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

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

This morning’s key headlines from

  • 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 ministerDavid Cameron has canceled a much anticipated speech he was togive on Friday in Brussels on the question of Britain’s continuedmembership in the European Union. Since the Algerian natural gascomplex was mostly operated by British Petroleum, it was a majorcrisis in Britain. According to Cameron: 

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

ahead. Cobra [crisis group] officials here are working around theclock to do everything we can to keep in contact with thefamilies.

British officials have been expressing annoyance that Algeria whenahead with the bloody rescue mission without giving advance noticeto Britain, or asking for help. 

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

Algeria ends hostage siege violence, embroiling self in Mali war

Algerian forces stormed the “Ain Amenas” natural gas complex onThursday, freeing hundreds of hostages, mostly Algerian workers, beingheld by al-Qaeda linked terrorists. But 30 of the hostages, includingsome Americans, were killed, along with at 11 of the terrorist militiamembers. 

Algeria had previously indicated that it wanted to stay completelyout of the Mali war, but then permitted the France’s war planesto overfly Algeria to reach Mali. The terrorists used thisfact to justify their attack on the natural gas complex. 

The terrorist attack on the natural gas complex exposes majorvulnerabilities for Algeria. Europe is dependent on large shipmentsof natural gas from Algeria, and Algeria’s economy is dependenton the income from those shipments. The terrorists could haveblown up the natural gas complex but, according to some analysts,chose simply to make the point that they can still do that atany time in the future. Thus, this crisis raises questions overwhether Algeria will be able to reliably continue to supply energyto Europe.

This attack may also force Algeria to take a more active part in theMali war, for its own self-defense. That would broaden the war evenfurther 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 byunexpectedly challenging al-Qaeda linked terrorist groups on twodifferent fronts in Africa. ( “14-Jan-13 World View — France on terror alert after challenging al-Qaeda on two fronts”) The hostage rescuemission in Somalia was a disastrous failure. And in Mali, a Frenchplan to train Mali’s army has turned into a full scale invading combatforce 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 ofal-Qaeda linked Ansar al-Dine terrorists from northern Mali, wherethey were already in control, south towards Bamako, the country’scapital city. I’ve heard different commentators express oppositeopinions about whether Ansar al-Dine could have successfully capturedand taken control of Bamako. One commentator said that Mali’s armywas so weak that they would have put up no defense whatsoever to anAnsar al-Dine invasion. Another commentator said that the citizens ofBamako would have repelled the invading terrorists because they wereethnically Tuaregs from the north, and the citizens of Bamako in thesouth didn’t like Tuaregs. 

We’ll never know for sure which side is right, but it’s certain thatthe French believe the first of these opinions — that the Ansaral-Dine terrorists would have easily captured Bamako, taking controlof the entire country in the same way that the Taliban took control ofAfghanistan in the late 1990s, turning it into a large base from whichterrorist attacks could be launched into Algeria, Europe and NorthAmerica. 

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 commentatorshave suggested, France may have kicked a hornet’s nest. This followsincreasing unrest throughout the region, with the “Arab Spring” andthe military action in Libya causing numerous decades-old governmentsto collapse.

Mali’s African neighbors are supposed to be helping out by supplying afew thousand troops to fight the rebels in Mali, but those armies arewoefully untrained, and lack even basic supplies. They won’t even beable to feed themselves unless someone — quite possibly the UnitedStates military — provides the transport to keep them supplied.Britain and Germany don’t really want to get involved, but they don’twant to be accused of being poor allies to the French, so they’resupplying transport vehicles. 

An interesting question is what Russia and China will do in the UnitedNations Security Council when a new resolution (if any) needs to bevoted. They’ve already supported a previous resolution permittingmilitary intervention by Mali’s African neighbors, at a time when anythoughts of such intervention were ephemeral future ghosts in themist. But now that military action is real, and it’s gone well beyondMali’s neighbors, Russia and China may take the same stand they’retaking over Syria — no further military intervention is authorized.There is one big difference, however — unlike Libya and Syria, Mali’sgoverned requested military intervention. The National (UAE) and Jamestown

Greece concerned about outbreak of violence

With unrest increasing because of austerity measures, authorities inGreece are expressing grave concerns about an outbreak of extremistviolence directed against journalists, political entities andgovernment institutions. Gun violence has been increasing, and hasbeen targeting government officials. A group called MilitantMinority-Lovers of Lawlessness is claiming credit for 17 firebombattacks in one week, with targets including political offices of theleft and right. Officials are concerned that violence is going tocontinue to escalate. Unemployment in Greece tops 26 percent and anew 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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