February 11, 2018
The Red Sea is becoming host to three distinct but loosely linked theatres of competition.
International interest in and around the Red Sea is intensifying, bringing increased geopolitical competition.
To the north, the Suez Canal links the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean and represents a crucial maritime trade route, transporting about 2.5% of global oil shipments, Global Security.org said.
At the other end, the Bab el Mandeb Strait — one of the world’s most important chokepoints, only 29km wide at its narrowest point — commands the southern entrance. It has taken on added geostrategic importance since the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen began in 2015.
Further south is the Horn of Africa, a hotbed of maritime piracy that prompted navies from around the world to form task forces to fight it.
The Red Sea’s enhanced geostrategic importance is driving unprecedented development and competition. Last year, China boosted its power projection capabilities by inaugurating a nearly $600 million naval base in Djibouti. The newest entrant is Turkey, which recently signed an agreement with Sudan to develop a port at Suakin.
China and Turkey will join the United States, which has operated its only full-fledged expeditionary military base on Africa, Camp Lemonnier, also in Djibouti, since 2002, as well as the French, Italian and Japanese forces.
Saudi Arabia has been running operations with coalition allies out of a base in Assab, Eritrea. The United Arab Emirates has a military presence in Yemeni Red Sea ports of Aden, Mokha and Mukalla as well as the island of Perim in Assab, and in Berbera in autonomous Somaliland. Last year, Turkey opened a military base in Somalia to train Somali forces.
The Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen has necessitated Arab Gulf countries locking off maritime supply routes to Houthi rebels and developing a supporting logistics network for operations. The Saudi-led coalition has been wary of providing Houthi rebels space to blockade or disrupt maritime traffic by mining and anti-ship weapons from the Yemeni coast, especially around the Bab el Mandeb.
Such burgeoning international interest in and around the Red Sea in the absence of a formal regional framework is straining the environment as a growing number of stakeholders seek to safeguard their interests by counterbalancing competitors. As such the Red Sea is becoming host to three distinct but loosely linked theatres of competition.
At the global level, the rise of China has been driving international competition. The Chinese want to safeguard freedom of navigation for key maritime trade routes and massive investments into Africa as part of its One Belt, One Road Initiative. The United States wants the regional security landscape preserved favourably, especially with Israel being in close proximity but also against terrorist threats and to counter a rising China and resurgent Russia.
The Saudi-led coalition is seeking to ease the socio-political instability that has been taking hold around Saudi Arabia’s periphery in good part by counterbalancing the regional footprint of Iran, which supports the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Finally, there is the north-east African geopolitical competition. Egypt has strained relations with Sudan, which Cairo charges with supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt opposes Sudan-backed Ethiopian plans for the Renaissance Dam under construction since 2011. When finished it will be Africa’s largest hydro-electric power station and generate much-needed electricity for Ethiopia and Sudan but reduce water flows to Egypt’s Nile.
Sudan, like Ethiopia, has been the subject of investments and support from Qatar. Egypt views a potential emerging pro-Muslim Brotherhood alliance between Turkey, Qatar and Sudan as an incubating threat. Sudan recalled its ambassador to Egypt following reports Egypt had dispatched troops to Eritrea, which borders Sudan, in response to the announcement of Turkey’s Suakin agreement.
Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia all border the Red Sea or its entry points but a growing number of extra-regional powers are moving in swiftly to safeguard their interests.
Some analysts say the Red Sea basin was previously overlooked for its strategic value. Being part Middle East and part Africa, it was approached in a segmented way. The absence of a multilateral regional framework to manage affairs or disputes in the Red Sea is probably a key reason why outside powers have been able to formalise their own presence and, ironically, may be making its emergence even less likely.
Two Middle Eastern power blocs are buying friends and influence in the Horn but further damaging prospects for stability there
Saudi Arabia's and the United Arab Emirates' military dealmaking in the Horn of Africa is deepening rivalries in a region already overflowing with arms. This year, there has been a flurry of diplomatic missions and in-camera meetings at the African Union about tensions triggered by the growing foreign military presence in the Horn. Gulf states see the area bordering the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden as their sphere of influence, militarily and commercially.
Now the conservative Gulf monarchies, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, in alliance with Egypt, are boosting their presence in the Horn as part of their competition with Qatar and Turkey, whom they lambast as leading supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates in the region. The immediate reason for Saudi Arabia and the UAE striking a series of military cooperation deals with Eritrea, Djibouti, Somaliland and Somalia was to strengthen their position in the civil war across the Red Sea in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE's campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen has been going badly. They want to use bases in the Horn in support of their bid to take control of the Yemeni coastline, cut the rebels' supply lines, and intensify aerial and naval attacks from the south. Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan all have troops fighting alongside Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
Sudan, whose Islamist regime under President Omer Hassan Ahmed el Beshir has been trying to suppress protests about rising food prices, is struggling to maintain functional relations with both the Saudi and Qatari blocs. Khartoum is in a serious dispute with Egypt over the Hala'ib Triangle, a 21,000-square-kilometre area both countries claim (AC Vol 54 No 25, Cape to Cairo, again).
