Opinion: Shift in U.S. Policy on Eritrea Unclear

“President Isaias and his advisors will not swivel back towards Washington unless they have good reason to do so. But my own dialogue with Asmara over the past 18 months leads me to believe that President Isaias would very much like to put his relations with Washington on a more constructive footing. Given the high stakes in the Horn of Africa, and very low level of effort that would be required to set the stage for a much better relationship in the future, it is surely in Washington’s interest to try.” – Bronwyn Bruton, Deputy Director of Africa Center at the Atlantic Council.

By The Cipher Brief,

International sanctions and poor relations with neighbors have left Eritrea largely isolated in East Africa. Relations between the U.S. and Eritrea are tense, partially due to alleged human rights abuses by the Eritrean government. Indeed, a number of Eritreans flee the country – many cite the country’s mandatory and essentially indefinite military service as the reason.

As the Trump administration settles into office, The Cipher Brief asks Felix Horne, a senior researcher for the Horn of Africa at Human Rights Watch, whether U.S.- Eritrea relations could thaw in the coming years.

Q: Although the U.S. established diplomatic relations with Eritrea in 1993 after its independence from Ethiopia, current relations seem dismal. Why?

Felix Horne: Eritrea has been largely isolated from the international community since independence. It has continually blamed both Ethiopia and the U.S. for many of its domestic woes without acknowledging the devastating impact that the indefinite nature of national service has had. The U.S. has a very strong relationship with Ethiopia, and this partly feeds Eritrea’s perspective on the United States.



Interestingly, Eritrea’s isolation has changed over the last couple of years in two ways. Firstly, the last two years have seen increased engagement from European states, largely to curb migration to Europe. Thousands of Eritreans flee every month, many of whom end up in Europe after crossing the Mediterranean Sea. The refugees regularly cite the indefinite nature of national service as a key reason for their migration. Despite this, European efforts in Eritrea have focused primarily on development efforts to stem poverty. While this may be worthy on its own, it will not stop migration – that will only stop once the indefinite nature of national service and the associated human rights violations have stopped.

Secondly, due to the conflict in Yemen, the Gulf states are showing a renewed interest in Eritrea. The United Arab Emirates has established a military presence in Assab, Eritrea. Despite the increased engagement from these states, there haven’t been too many indications that the U.S. is considering a shift in policy.

Q: Does the U.S. have an interest in bettering bilateral relations? If so, why and how?

Felix Horne: Eritrea occupies a very important geopolitical location along the Red Sea. The UAE and other Gulf states have eyed increased cooperation with Eritrea as a result. Despite the strategic location and strengthening relationship with other states, there have not been many indications that the U.S. is shifting its policy towards Eritrea.

>> ALSO READ : Testimony of Bronwyn Bruton at U.S. House Subcommittee Hearing on Eritrea

Eritrea’s human rights situation and mass migration out of the country show no signs of abatement either. There are many reasons for this, but it is clear that the international community’s isolation of Eritrea hasn’t helped. Whether a more substantive engagement with countries like the United States would help improve the lives of Eritreans remains to be seen.

There are also significant economic opportunities in Eritrea, including significant gold deposits, largely untapped due to Eritrea’s isolation. A large Canadian mine is operational, with a variety of Chinese mines expected to start producing soon.

Q: What about security relations – right now, there is no military-to-military cooperation, but could this be a possibility in the future, especially with a common interest in dealing with violent extremism and terrorism in the Horn of Africa?

Felix Horne: It’s really not clear under the Trump presidency whether there will be a rethink about relations with Eritrea, and there haven’t been many signs from the Eritrean government that they are keen to start a new relationship with the United States either.

>> ALSO READ : President Trump, Put the Ball in Eritrea’s Court

Q: What is Eritrea’s role in stabilizing – or destabilizing – the region; that is, does the country cooperate in efforts to combat terrorism, or contribute to it itself, for example?

Felix Horne: Eritrea has been under UN sanctions for some time over its alleged support to al-Shabaab in Somalia. Both Eritrea and Ethiopia also support and fund each other’s armed opposition groups. It doesn’t play any significant role in regional efforts to combat terrorism, having relatively poor relations with many of its neighbors.


