I was interested to see that I have probably met Farouk Murtallab. He was a pupil at the British School in Lome when I used to visit it quite frequently from 1998 to 2001, because I had consular responsibility in Togo for most of the staff and some of the pupils.
Farouk’s “Training” in Yemen has immediately focused US and UK military attention further on the country. Yemen, like Somalia across the strait, does urgently need more attention – but not of the military kind. They require a major international effort to end crippling poverty, in support of a conflict resolution drive that must shun political, religious and ideological preconception. It would have to be a genuienly UN led affair.
It would be nice – but otiose – to think that the obscenely wealthy clique that runs Saudi Arabia would be far-sighted enough to provide the necessary funds. That won’t happen, or if it did there would be so many Saudi strings as to make conflict resolution impossible. It is also worth noting that the activities of Somali pirates in disrupting the shipping lanes are contributing to the poverty in Yemen.
Unfortunately, the West seems to have forgotten that policy responses other than military force exist, so what we will in fact see is an attempt to solve Yemen’s problems by killing more peole with drones.
Many of Somalia’s problems also arise from Western military destabilisation of regimes they don’t like. The idea that this would lead to a regime they do like is self-evidently foolish. Disastrous poverty and starvation appears viewed by the West as a price worth paying for their negative achievement.
Paradoxically, we ought to be killing more people off the coast of Somalia. The problems of piracy in the shipping lanes is becoming a real drag on trade that damages many poor countries. Terms of engagement for the EU and other international navies have to be varied to allow for much quicker resort to lethal force. The UK should follow the example of France, which is mounting guns and putting armed commandos on its flagged merchant ships in the region. Extirpating pirates is not only permissible in international law, it is an obligation, and quite rightly so.
A number of readers of this blog have a starry-eyed view of those raking in ens of millions of dollars in ransoms, viewing then as noble dispossessed fisher-folk, turned Robin Hood because to fight the evils of pollution and global warming.
Bullshit. They are well-organised criminal gangs, centrally controlled and supplied and operating with clear tactics and their own terms of engagement, who receive training and logistic support from white mercenaries based in South Africa. This is information I have gathered in Africa, directly from those genuinely involved in the actual local fisheries industry, whose livelihood is being ruined by the pirates.
As I have recently explained with regard to Iran, it is essential to the whole world that the principle of free passage for shipping is maintained without undue interference by coastal states, be it by government or non-governmental actors. The costs to the entire world economy of allowing that principle to slip, would be enormous.