Monthly Archives: July 2008
When we last reported the status of the United Nations Mission to Ethiopia-Eritrea (UNMEE), we cited intelligence that the mission, facing the expiration of its mandate on July 31, could be transformed into a smaller observer contingent. Now it appears that even that option is off the table, and that the mission will be closed down entirely.
The U.N. Security Council voted on Wednesday to disband its peacekeeping mission to the volatile border between Eritrea and Ethiopia after Eritrea forced out most of the U.N. troops.
The mandate for the 1,700-strong force expires on Thursday. The council unanimously approved a resolution drafted by Belgium that calls for the mission to be terminated and all peacekeeping personnel to be withdrawn.
On one hand, the disbanding of UNMEE–without even a compromise force to replace it–is unfortunate, as it leaves an already tense border region with no objective peacekeeping presence whatsoever. While Ethiopia and Eritrea are not technically at war, their armies, according to the International Crisis Group, are “less than a football pitch” apart in certain areas.
More realistically, though, sending peacekeepers home from Ethiopia-Eritrea simply makes official what had been a de facto termination of the mission since Eritrea decided to deprive it of necessary fuel supplies. The all-important “peace to keep” for UNMEE was little more than ostensible, as both sides — Eritrea through this denial of fuel, Ethiopia by continuing to place troops in an area that an international border commission awarded to Eritrea — have recklessly flouted UN authority and hampered the mission’s effectiveness.
UN peacekeepers cannot be expected to stand between two armies and prevent the return of full-scale war. If Ethiopia and Eritrea are serious about resolving their dispute, they will have to work out — and abide by — their own peace agreements. Leaving UNMEE there without a corresponding level of commitment from both sides only encourages the unreasonable expectation that peacekeepers alone will be able to defuse this crisis.
I agree with Matt Levitt and others that tackling the threat of Al Qaeda terrorism should remain a top-tier national security priority. In the coming decades more significant challenges will no doubt emerge, most important of which will be managing the rise of China. And in the nearer term the Iran nuclear standoff will continue to loom large.
From the UN News Center:
A new United Nations assessment has found that millions of people in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) are experiencing the worst food crisis in almost a decade, owing to successive poor harvests coupled with soaring food prices.
“Millions of vulnerable North Koreans are at risk of slipping towards precarious hunger levels,” Jean-Pierre de Margerie, Country Director for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) tolda news conference in Beijing today.
“The last time hunger was so deep and so widespread in parts of the country was in the late 1990s,” he added.
(Image from UN News Center)
I do not think we are concentrating too much on terrorism, it legitimately belongs at the very top of the list of national security threats we face today. True, the nature of the transnational threats facing the world today is far different than the ones the U.S. and its allies faced on 9/11. But al-Qaeda itself remains a formidable opponent, with a resurgent core in Northwest Pakistan and affiliates and homegrown cells pose a growing threat as well.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.