  • Jo Jo

    Time will tell. We will probably find out soon. At the moment, the Trump administration has been VERY SLOW in filling positions. Rex Tillerson at State Department does not even have a deputy. No one has been nominated yet to be his deputy. There are literally thousands of Unfilled jobs on the foreign service desks. They have not even begun formulating policy toward HORN of Afica.

    What we do know so far is that Trump Administartion does not care about human rights. Case in point: Obama Administation had frozen sales of F-35 fighter jets to Bahrain over alleged human rights abuses. Trump last week through his secretary of defense John Mattis lifted the ban and approved the sale of F-35s to Bahrain.

    The lifting of the ban and sale of F35s to Bahrain bodes well for Eritrea. Not only because human rights will not be used as a bludgeon to hit countries over the head the way Hilary, Susan Rice and Samantha power did, but also because John Mattis is a VERY GOOD friend of Bahrain, UAE, Qatar and GCC countries. Good friend of GCC countries is also good friend if Eritrea.

    May be TN can find those two articles on Washington Post. 1) about Trump being way behind in filling positions and also 2) approving sale of F35s to Bahrain and lifting Obama’s ban over HR abuses and post them for benefit if it’s readers.

    • Lalmba

      Trump also claimed that he does not believe in the so called “Regime change” a mantra of the disgraced Obama/Clinton doctrine. As you said “Time will tell”, but we will keep on doing as we always do, take care of our business!

    • Hizbawi

      Eritrea does not need the USA. Next.

    • Starbucks

      What we do know so far is that Issais Administration does not care about human rights.

  • Lalmba

    The same cut and paste story. Frankly, it has become as boring as the existence of the minority regime in Ethiopia. Nothing new except exaggerated claims of the so called human rights crap. If the writers and the US and its allies are thinking we will stop our National Service Program (NSP) because of their ‘pressures’ think again! Our NSP was created because of Ethiopia’s belligerence against Eritrea and will continue (as long as necessary) unless and until the US gets off its fat ass and honor its responsibility by telling the TPLF regime to abide by the rule of the law they both signed. PERIOD! Short of that we will continue defending our nation as we always do regardless of what the the US or others may think or do.

  • Kaleab B

    Flex Horne didn’t even have the guts to tell the truth on basic facts like…. Eritrea has been FULLY exonerated from all Somala-Shabab allegations made by TPLF Ethiopia and its friends. This is a well know and documented fact. I am afraid we are witnessing the birth of another shady character too. It seems to me by managing to carve out a role for himself in TPLF Ethiopia mass human right violation, Mr Horne has now extending his expertise to the entire region. It’s funny how things never change in this old world of international game of human rights.

    • Alem Mehari

      This Felix knows nothing about Eritrea or he is been informed by those who has a grind to axe. He is one of those who championed the and copy and paste way of writing articles a far, often reciting worn out lies and heresy. He is not a researcher regardless which title he wants to affix to himself. He tries to sound little bit reasonable when the tide is turning against the organization he represents. He is not more than a ordinary reporter with very limited knowledge of Eritrea and the region in general. He could assume a fancy prefix but at last he is he is still employed by the deplorable HRW with dubious objectives.

      • Kaleab B

        Interestingly the Ethiopian opposition groups seem to like this new character a lot. They are relying on his reports to out the Woyane thugs. My thought is, this is only going to embolden him further. Unless he gets confronted quickly to set the record straight on Eritrea, he will be the next menace to our region.

        • Alem Mehari

          I concede your idea, that is why it is imperative that this dud confronted right away by facts before he spread his crab camouflaged as research, He has certainly a purpose when he choose the timing. The minority MLLT is on intensive care and may be change is coming from Washington. The MLLT an its handlers are panicking by the imminent change or shift of policy or lack of interest from the West which bankrolled the MLLT adventure in our region.This second-rate “researcher” as he choose to be called, is hardly a researcher since he lacks the very basics of Eritrea except he might be hooked by the amount of crab he read from the web.

  • wedinakfa

    Felix Horne is not new in defaming Eritrea, he has been at it for a long time and his nasty custom on Eritrea is evident on his narrative, which is narrow and shallow like his head and grey matter, perhaps he should make it clear that he is talking form his A%%;
    This kind of people are tutelages of neo cons and capitalist, they are in it for their big belly and what else could they do to survive?! Unless they create confusion they can not loot, so they confuse to loot otherwise unless they peddle and twist issues they can not survive and that is their hall mark hence they are morally defunct and politically bankrupt souls. simply Del Boys of politics, hope this is not an insult to second hand dealers. lol.

