What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Puntland vs. Northern Iraq

MStFB Spillover Monitor Report Update No. 9:1 The original report
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates must have had a difficult day in Singapore today, when he was asked both about the U.S. naval bombardment of a target within Puntland (officially a part of Somalia), and about why the U.S. wouldn't let Turkey go into Northern Iraq to attack PKK safe havens there. A difficult day, providing that 1) journalists realised all this and did care; 2) Gates realised this and did care. Which I can't perfectly judge not having been there.
Now, before one cries 'double standards', of course every country has at least a thousand standards - that is what foreign policy-making is about. So that's not the road I want to walk down on in this analysis. Still, in both cases it is notable that the essence of the problem is the same: there is either an internationally recognised government (IRG - in Puntland's case the Somali government), or an international force (the U.S.-led one in Iraq), that is supposed to sufficiently control a territory (Puntland / Northern Iraq) so that no NSEs (negative spill-over effects) emerge from there, negatively affecting the external environment's security.
The U.S. decided it itself needed to act against several major al-Qaeda figures in Puntland (as part of a wider U.S. presence all over Somalia nowadays). It has special troops in the area, working together with local tribal forces. Since reports say that the naval shelling went on for hours yesterday, it probably wasn't a one-and-only chance to take out a carefully identified target, but rather artillery support for some on-going operation on the ground in Puntland. Among the major al-Qaeda figures hunted there are Fazul Abdullah Mohammed (from the Comoros), Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan (from Kenya), and Abu Taha al-Sudani (you should be able to guess: from Sudan), who all may have been senior plotters of attacks in the past in Kenya and Tanzania (1998 embassy as well as 2002 hotel bombings that you may remember).
Turkey, on the other hand, has massed its troops along its Iraqi border, ready to jump, but has so far been shown the red light by Washington. One may fear of course that human rights-wise a Turkish incursion into Northern Iraq may not be so wise, still Turkey has serious security concerns, so much so that even Robert Gates showed understanding for Turkish 'unhappiness' over the issue (Gates used the unhappiness word).
Comparing the two situations security interests-wise, the U.S. had arguably only a minor threat in the case of Puntland (magnified by distorted public perceptions of terrorism), while Turkey has quite a vital stake to care about in the case of Northern Iraq. One may even say that in the Puntland case we should not talk about an NSE (a negative spill-over effect), since there is only the potential or the possibility of something spilling over in the future, and since no spilling over has taken place yet, so-to-say, with the militants moving around or hiding in the area. So this is a moment to refine my NSE concept again. But I'll do it saying that if the potential is there that is in fact already an NSE. For in this case it is because of an IRG's weakness that there are such conditions in one state's territory that in and of themselves make another IRG and another state insecure (to a degree).

No comments: