then it might be prudent for
Ethiopia to obtain the AU's support for any proposed
intervention. If the AU considers it legitimate for Ethiopia
to respond to a CIC probe of the Ugandans in Baidoa, would
the AU not see it as legitimate for Ethiopia to respond
should the Ugandans not be there? Meles responded that the
AU would not condemn Ethiopia's actions, but it was probably
not prudent for the AU to actively support Ethiopia, given
the history of misunderstandings in Somalia. But if IGAD
were in Baidoa, then it would be different, as the AU would
be expected to back it. Whelan then asked if it would stop
the CIC if the US, EU, and AU publicly endorsed Ethiopia's
redlines of Beledwyne and Baidoa. She asked if it would be
helpful if the international community made a statement that
the CIC should not expand beyond its current borders, as this
would be seen as a threat, and pursue discussions with the
TFG. Meles replied that such a statement was unlikely to
stop CIC probes. If Ethiopia must act alone, Meles asked
that the US express its dismay, but not dissatisfaction. I
asked that Meles continue to inform US of any significant
Ethiopia troop movement. Meles said that we would be
informed in advance.
HUDDLESTON