  • Truth

    Hello :
    His last statement/answer tells it all:
    “Eritrea does not play any role in combating terrorism…due to its poor relations with its neighbors…”.
    This chap should a new born.
    I thought that the so called neighbors are SAFE coz of Eritrea’s positive role in combating terrorism.
    I think he should consult the Sec of State,Mr Ramsfield.

    • Eri first

      He is a new chap in town no more or no less.

  • cane libero

    Reading the questions seems like we’re some-how begging the mercy of the “Lord”, I probably think in a far extreme way, but better this persons out-door than in, “Kab keqerbuqa, kerehquqa yebeletx”, just engage with who willingly want, today market is open, west aytebel est aytebel, north south. so neziom getxom terhaq. human rights ab “….” yewetefo.

    • Lalmba

      cane libero:
      “ካብ ክቐርቡኻ፡ ክርሕቁኻ ይበልጽ”!…’human rights’ ኣብ መዓኮሮም ይወትፍዎ! I couldn’t have said it better brother.

    • B.Adal

      Thank you Nebsi.

  • Sanchez

    For Eritrea it won’t get any worse whereas for Ethiopia it won’t get no better.
    “Nothing is clear” the hallmark of Donald’s administration. Leave alone Eritrea, even the Western countries (Europe & Canada), UN etc are not clear as to how the US policy will be directed. The unpredictability not good news for Ethiopia but it has no much effect on Eritrea. Because Eritrea is already nothing to lose regarding its bilateral relation with the US. So, either things continue as they were or something better (hope) could come.

  • The Last Warlord

    Etitrea can do so much better after they get rid of that old crazy man, Eritrea people deserve peace and prosperity.

    • Mulu G

      Are you suggesting to get rid of Eritrean people. I guess we all crazy people. Keep barking like a dog

    • B.Adal

      Sentiko, if I were you, I would worry how to control Mogadishu before I worry anything on PFDJ, the architects who landlocked your mama Ethiopia.

      • Sentek

        Wedi Adal, I appreciate the love but Sentek and Warlord are not the same. Will accept your apology later.

        • B.Adal

          I know Sentiko and warlord are different pen-names… that’s all the difference:-)

          • atheist

            Different names the same clan.

        • The Last Warlord

          Lol B. ADAL is deluded so let him think what he wants to think.

          • B.Adal

            Which competition do you want to play to win which one of you is the ultimate Ugumesh:
            1. Who wants to eat or
            2. Who loves Woyane more?

          • Abrar

            The Ugumesh is asking us to differentiate between Chenawi, Legesse, Meles, Abebe ..etc

          • Abrar
          • King Yacob

            The Eritrean Ambassador sharp like a bullet!!!

          • B.Adal

            LOL.

          • Alem Mehari

            I think he knows we know his character he is a flunkee who does not dare to stand by his descent. He must use and change deplorable names. How du you describe a Dedebit graduate with a dream of being a warlord raised in underived Kilil. It is scary temper epitomized in one persona.

    • Honour

      Mr Last Chifra you seem to be high on Chat, you might have got a good chunk of it too much lately. You must be insane to comment things beyond your little brain. Have an order in your house before jumping to comment on other affairs. You a Somalia boy with a good dosage of Wayanes inferiority complex.

    • cane libero

      Last world, somal do ayenberkan, kemey ilka agame teqeyrka? aye neseqatkum tegebru..bes kem nefahito, lewet wet..twey wey kem lebi tegray..alla agame zeytegebro o yellen..

      • B.Adal

        LOL ????