In the 1990s, Egypt deployed its military in the triangle. There the issue might have rested, had not Cairo come to an agreement with Saudi Arabia to hand over two Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir (AC Vol 57 No 14, Red Sea wrangles). The agreement, which caused nationalist fury in Egypt, also redrew the maritime border between the two countries and unilaterally imposed Egyptian sovereignty over the Hala'ib Triangle. Sudan reacted in December last year, sending a letter to the United Nations rejecting the deal and recalling its ambassador to Cairo.
Meanwhile, Ethiopia is racked by dissent among its nationalities, its leaders divided over how many of its thousands of detainees to set free. Eritrea is wrestling with an exodus of young people desperate to escape the notoriously repressive conscription regime. Into this morass have stepped Saudi Arabia and the UAE as they seek regional political, military and diplomatic support for their war in Yemen against the Houthis.
The biggest beneficiary of the conservative Gulf Arab alliance has been President Issayas Afewerki, who has gained an unexpected lifeline in return for providing logistical facilities. This is a blow to Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia, which had previously succeeded in isolating Eritrea and preventing it from meddling in their internal affairs, mainly through a UN arms embargo and a limited sanctions regime in place since 2009.
Asmara Airport has been renovated and the Eritrean port of Assab is now a military base leased to the Saudis and the UAE from which they prosecute their war in Yemen. The UAE has taken Yemeni prisoners to Assab to be interrogated and tortured, according to human rights activists. Eritreans in Yemen report the presence of up to 400 Eritrean troops fighting alongside the Saudi-led alliance.
It was against this background that Issayas went on a two-day visit to Egypt on 9-10 January. His talks with President Abdel Fattah el Sisi are reported to have centred on economic ties and what were described as 'regional and international topics of mutual importance'. Communiqués spoke of a mutual interest in a bilateral strategic partnership. The cementing of its relationship with Egypt is one of the biggest rewards for Asmara for accommodating the Gulf regimes.
For Egypt, there is potential profit in Asmara's fierce enmity with Ethiopia, whose Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is causing Cairo deep concern. The flow of the Nile into Egypt – source of nearly all its water – could be reduced, depending on how quickly Ethiopia decides to fill the 10.74 billion cubic-metre reservoir for the still uncompleted dam (AC Vol 58 No 3, Eritrea's unsettling alliance). Egypt is belatedly attempting to make up some of the expected deficit by commissioning a desalination plant, but this is expensive technology and it will take years to build.
Egypt has used Eritrea as a strategic counterbalance to Ethiopia since the 1950s. It hosted the Eritrean Liberation Movement, the precursor of the guerrilla groups which eventually expelled Ethiopia and established Eritrea as an independent state in 1993. In recent years Ethiopia has accused Eritrea of hosting rebels bent on attacking the GERD. In March 2017 Ethiopia said Eritrea was behind an unsuccessful attempt by the Benishangul Gumuz People's Liberation Movement to raid the dam. Eritrea denied the accusation. Later that year 150 members of the same group defected to Ethiopia and accused the Eritreans of instructing them to sabotage the dam.
On the day of the Issayas/El Sisi meeting, the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television news channel claimed that Egypt had 'sent hundreds of its troops to a UAE base in Eritrea, on the border with Sudan'. The channel said the deployment was a response to Turkey expanding its influence in the region by establishing a military base at the ancient Sudanese port of Suakin, even though the UAE base in Assab is 700 kilometres from Sudan as the crow flies, and much further by road.
A pro-Muslim Brotherhood media outlet, the London-based Middle East Monitor, went further, alleging that Egypt was training Eritreans at its military academy at Sawa, close to the Sudanese border. These reports were dismissed by the Eritrean Minister of Information, Yemane Gebremeskel, who tweeted: 'Al Jazeera News Channel seems to relish propagating false and preposterous news on Eritrea.' Al Jazeera is caught up in Doha's larger struggle with Saudi Arabia, which included scaling back the television channel among its 13 demands on Qatar when it launched its dispute with Doha last June.
Sudan is navigating these competing blocs. Omer believes he faces a threat from Eritrea. In late December, he declared a six-month state of emergency in the state of North Kordofan and in Kassala, which borders Eritrea. Early in January hundreds of Sudanese troops together with military vehicles and tanks were reported passing through the town of Kassala en route to the Eritrean border. The manoeuvres were said to be designed to counter smuggling and human trafficking; this is hardly plausible, since the border region has been used for such practices for decades, with officials on both sides implicated in the trade.
Meanwhile, Ethiopia tries to mitigate the threats it faces from a resurgent Eritrea and its heavyweight allies. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn met the Sudan Armed Forces Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant-General Emad el Din Mustafa Adawi, on 8 January. Workneh Gebeyehu, Ethiopia's Foreign Minister, has held meetings with the UAE's Minister of State for International Cooperation, Reem bint Ibrahim al Hashimy, the outcome of which is not known. Hailemariam also went to Cairo on 17 January to meet the Egyptian President; the only topic publicly revealed to have been under discussion was the GERD. At a joint press conference on 18 January, El Sisi declared his 'profound concern' at the deadlock in the tripartite technical committee (also involving Sudan) studying the impact of the GERD, while he and Hailemariam signed several memoranda of understanding on other issues. On 29 January, on the sidelines of the African Union summit, the leaders of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan discussed ways of cooperating and pledged to find a peaceful and cooperative solution to the Nile dispute.
Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullah Mohamed 'Farmajo', despite his country's close ties to Turkey and Qatar, tries to maintain good relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which help to finance his government. However, when the UAE signed an agreement with Somaliland to open a military base in Berbera, Somalia still protested. And so far, Farmajo shows no sign of bowing to Saudi Arabian pressure to break Somalia's ties with Qatar.
What is apparent is that there is a new scramble for influence along the Red Sea. If the reports of Egyptian troop deployments to Assab are confirmed, then Cairo will have joined Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the Eritrean port. At the same time, Turkey is adding Sudan's Suakin to its base in Somalia and a possible base in Djibouti. Could Egyptian and Turkish forces be drawn into the Yemeni civil war on opposite sides? The Horn of Africa is entering a dangerous phase.
መሪሕነት ዞባ ሰሜን ኣሜሪካ ስ.ዲ.ህ.ኤ. ቀዳም ዕለት 3 የካቲት 2018 ስሩዕ ኣኼባኡ ኣካይዱ።
ኣጀንዳ ኣኼባ ሰልፍና ንምዕባይን ንምሕያልን እንታይ ክንገብር ኣሎና ዝብል ኮይኑ ነዚ መደብ’ዚ ንምትግባር ብነፍስውከፍ ቤት ጽሕፈት ዝቐረበ ናይ ስራሕ መደብ ብዕምቆት ዘትዩሉ። ናይ ሓድሕድ ምክብባርን ህድኣትን ዝሰፈኖ ቦኽሪ ኣኼባ ዞባ ሽማግለ፡ መሰረታት ዞባና ንምስፋሕን ቁጠባዊ ሓይሉ ከምኡ’ውን ምስ ኣብ ዞባና ዝኸይድ ምንቅስቓስ ደለይቲ ፍትሒ ዝምድናኡ ከደልድልን ናይ ስራሕ መደባት ኣጽዲቑ። ዝሓንጸጾ መደባት ኣብ ግብሪ ንምውዓል መሪሕነት ዞባ ሽማግለ ብዕቱብ ክሰርሕ ምዃኑ ኣስሚሩሉ።
ውድቀት ንምልካዊ ስርዓት!
ክብርን ዘልኣለማዊ ዝኽርን ንስዉኣት ኤርትራ!
ቤት ጽሕፈት ዜናን ባህልን
ዞባ ሰሜን ኣሜሪካ ሰ.ድ.ህ.ኤ.
3 የካቲት 2018
'The interests of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia are one,' President Sisi says after tripartite summit in Addis AbabaWednesday, 31 January 2018 05:58 Written by Ahram Online
Egypt's FM Shoukry said that Cairo, Khartoum and Addis Ababa have agreed to resolve all disagreements on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam technical issues within one month
Ahram Online , Monday 29 Jan 2018
Following a tripartite summit between the leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan in the Ethiopian capital on Monday to discuss differences over the Grand Ethiopian Renainssance Dam, Egypt's president told reporters, "People should be assured. None of [us three] countries – Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia – will be harmed."
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi added, "Egypt's interests are one with Ethiopia's and also one with Sudan's. We are speaking as one voice."
In a response to a question by reporters on whether the crisis over the dam has been resolved, El-Sisi said, "There is no crisis."
Sudan's President Omar Al-Bashir concurred with El-Sisi, saying, "There is no more crisis."
Immediately after the end of the summit, Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said in press statements that the leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan agreed on resolving all disagreements on the technical issues on the Ethiopian dam within one month.
"There are no mediators in the Renaissance Dam negotiations," Shoukry added.
The meeting between El-Sisi, Al-Bashir and Ethiopian PM Hailemariam Desalegn, which came on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, aimed at breaking the deadlock in negotiations over disputes on the impact of the GERD on downstream countries.
Ethiopia and Sudan have not accepted the results of a report issued in March 2017 by a European consultancy firm on the potential impact of the dam on downstream countries, which concluded that the speed of construction could negatively affect Egypt's water share.
Ethiopia has reportedly rejected a recent proposal by Cairo to involve the World Bank in the stalled technical negotiations.
El-Sisi has been in Addis Ababa since Saturday to participate in the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, which is taking place from 22 to 29 January.
On Saturday, El-Sisi chaired a meeting by the Peace and Security Council (PSC), the AU body in charge of maintaining continental peace and security, which Egypt is heading in January.
Southern separatists backed by the UAE have seized control of a key military base in the coastal city of Aden after a UAE fighter jet bombed the facility, according to a senior Yemeni official.
The official told Al Jazeera that the fighters are from the Southern Resistance Forces (SRF) - the armed wing of the Southern Transitional Council (STC), a political movement demanding secession for southern Yemen.
The fighters seized the base early on Tuesday, despite a ceasefire being brokered by coalition partners Saudi Arabia and the UAE hours earlier.