The UN report spends little time on this surprising development, perhaps because the report’s mandate is limited to monitoring violations of Somalia’s arms embargo.
“We are extremely concerned about that,” a military intelligence officer told Pajamas Media. This concern stems from the fact that the ICU has every incentive to cooperate with Iran: the Islamic group would be unable to mine and market the uranium on its own, and the ICU is always hungry for weapons for its war against Somalia’s transitional federal government (TFG).
Dusamareb is known to be rich in uranium. Abdiweli Ali, an assistant professor of economics at Niagara University and a supporter of Somalia’s transitional federal government (TFG), is originally from Dusamareb, where he received his primary school education. He reports that in the Galgadud region, where Dusamareb is located, uranium exploration has occurred since the 1940s. This exploration was put on hiatus after the fall of president Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 put the country under the rule of rival warlords.
The uranium prospecting that Iranians are undertaking in Somalia creates problems for U.S. efforts to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. It would provide them with a virtually untraceable source of uranium ore that could be made into weapons.
Al-Qaeda is also active in Somalia, the UN report confirms.
The ICU’s Sheikh Yusuf Indohaadde denied the presence of foreign fighters in a late June press conference. A few weeks later an ICU recruiting videotape directed at both Somali and Arab audiences (with Arabic subtitles) showed him in the desert with fighters from the Gulf Arab states.
Professor Ali believes that the UN report’s acknowledgement of foreign fighter presence in Somalia is important. “We’ve been saying this for a long time,” he says, “but you need to hear this from a neutral international organization. The UN saying it changes things a lot. It’s coming from a credible source and an independent agency with no vested interest in Somalia.”
“The standard mode for states is that when they go Islamist, they become failed states immediately….”
The most direct acknowledgement of al-Qaeda’s presence comes near the end of the report:
The ICU has established numerous military training facilities throughout central and southern Somalia and has been actively recruiting new Somali militia members. Foreign volunteers (fighters) have also been arriving in considerable numbers to give added military strength to the ICU. An unknown number of the volunteers, but believed . . . to be significant, have combat experience gained from participation in wars and hostile conflicts and actions in the Middle East and Asia. . . .
[F]oreign volunteers also provide training in guerrilla warfare and special topics or techniques consisting of bomb making and the use of bombs against different targets such as a variety of different types of transport and buildings. Other techniques include kidnapping and the conduct of assassination by ambush and sniping. . . . [T]he ICU is fully capable of turning Somalia into what is currently an Iraq-type scenario, replete with roadside and suicide bombers, assassinations and other forms of terrorist and insurgent-type activities.
There are seventeen operational terrorist training camps in Somalia according to a 2002 confidential report produced by the non-profit Partners International. This figure that has been confirmed by intelligence sources. The new UN report, in discussing a camp at Hilweyne, states that the 600 recruits who went there in late August will not only military training, but also “ideological training.”
The ICU may prove to be a savvy foe. “The standard mode for states is that when they go Islamist, they become failed states immediately,” a military intelligence officer said. “That hasn’t been the case in Somalia.”
Indeed, the standard of living in Somalia has risen somewhat since the ICU rose to power. Part of the reason for that is made clear in the UN report, which discusses how the ICU has managed to curry favor with the Somali business community. According to the report, “the ICU removed three (3) checkpoints in the Mogadishu area where average monthly revenues collected represented cash flows to the former warlords in excess of one million US dollars annually.” Doing so reduced the costs of delivering goods and commodities for businesses, in some cases by up to 50%. This “will benefit the business community and by extension the ICU.”
Professor Ali cited the example of a small businessman who, under the old system of governance, had been forced to pay $6,000 a month for security. These costs give him an incentive to support the ICU, which can legitimately claim to offer a cheaper alternative.
The UN report states that the ICU “has made a strategic financial alliance with the great majority of businesses in Somalia, an alliance that benefits both sides.” Businesses benefit from “restoration of law and order,” from the reduction of operational costs through such mechanisms as checkpoint removal, and from an increase “in the area of coverage where humanitarian relief goods are distributed.” In turn, the ICU benefits from businesses creating a profitable environment.
Previously, when ICU leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys tried to establish an Islamic state in Somalia, he was defeated twice: in the Puntland region by TFG president Abduallahi Yusuf, and then by Ethiopian forces. He has learned his lessons. Professor Ali says that Sheikh Aweys now has three “cards” he uses to gain the support of Somalis: Islam, Somali nationalism, and Somali distaste for the warlords’ rule. The good relationship that the ICU enjoys with the business community is an outcropping of this strategic thinking.
The new UN report reveals that the ICU is more dangerous, and more strategic, than most observers realize.
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is the author of %%AMAZON=1585425516 My Year Inside Radical Islam (Tarcher/Penguin 2007)%%.
Daveed’s articles have appeared in publications that include Commentary, The Weekly Standard, The Wall Street Journal Europe, The Washington Times, The Dallas Morning News and The American Spectator. He frequently appears on TV and talk radio; recent appearances include The Big Story with John Gibson, Studio B with Shepard Smith, Scarborough Country, ABC News Now, The 700 Club and The Radio Factor with Bill O’Reilly.