    • Belay Tesfay

      I know that President Trump is a great & Best president of the USA & I am sure that Eritrea will have a solid relationship with the USA in future…How come you call President Trump ” Old Crazy Man “…I think you are a stupid & uneducated person…

  • B.Adal

    What Felix Horne, the so called senior “researcher” on the Horn of Africa is missing is a knowledge of east Africa commonly understood by the average East African. These include:
    1. No USA relationship with Eritrea has nothing to do with the alleged human rights abuses in Eritrea nor with bogus Ethiopian & USA cooked Eritrean support of Al-Shebab.
    2. USA support of Ethiopia is only The support of Woyane minus it’s people. Why would USA support Woyane when over 90% of Ethiopians are fighting to remove Woyane from power? This is when you know USA’s support of Woyane is the traditional SLAVE MASTER relationship that commonly held by USA with all it’s third world puppets.
    3. The refusal of USA to enforce the final and binding EEBC ruling is the only reason military service in Eritrea is extended. USA is only Woyane’s lifeline and that is the reason USA tried (although failed miserably) to overturn the EEBC ruling in favor of Ethiopia.
    4. USA would have loved to be in Eritrea than being cramped in Little Djibouti with France, China, Saudi Arabia, and whoever next will be $$ for Ja-Booty. The only reason USA is not in Eritrea is because PFDJ refused to accept a slave master relationship.
    5. With questionable survival of Woyane in much hated Ethiopia and with Eritrea having many options outside USA, it is in USA’s interest to knock the strong doors in Eritrea. Sanctioned or not, Eritrea will come out stronger. Supported or not Woyane will be booted out by Ethiopians leaving USA in the cold.
    6. Considering many options Eritrea has, it is time for Trump to take USA out of the cold.

    • Alem Mehari

      Wow… brother superb analyses and tp the point.
      The so called researcher by the name Felix is only an agent no more than that, or he is a confused fellow of the dreadful organization.

      • B.Adal

        100% with you.

    • Mulu G

      Merhaba wedi anbessa. keep burning those roaches agame with truth.

      • B.Adal

        Anbessa t’Hsho. Woyane and their supporters have already smelled their end.

    • Sentek

      On one side of your mouth you claim USA allies are slave puppets and then you ask US to enforce the EEBC ruling? Why not enforce it yourselves? From what I hear, you have about 2 million soldiers thanks to NS? The only thing you are doing is giving false hope to supporters by stating, Eritrea has more options. Not even Egypt can come out to lobby on your behalf or offer rebuttals in the UN when it matters the most. The truth is, for shabo to come out of the cold one or two things must happen. One, stop supporting anti Horn elements and two, end the Mengistu style slavery. Btw, the more you stay on course, the demographics of that land would change in no time. Be wise.

      • B.Adal

        Uninvited Sentiko!!I
        Wish we knew you were coming to our house … sorry, just finished eating our third meal … even cleaned the leftovers. Advice: Always request invitations, unless you’re heading home to TigrayOnline.
        ???? ???? ????

        • Alem Mehari

          This unsolicited dud is every nowadays where since his masters are in the intensive care. He is just confused soul . I do understand it too much to ask for a dedebit graduate with below average IQ 63. We have to enjoy his tantrum with his sophomoric observation of themes he has not idea but obliged to comment. What would be our forums with out these duds who are filling the cyber with residue never seen before, the laughing stock of the region

    • cane libero

      OUYE..B.Adal brother neberelna dea neseqas, neqetmagotelna neza qezab alem..ab zezelenayo btxay shet maàenta, men kemzirebreb keneriyen ina..Great to read your sober view.

      • B.Adal

        T’Hisho brother cane libero

  • L.T

    Their blah blah turned out that Eritrea is going up,this inhuman logic of Eritrea baaased in nightmarish horror fantasies and they are are afraid of Eritrea”the idiots” but one thing is clear their basement Weyane Tegaru will wipe out soon.

  • የጠቅላይ ምኒስትሩ ባዶ ጭሆቶች ! (courtesy of ቆንጅት ስጦታው)

    ÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷

    የኢህኣዴግ መሪዎች በኤርትራና በሻዕብያ ያላቸው ፍቅር ገና ኣልወጣላቸውም። ግብኣተ መሬት እስኪ ገቡ ፍቅራቸው የሚወጣላቸውም ኣይመስሉም። ሰሞኑ ሃይለማርያም ደሳለኝ ኤርትራን በተመላከተ የተለመደው የሸፍጥ ንግግር ኣድርገዋል።
    “የኤርትራ ጉዳይ ትግራይ ክልል ክፉኛ እየጎዳ ስላለ የተለየ ሶስተኛ ኣማራጭ እየፈለግን ነው።” ጠ/ም/ ሃይለማርያም ደሳለኝ የኢትዮ- ኤርትራ ግንኙነት ኣስመልክተው የሰጡት ሓሳብ።

