World View: Did France Kick Hornet's Nest with Mali Intervention?

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com:
  • David Cameron postpones a critical speech on Britain's EU membership
  • Algeria ends hostage siege violence, embroiling self in Mali war
  • Questions arise of France's sudden military actions in Africa
  • Greece concerned about outbreak of violence

David Cameron postpones a critical speech on Britain's EU membership

Because of the growing crisis in Algeria, Britain's prime minister David Cameron has canceled a much anticipated speech he was to give on Friday in Brussels on the question of Britain's continued membership in the European Union. Since the Algerian natural gas complex was mostly operated by British Petroleum, it was a major crisis in Britain. According to Cameron: 

We face a very bad situation at this BP gas compound in Algeria. A number of British citizens have been taken hostage; already we know of one that has died. The Algerian armed forces have now attacked this compound. It is a very dangerous, very uncertain, very fluid situation.

"We have to prepare ourselves for the possibility of bad news ahead. Cobra [crisis group] officials here are working around the clock to do everything we can to keep in contact with the families.

British officials have been expressing annoyance that Algeria when ahead with the bloody rescue mission without giving advance notice to Britain, or asking for help. 

Although the speech on EU membership was canceled, Cameron is expected to demand some changes in EU governance as a condition for remaining. These include giving Britain veto power over EU laws that affect British financial issues, and greater ability to control illegal immigration. Guardian (London) and Spiegel

Algeria ends hostage siege violence, embroiling self in Mali war

Algerian forces stormed the "Ain Amenas" natural gas complex on Thursday, freeing hundreds of hostages, mostly Algerian workers, being held by al-Qaeda linked terrorists. But 30 of the hostages, including some Americans, were killed, along with at 11 of the terrorist militia members. 

Algeria had previously indicated that it wanted to stay completely out of the Mali war, but then permitted the France's war planes to overfly Algeria to reach Mali. The terrorists used this fact to justify their attack on the natural gas complex. 

The terrorist attack on the natural gas complex exposes major vulnerabilities for Algeria. Europe is dependent on large shipments of natural gas from Algeria, and Algeria's economy is dependent on the income from those shipments. The terrorists could have blown up the natural gas complex but, according to some analysts, chose simply to make the point that they can still do that at any time in the future. Thus, this crisis raises questions over whether Algeria will be able to reliably continue to supply energy to Europe.

This attack may also force Algeria to take a more active part in the Mali war, for its own self-defense. That would broaden the war even further into a regional war. Reuters and Time

Questions arise of France's sudden military actions in Africa

It's only been four days since France startled the world by unexpectedly challenging al-Qaeda linked terrorist groups on two different fronts in Africa. ( "14-Jan-13 World View -- France on terror alert after challenging al-Qaeda on two fronts") The hostage rescue mission in Somalia was a disastrous failure. And in Mali, a French plan to train Mali's army has turned into a full scale invading combat force with thousands of troops. It almost seems that France panicked -- and I'm reminded of 2006, when Israel panicked and launched the Lebanon war within four hours, with no plan and no objectives. 

France's intervention in Mali was triggered by the sudden movement of al-Qaeda linked Ansar al-Dine terrorists from northern Mali, where they were already in control, south towards Bamako, the country's capital city. I've heard different commentators express opposite opinions about whether Ansar al-Dine could have successfully captured and taken control of Bamako. One commentator said that Mali's army was so weak that they would have put up no defense whatsoever to an Ansar al-Dine invasion. Another commentator said that the citizens of Bamako would have repelled the invading terrorists because they were ethnically Tuaregs from the north, and the citizens of Bamako in the south didn't like Tuaregs. 

We'll never know for sure which side is right, but it's certain that the French believe the first of these opinions -- that the Ansar al-Dine terrorists would have easily captured Bamako, taking control of the entire country in the same way that the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in the late 1990s, turning it into a large base from which terrorist attacks could be launched into Algeria, Europe and North America. 

The problem is that, as in the case of the Israeli attack on Hizbollah, the initial dream of an easy victory has already been dashed, and the prospect of a long war is looming. As several commentators have suggested, France may have kicked a hornet's nest. This follows increasing unrest throughout the region, with the "Arab Spring" and the military action in Libya causing numerous decades-old governments to collapse.

Mali's African neighbors are supposed to be helping out by supplying a few thousand troops to fight the rebels in Mali, but those armies are woefully untrained, and lack even basic supplies. They won't even be able to feed themselves unless someone -- quite possibly the United States military -- provides the transport to keep them supplied. Britain and Germany don't really want to get involved, but they don't want to be accused of being poor allies to the French, so they're supplying transport vehicles. 

An interesting question is what Russia and China will do in the United Nations Security Council when a new resolution (if any) needs to be voted. They've already supported a previous resolution permitting military intervention by Mali's African neighbors, at a time when any thoughts of such intervention were ephemeral future ghosts in the mist. But now that military action is real, and it's gone well beyond Mali's neighbors, Russia and China may take the same stand they're taking over Syria -- no further military intervention is authorized. There is one big difference, however -- unlike Libya and Syria, Mali's governed requested military intervention. The National (UAE) and Jamestown

Greece concerned about outbreak of violence

With unrest increasing because of austerity measures, authorities in Greece are expressing grave concerns about an outbreak of extremist violence directed against journalists, political entities and government institutions. Gun violence has been increasing, and has been targeting government officials. A group called Militant Minority-Lovers of Lawlessness is claiming credit for 17 firebomb attacks in one week, with targets including political offices of the left and right. Officials are concerned that violence is going to continue to escalate. Unemployment in Greece tops 26 percent and a new tax plan sets a rate of 42 percent on many middle-class families, while increasing the corporate rate from 20 percent to 26 percent. Southeast European Times

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