In the week before Christmas of 2023, there are several large-scale wars going on, with several more potential wars in the making: Russia-Ukraine; Israel-Hamas/Hezbollah; the ongoing offensive of pro-democracy rebels closing in on the fascist junta in Myanmar/Burma; the never-ending battles across the African Sahel region, and the potential Venezuelan invasion of Guyana.
But, lurking in the background is another potential conflict, one that may be impacting and aiding the neo-con agenda: Ethiopia vs. Eritrea.
Ethiopia is unique in history, as the only African state that was never colonized by any European power. Although conquered and occupied by Italy in the years immediately preceding World War 2, that occupation was short-lived, as the country was fully liberated from Italian rule by 1943.
A truly ancient state, Ethiopia maintained its status as an imperial monarchy until 1974, with the Communist revolution that placed a brutal Marxist-Leninist government in charge of the country. This government would, in turn, be deposed in another revolution in 1989, as part of the wave of Communist states around the world that collapsed as the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact imploded, leaving Communist “economies” to wither on the vine.
In the aftermath of the Derg’s collapse, Ethiopia was left unable to stop a popular referendum in one of its most critical provinces – Eritrea – that resulted in that state becoming independent in 1993. While this may seem like a random “factoid”, it is actually of enormous significance.
Eritrea – long part of Ethiopia – occupies the coast of the Red Sea, and as such, was Ethiopia’s only access to world commerce…and after a series of wars in the 1990’s and early-2000’s, Eritrea has effectively blocked Ethiopia from using its Red Sea ports. With a population of over one hundred and seven million, Ethiopia ranks 13th in the top fifteen nations in the world by population – and is the only one of those states that is completely landlocked.
This translates to Ethiopia being forced to pay exorbitant, even “extortionate”, fees to export its goods to market through its only access to the Red Sea, via the Port of Djibouti, which handles an estimated 95% of Ethiopia’s foreign commerce.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, takes this issue seriously…seriously enough, that he made statements on the 13th of October of 2023, that explicitly underlined Ethiopia’s ‘right to access’ to the Red Sea. Understandably, this rattled every other nation in the “Horn of Africa”, all of whom are vastly outnumbered in both population and military capacity by Ethiopia.
These remarks came less than two weeks after the Hamas terror attacks on Israel that commenced on October 7th. As a result, the wider world – obviously – paid little the comments little attention. But then, the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen chose to insert themselves into that conflict on the side of Hamas, on October 19th…clearly a coincidence, surely.
And then, on January 1st, Ahmed dropped another bombshell, announcing that Ethiopia had inked a deal with the breakaway Somali province of Somaliland to use their port of Berbera to access the Gulf of Aden – well outside the current shooting gallery – reputedly in exchange of recognition of the breakaway state. This has obviously infuriated Somalia, which has never relinquished its claim to the province, despite the region being de facto independent since 1991 and the region’s independence being ratified in a referendum in 2001.
Now, in the first week of 2024, the Houthi missile attacks and piracy have attracted the attention of major powers around the world, many of whom have joined “Operation Prosperity Guardian”, in an attempt to guarantee safe passage through the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait…albeit too late for world shipping giant Maersk, who announced on January 5th that they were ordering all of their vessels not already in the Red Sea to divert around southern Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, to avoid the fighting. While this, alone, will cause serious disruptions to global trade, many more cargo carrier lines are virtually certain to not take the risk and divert their vessels, for the same reason as Maersk. This could easily lead to a reprise of the shipping disruptions that happened at the height of the COVID pandemic.
As a result, there are increasingly serious calls within Washington circles to attack Iran directly, as they are the Houthi’s major source of money and weapons. This would be a Godsend to neo-con chickenhawks desperate to finally get the United States into their long-desired war with Iran…
…Which brings us back to Ethiopia’s moves on its future access to the Red Sea.
Ethiopia has three options: they can a) maintain the status quo, with limited access to world shipping solely through Djibouti’s port; b) conclude their deal to access breakaway Somaliland’s ports; or – c) invade at least part of Eritrea, to capture at least that nation’s port of Assab.
Obviously, the status quo is not working for Ethiopia; if it were, there would have been no need for the deal with Somaliland. Djibouti’s port is increasingly limited in capacity, and has little physical room to expand operations, which will soon severely stunt Ethiopia’s economic output…Conversely, the deal with Somaliland risks war with Somalia, as recognition of Somaliland’s independence would almost certainly gut Somalia’s hopes at stabilizing their nation, which was only reunified in 2012. Somalia would have to launch a military campaign to invade the territory to bring it to heel, presenting Ethiopia with the option of going to war with Somalia in support of a breakaway province, something Ethiopia would be loath to encourage, considering recent history.
As well, invading Eritrea to capture Assab carries significant risks on its own, because – all other things being equal in the absence of the current conflict in the Bab-el-Mandeb – Ethiopia could well face a UN-led coalition of military powers “riding to the rescue” of what has been described as the “North Korea of Africa”.
None of these seem like viable solutions, on their own…Unless the world is focused on a different series of conflicts that would combine to divert attention away from Ethiopia “readjusting” the local map, and allowing Addis Ababa to present the world with a fait accompli in the aftermath of the Houthi’s inevitable neutralization, as well as the likelihood of a massive US-Iran war…
…While the foregoing may sound like the implication of a dastardly plot on Ethiopia’s part, it is not…well, mostly “not.” But, the timeline of Ethiopia’s rhetoric regarding its right-to-access to the Red Sea is certainly suspicious, and indicates some level of foreknowledge of events beginning ion October of 2023, and having active plans and options ready to go.
There are plenty of players in this global chess tournament, and too many “leaders” in the West – and elsewhere – are arrogantly blind to the knives in the dark, thinking that “bit players” cannot harm them.
…Rather like Britain, France and the United States from the 1950’s to the 1980’s.
Word to the wise.