Possible scenarios of hybrid wars in the Horn of Africa
By Andrew Korybko | for Global Research,
Because of the unpredictability of the Eritrean government and the opaqueness of the information environment within the country, it’s very difficult to tell exactly what sort of plans might be brewing in the Red Sea state. It can safely be assumed that Ethiopia will not provoke a potentially destabilizing conflict with its former province because it literally has nothing of strategic significance to gain by this, whereas Eritrea has everything of subjective benefit to acquire if it can overthrow its rival’s government, divide its territory into Identity Federalized-statelets, and possibly even repeat the Eritrean scenario over and over again until Ethiopia itself ceases to exist as a geopolitical entity.
Upping the ante in any potentially forthcoming conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea is Asmara’s newly christened relationship with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which might predictably end up getting drawn into the prospective conflict (whether directly through troops or indirectly through back-end assistance) or outright participate in conniving it as a means of derailing the rise of what would otherwise become the super region’s undisputed and multipolar leader.
Any GCC support to Eritrea or even the pretense thereof would undoubtedly rattle China, which is soon to be basing some of its forces in its first-ever overseas military facility in Djibouti and has a vested interest in seeing one of its closest non-Asian allies remain stable and succeed in its fast-rising ascent.
Key to China’s concern about Ethiopia’s well-being is the railroad that it constructed between that country and Djibouti, the first reliable access route since Eritrea’s 1993 independence that Ethiopia has for reaching the global economy. China envisions that Ethiopia will play a key role as a major node along the One Belt One Road (OBOR) global connectivity platform, and as such, it would likely respond in a negative fashion to any foreign military aggression against its pivotal ally.
Nevertheless, there is only so much that China can and is willing to do, and providing direct side-by-side military assistance in any potential conflict isn’t one of them. However, Beijing would likely work at a breakneck speed to reach some sort of diplomatic solution in ceasing hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea as soon as possible, which might see it even offering its own troops up as trusted peacekeepers in the same manner as it’s already been doing in neighboring South Sudan.
If the GCC in any way flexes its muscles or intimates that it will do so vis-à-vis assisting its Eritrean ally, then China would most likely lodge diplomatic objections towards them and possibly consider economic or even military asymmetrical posturing countermeasures in sending them the message that it will not sit by idly while they endanger the viability of its entire Horn of Africa OBOR policy. This is pertinent to mention because the GCC and its affiliated Turkish ally already have, are suspected of having, or are on the verge of acquiring, bases in the following countries:
* Eritrea – UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar
* Djibouti – Saudi Arabia, Qatar
* Somalia (Somaliland) – UAE
* Somalia (Mogadishu) – Turkey
Positioned on a map, it’s clear to see that the GCC and Turkey are forming an encirclement ring around Ethiopia that could easily be used to exert pressure against it, whether through their support of Eritrea or perhaps even Somalia’s Al Shabaab.
Speaking about the second subject and Somalians in general, if the GCC and Turkey use Somalia as a launching pad of destabilizing influence against Ethiopia, then it’s obvious that this would involve some sort of disturbances in the Somali Region (formerly called Ogaden), whether this takes the form of outright terrorist attacks or masquerades as Color Revolution-focused “protesters”.
Correspondingly, if the two fronts of destabilization are timed to coincide with one another, then an eruption of violence near the Eritrean and Somalian borders could split the Ethiopian Armed Forces and make them vulnerable to internal destabilizations such as the Hybrid Wars that will be described in the following section. Of direct relevance to China is that violence in the northwestern part of the Somali Region in Ethiopia could lead to immediately negative consequences for the transnational railroad to Djibouti that transits through the area, which would thus prompt Beijing’s previously described and projected involvement in the crisis.
Depending upon if and when it happens, the more time that passes until a possible Ethiopian-Eritrean Continuation War, the more time that there is for the GCC to strengthen its strategic position in Eritrea and provide decisive assistance to its new ally in shifting the currently equitable balance of power against Ethiopia.
If this turns out to be the case, then the chances that China would more loudly and visibly provide support to Ethiopia also increases, and this might even reach the point of sending frontline military advisors and urgent shipments of state-of-the-art battlefield equipment.