    ከዚህ የፊት ባዶ ጭሆት ሁነው የቀሩት ንግግሮች ኣድርገው ነበር።
    – ” የማያዳግም እርምጃ ”
    – ” ተመጣጣኝ እርምጃ ” የሚሉት ፍኮራዎችና ቀረርቶዎች ተናግረው ነበር። እነዚህ ንግግሮች እንደጠበቅናቸው በሻዕብያና ኤርትራ ምንም ተፅእኖና ለውጥ እንዳላመጡ ታዝበናል።

    ኣሁን ኤርትራና ሻዕብያ በተመለከተ “ሶስተኛ ኣማራጭ እየፈለግን ነው” ብለው ቀልደዋል። “ሲሰርቀኝ ያየሁት ሲጨምርልኝ ኣላምነውም” እንደሚባለው ከዚህ በፊት ዘራፍ ዘራፍ ብለው ወፍም ማባረር እንዳልቻሉ ኣይተናልና ኣሁንም ምንም ለውጥ እንደማናይ እምን ነው።

  • Sentek

    I do notice this shift in shabo over the year attempting to change minds around the West, which is really good. But, without changing policies, it’s not achievable. I don’t understand why play this zero politics without at least implementing constitution or releasing prisoners first? Do you honestly think US needs Eritrea? You can barely contribute to security of the horn, no resources and no willingness to work with others? Come on, at the very least, going to Djibouti to make peace would be a start. This waiting for Ethiopia to blink game is only producing more and more hate from the people. God have mercy on you.

    • Kaleab B

      Policy discussion is way above your paygrade. Just stick to hanky panky political talk.

    • B.Adal

      PFDJ Policy never changes, We eat our hard earned meal. Sadly your Woyane “policy” also never changes, Eat Food Stamp donated by the white world. Sentiko, what is the status of Woyane’s newly requested $947Million for Food Stamp?

    • truth

      Kibur Ayte Sentek:
      Consult Sec Ramsfield.
      Ethiopia would have been broken into pieces had it not ben the Shabbo’s existence. and contribution ..against Terrorism.
      Who has made and kept the Red Sea safe thus far?
      The USA is working through its proxies with Eritrea coz it has realized finally, that it needs Eritrea.
      It was the two dumb and amateur USA diplomats through your dead-for-good PMMZ that the USA lost Eritrea ..
      If Eritrea, and the Shabo and Eritreans by default, were to be given an opportunity and a chance, Terrorism would have remained a history in the world in general and in the Horn in particular.
      And this is not an empty gurra or bravado but a FACT the world has witnessed and we know who chased Osama bin Ladin and made him hide in the mountains of Afghanistan.
      Slowly but surely, the world is coming back to its senses and recognizing the major positive role Eritrea is playing and can/will play.
      If Eritrea and the Shabbos were to get a fraction the billions of $$ your TPLF Janda has been squandering around, things would have been a piece of cake for Eritrea to stabilize the Horn overnight.
      More over, Somalia would have been the Greatest and the most peaceful Nation!
      Again, this is a historical and hard core fact…
      But we know what happened and as to why…

    • Yerdae’ka

      Stick to Quenty Agame boy. That’s the only thing u understand. Leave policy for non-Agame people.

  • Anda Abay

    Our long struggle and lone had paid off and still bound to pay despite our isolation by the United States European states and their puppet woyane leaders .Despite their of their push to deprive Eritrea and the Eritrean people to poverty we survived their harsh blow. And now we are the owners of our own mine fields bound to do what we want to do . Eritrae never kneel down. The U>S is welcome for better relations but not at the cost of Eritrea and its people..The Woyane despite their deception are into death bed suffocated by their poison .Heil Eritrea. Long live Esaias.

