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Analyst Doubts Effectiveness of UN Crack Down on Somali Pirates


The United Nations Security Council has authorized countries fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia to pursue the pirates on land. The 15-member council unanimously approved the U.S.-sponsored resolution yesterday.

The measure also allows countries to enter Somali airspace to hunt down pirates. But it stipulates that nations must first get permission from the country's transitional federal government [TFG] before taking any action inside Somali territory.

The resolution was passed at a high-profile meeting of the Security Council. Also attending were U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and British foreign secretary David Miliband.

Rice said the resolution will have a significant impact in the fight against piracy. She said it is not possible to contain piracy with only maritime policies.

Ambassador David Shinn once served as the State Department Deputy Task Force Director for Somalia. He also served as an ambassador to Ethiopia and is now an adjunct professor of international affairs at George Washington university in Washington, D.C. He doubts the effectiveness of the resolution.

"The problem with piracy," he says, "is you can not control it until you have a functional government in Somalia that controls the country and the coast line [The Transitional Federal Government does not]. So, the idea of trying to deal with the problem with a large naval presence in the Indian Ocean or permitting members of the U.N. to go on land in hot pursuit of pirates may have some impact on the margins but will not change the ultimate challenge – that will remain."

Ethiopia says it plans to withdraw its troops soon from the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Some speculate that could mean a return of the Islamic-led government that preceded the transitional government.

According to Ambassador Shinn, "The Islamists will tell you when they were last in power in 2006 that they did clamp down on piracy, and will do so again. But it appears that virtually everyone in authority in Somalia is getting a lot of money from piracy ransom money, estimated at being 120 million dollars last year, some of which even goes to members of families that are associated with the TFG [Transitional Federal Government]. When you have this much money circulating, there is a very big temptation to let it continue to flow. So, it's not clear if the Islamists would clamp down on it."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said it is time to consider an African Union request to send a U.N. peacekeeping mission to Somalia. She said the root cause of the piracy problem is the instability in Somalia. But Ambassador Shinn disagrees.

"The United States," he says, "has been requesting a peacekeeping force for about a year now and the U.N. is not about to authorize it because there has been no interest shown by member nations. No nation has agreed to take the lead in such an operation. The African Union is not capable of setting up a large, well-financed force with adequate heavy equipment to conduct any peace making operation in Mogadishu. If you had a massive U.N. peacekeeping force with the idea of making peace, it might be able to do that, but it is not realistic to expect that to happen."

He says any force would need to be a peace-making one, which he says "means going in to Somalia with a Chapter 7 mandate and not only being able but willing to impose force over dissident Somalia parties. That is where I think the international community is stumbling; they are not willing to do that."

Shinn says that in an effort to be even-handed, the international community should be concerned not only about piracy in Somalia, but also about complaints many Somalis have about the outside world. He says, "While everyone is talking about stopping piracy, no one is saying anything about the illegal fishing and the [alleged] dumping of toxic waste along the coast, which does not affect the West or Asia, but the Somalis. [The international community] ought to talk about ending those practices too. That means the Western and Asian countries taking it upon themselves about stopping this activity."

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