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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06ADDISABABA3240
2006-12-08 11:42:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Addis Ababa
Cable title:  

ETHIOPIA: MELES ALTERS STANCE ON MILITARY ACTION

Tags:   PREL  PGOV  MOPS  KISL  KPKO  ET  SO  ER 
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VZCZCXRO0121
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #3240/01 3421142
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 081142Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3634
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ADDIS ABABA 003240 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF AND AF/E
LONDON, PARIS ROME FOR AFRICA WATCHER
CJTF-HOA FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/07/2016
TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS KISL KPKO ET SO ER
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA: MELES ALTERS STANCE ON MILITARY ACTION
ON SOMALIA

REF: A. ADDIS 3212

B. ADDIS 3211

C. ADDIS 3162

D. ADDIS 3206

Classified By: AMBASSADOR DONALD YAMAMOTO FOR REASONS 1.4 B AND D



1. (C) Summary: Recent U.S. visitors to Ethiopia have
advocated a message of caution to Prime Minister Meles and
raised potential consequences of Ethiopian deployment of
troops in possible military action in Somalia. While Meles
has consistently underscored the threat of al-Shabaab and
other extremist elements of the Councl Islamic Courts (CIC)
to regional stability, and the seemingly inevitable nature of
military conflict, Meles recently altered his message and
noted to us that his forces will "take their time," carefully
analyzing the situation in Somalia. However, he told us that
CIC attacks on the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in
Baidoa would prompt an immediate reaction by Ethiopia in
defense of the TFG.



2. (C) Meles argues that extremist elements are taking
control of the CIC and must be dealt with now before they are
too strong, potentially destabilitizing the regional states.
Meles sees IGASOM as essential in protecting the TFG,
moderating the CIC threat, and supporting moderates within
the CIC. But he does not see IGASOM as an immediate reality,
and thus Ethiopia will need to take short military actions
jointly with forces from the TFG, Somaliland and Puntland.
This will be necessary, Meles argues, to keep al-Shabaabs and
extremist elements "off-balance" until an IGASOM force can be
deployed.



3. (C) COMMENT: While the extremist elements of the CIC
pose a clear and significant threat to Ethiopia and regional
states, Meles faces the equally challenging threat of
internal instability from ethnic tensions, local elections
next April, and demands for political reform. The next
several months will see serious challenges to Meles'
government as he deals simultaneously with the external
security threat and internal political situation. End
Summary.

A Tale of Caution


--------------------------





4. (C) In five meetings with Prime Minister Meles and
separate meetings with Foreign Minister Seyoum and ENDF Chief
of Staff General Samora during the week of November 27, the
Ambassador and U.S. visitors, including General Abizaid and
Senator Feingold, raised the need for Ethiopia to be cautious
in taking any action in Somalia. General Abizaid articulated
that Meles had time on his side and that a rush into conflict
would yield immediate victories against "technicals" (foot
soldiers), but not enhance security for Ethiopia. Senator
Feingold raised potential consequences of any action in
Somalia. General Samora noted to us that there was no
"massing of troops" by the CIC. The al-Shabaab were
operating in small units, along with their foreign
supporters, particularly the Eritreans, who have supplied

several hundred advisors/trainers, according to the Ethiopian
military. The lack of a clear target would make any
conventional combat operations potentially difficult. Meles
noted that small unit tactics would be effective in
neutralizing the CIC extremists and their foreign supporters.



5. (C) In a shift in approach, Meles told us December 6 that
military action against al-Shabaab units and other CIC forces
would not be immediate. He said he would "take time" to
fully analyze the situation in Somalia. He stated, however,
that an attack by the CIC against the TFG would elicit an
immediate response by Ethiopia and other forces from
Somaliland, Puntland and the TFG to keep the TFG from
collapsing.