Essentially, what could easily sprout up is a major proxy war between the GCC and China over control of the Horn of Africa, and in the run-up to this potentiality, both sides could even frenziedly build up their partners’ military capabilities through what would amount to a rapid arms race in the region. Eventually, it might get to the point that the GCC compels Eritrea to ‘test the limits’ of the tense peace that it has with Ethiopia in order to acquire battlefield testing for what might then be its latest munitions, which could of course unwittingly get out of control and usher in a regional conflagration that raises tensions between the GCC and China to the breaking point by extension.
“Weapons of Mass Migration”
The last region-wide destabilization template that could be applied in the Horn of Africa is the utilization of the two forms of “Weapons of Mass Migration” against Ethiopia and Eritrea that were earlier described in the research. Pertaining to Ethiopia, the influx of nearly a quarter million South Sudanese refugees into the region of Gambella (which has just a slightly larger population than that) might become a majorly disruptive element if not properly dealt with. The geographic peculiarities of Gambella are such that it lies on an equal plane as South Sudan does, separated from the rest of Ethiopia by the mountains that run along its north-to-south western-oriented axis. This reality is both a facilitative factor for incoming refugees and a potentially inhibitive one for the armed forces in responding to any forthcoming disturbances there.
Provided that there aren’t any other significant internal conflicts at the time, the Ethiopian security services should be able to concentrate their forces enough to keep the peace in Gambella, despite the Gambella People’s Liberation Movement being one of the five terrorist groups recently united under last year’s militant umbrella and likely endeavouring to use the refugees in a self-interested Hybrid War manner.
For example, this organization might be working to either arm them or the locals, seeking to sow the seeds of discordant hatred between the new arrivals and their endemic hosts so as to foster a bloody provocation that would force a military response. In turn, this might be used as per tried-and-tested Color Revolution techniques in order to smear the military for “killing civilians and/or refugees” and propagated as a rallying symbol for domestically provoking a Color Revolution (whether in the region, the capital, or all throughout the country in coordination with its regime change allies), internationally ‘isolating’ the authorities, and painting them in a negative light that preconditions the global public for accepting the intensification of regime change Hybrid War. Moreover, Gambella is so important precisely because it neighbors the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region and could be the source of a destabilizing contagion of ethnic violence that turns the diverse area into Ethiopia’s domestic version of a South Sudanese bloodbath.
The other version of “Weapons of Mass Migration” that are being deployed in the Horn of Africa is the Western-originated strategy to prompt a large-scale outflow of “refugees” from Eritrea. The domestic push factor of the policy of indefinite military service mixed with the pull factor of the EU’s 91-93% acceptance rate of Eritrean “refugees” has created such a massive demographic crisis for the country that 400,000 of its slightly more than 6 million total citizens have already left over the past six years.
The effect has been to weaken the economic, military, and social strength of the country with the anticipation of prompting a political crisis in the coming future, the effect of which might be a lot more unpredictable and far-reaching than what the West might expect to be a simple Rose Revolution-esque regime change operation.
More than likely and owing to the specific domestic and regional circumstances that Eritrea presently finds itself in, a concerted anti-government movement within the country (whether composed of Color Revolution ‘protesters’ and/or Hybrid War ‘rebels’) might lead to the total collapse of the government, which itself could unleash a swarm of refugees to Ethiopia and Europe and possibly even elicit a militarized response from rival Addis Ababa.
Additionally, the procedurally shifting strategic balance between Ethiopia and Eritrea as a result of the latter’s artificially created demographic crisis might lead Asmara to seek to strategically compensate by intensifying its new ties with the GCC, which as described earlier, could then unleash a GCC-China proxy arms buildup and even a potential war.
Regardless of how far this scenario would eventually go, it would certainly lead to these out-of-regional actors doubling down on their support for their respective allies, with a distinct scenario focus being the reinforcement measures that the GCC could take in propping up its ally in Asmara from collapsing due to the weaponized demographic strain that it will definitely come under if the human outflow isn’t halted in the near future.
Once again, this would trigger the cyclical security dilemma of the GCC upping aid to Eritrea while China does the same to Ethiopia, which would move the region close to an all-out continuation war, albeit one which owes its most immediate cause to the cumulative enfeebling effect that the West’s “Weapons of Mass Migration” would unmistakably have on Eritrea and its leadership’s need to strategically compensate by seeking out GCC assistance.
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