  • Redsealove

    It’s the same old garbage in garbage out dead end solutions from this so called African experts . It’s not about just a solution for the interest of the region and people but the few corrupt diplomat’s influenced by millions of $$ donation/bribe by alamoudi/medrock tplf front companies. Eritrea was the first country to fight terrorism in its soil early on the likes of binladen and company when it wasn’t a battle cry of today. You can’t have a real solution by intentionally ignoring the root cause of this problem. The tplf dying government and its paid apologist in the West played a big part in creating this fabricated problem and is the main distablization Force in this region. How far does Eritrea expected to bend to please tplf pay masters before it reaches a breaking point?? As PIA brilliantly put it into perspective in his recent interview. The real cause of this fabricated isolation is the greater agenda of the now discredited neo liberal political order and its negative ramifications in creating and managing artificial crises in the middle East and East Africa in particular. Eritrea is ready to have good relations with all unless and otherwise endangered it’s existence .Let’s wait and see if the other side walk the talk and in the meantime fully support Eritrean government rapprochment and positive diplomatic engagement.

  • The Last Warlord

    The Eritrean People are clearly suffering since they’re all dying in their thousands in a desperate attempts to reach safety in Europe, so seriously what is so good about the so called government in Eritrea? Why would anybody support these thugs in Asmara? They’re rule is exactly just like ISIS and other al qaeda terrorists groups since they all relies on brutality, in Eritrea everyone is under strict surveillance, there is no free media, no freedom of speech, no opposition groups etc.

    what a mockery to those young men and woman Eritreans martyrs who lay down their lives down so they’re offspring wouldn’t suffered no more Ethiopian occupation.

    I understand Eritrea is at war with Ethiopia but why does Eritrea also needs to declare war on Somalia and Djibouti?

    What Eritrea needs is a new leader who will put Eritrea first, open Eritrea economic to the world, create jobs, build schools, hospitals, roads etc, give the Eritrean People the means to live in peace and prosperity, reach out to both Djibouti and Somalia, play your rule as a major country within the horn, Eritrea doesn’t need to be friends with Ethiopia but Eritrea can be friends with Djibouti and Somalia and rest.

    • B.Adal

      Your IQ63 brain couldn’t fake the truth of your Ugumesh identity any longer… else it would be funny a little Farmajo boy would dare to talk about Eritrea.
      Read the past 15 year history: Ugumesh, Warlord & Ja-Booty combined could do a dent on Eritrea. Look at the current UN map of hunger crisis to see who is winning.

    • Raee

      What a rusted garbage head! I know there is nothing to expect from a rotten Weyane head, but no worry Weyane is on its way to his demise.

      • Honour

        Raee brother,
        The Last Warlord Sentiko, Sanchez, Abel Asmerom et at are nothing but paid Janda weyanes agents with out shame.

    • Mulu G

      Boy a boy I can smell you. You r 100% Agame. At least be a man be truthful to yourself respect your self to get respect. That is why no one should respond here to your comments ????????????????????????????

    • atheist

      It’s okay. It may not seem like it right now, but you are going to be fine, we know it’s not easy to be Agame, but don’t be afraid.You are who you are a filthy Agame.

    • truth

      Dear The Last Warlord:

      Where the HELL did U get this:

      “I understand Eritrea is at war with Ethiopia but why does Eritrea also needs to declare war on Somalia and Djibouti?”
      Eritrea NEVER declared war on Djibouti or Somalia.
      Djibouti has acted on behalf of its masters against Eritrea..
      Eritrea has done it best to create a United and Stronger Somalia.
      R U confusing Eritrea with Ethiopia, which dismantled Somalia besides invading it?

  • WediEreSwed

    Felix lied when he said that Eritrea has been isolated since independence, this is a pure lie. Eritrea’s problems started after about 2000, when the West decided to side with Weyane (not the Ethiopians). He knows that Eritrea had good relations with Europe and the United States. Why is he lying? If he does not know this fact, he should not be called an expert on the Horn of Africa.

  • King Yacob

    I feel Tesfanews is too good for this Article. Not a very good opinion!!

  • merhaba

    Felix Horne is one of the narrative ,cheap thinker ,what did he know about Human right ?Let me remind him 1952 Eritrean people were neglected Human Right by his Grandpas,Eritrean people sold out by US and British, that is why for 30 went to fight arm straggle . Now you are accusing falsely and sleepless about national service .You Never write about Eritrean land that occupied by Ethiopia .Shame on you Hand off Eritrea .