Self-Defense -- Fending off Terrorism


--------------------------





6. (C) Prime Minister Meles and Foreign Minister Seyoum have
clearly articulated that extremist elements are taking over
the CIC through intimidation and threats. As noted in a UN

ADDIS ABAB 00003240 002 OF 003


report, support from Eritrean advisors as well as assistance
from Iran and Syria are preventing the vast majority of
moderates within the CIC from taking a leadership role. If
the extremists are not dealt with immediately, both
politically and militarily, they will further consolidate
their control over the CIC, overthrow the TFG and threaten
the security of the neighboring states. Meles said IGASOM is
important and expressed his appreciation to the U.S. for
coordinating with the EU in getting IGASOM approved by the
UNSC. Meles observed that it will take time for IGASOM to
become established. He questioned what states would
participate, especially facing a hostile CIC which opposes
IGASOM. But once IGASOM is operational, he added, it will
play a crucial role protecting the TFG, forcing the CIC to
negotiate with the TFG in a serious manner and boost hopes
for moderates to take over the CIC.



7. (C) Meles underscored that to support IGASOM's formation,
it will be necessary for Ethiopia and other troops to take
short military actions against the extremist elements of the
CIC. This will keep them "off-balance" and send a clear
message that the regional states will not tolerate extremists
holding any position of authority in the CIC. Once this
message has been conveyed, Meles believes that IGASOM will
have a better chance to succeed.



8. (C) In a separate meeting (Ref A), TFG Prime Minister
Gedi told us that the CIC had issued an assassination list
against him and several other TFG leaders. It was a clear
indication that the CIC and its foreign supporters seek to
overthrow the TFG. While the TFG fully supports IGASOM,
Gedi, unlike Meles, was not forthcoming in dialoguing with
the CIC.

Internal Challenges:


--------------------------





9. (C) At the same time, Meles faces serious challenges.
Ethnic tensions are increasing as reflected by replacements
of some Amharic and Oromo military leaders with Tigrayan
officers loyal to Meles, and widening the political divide
among ethnic groups. Ethiopia heads into local elections in
April 2007 with facing uncertain prospects for participation
by both opposition candidates and voters. While progress is
being made in negotiations over release/pardons of prominent
opposition leaders detained since November 2005,
participation by opposition parliamentarians in the political
process, and forward movement on political reform in the
Parliament and media openness, the open dialogue between the
government and the opposition has recently stalled.

Comment:


--------------------------





10. (C) The Embassy continues to push the government on
reform and work with the opposition in advocating a dialogue
between them and the government. We are also supporting
efforts to negotiate the release of CUD and associated
detainees, and are pushing for greater economic and political
reforms. Significant progress has been made, but the focus
on the security threat from extremists in Somalia and the
involvement of Eritrea and support from other foreign groups
are diverting attention from democratic reforms to national
security. Working with the government on both tracks will be
challenging and faced with many obstacles. To support
stability in the region and ease Ethiopian anxieties, it will
be necessary to take the following actions:

-- get an effective IGASOM force up and running quickly to
defend the TFG and force the CIC to dialogue seriously;
-- Solicit the support of African and Arab leaders to push
for moderation by the CIC and advocate a dialogue;
(AU Chairman Konare remarked that too many leaders recognized
the threat of extremism in Somalia but have been silent.
Their voices will be important in supporting the TFG and
moderation within the CIC.)
-- Support Somaliland and Puntland and their efforts to
resist extremism;
-- Greater international support for institution-building and
dialogue in Somalia;
-- Greater international outcry against extremist/terrorist

ADDIS ABAB 00003240 003 OF 003


groups and their foreign supporters, particularly those
nations cited in the UN report;
-- Condemnation of Eritrea for expanding its war against
Ethiopia. (Senator Feingold questioned why the
Administration has been silent on Eritrean human rights
violation and military activities to destabilize the region.
We suggested to the Senator that Congress can also take a
role in highlighting Eritrean misdeeds.) End Comment.
YAMAMOTO