Morning Report: January 2, 2007

As the year 2007 opens with images of a notorious dictator swinging from the end of a rope, we take a look at emerging battlefields, and new weapons, in the struggle for freedom. Meanwhile, the Holy City mourns a leader.

Teddy Kollek dies. JTA: 'Jerusalem’s ex-mayor Teddy Kollek died.
Kollek, who served for 28 years as the head of Israel’s capital, passed away Tuesday. He was 95. Known by his nickname, Teddy, Theodor Kollek was born in Austria and moved to prestate Palestine in 1935. During World War II he served as an intelligence asset for Allied forces, a job that would prepare him for his next job: liaison for the fledgling State of Israel’s Haganah militia in the United States. After Israel’s founding, Kollek ran the office of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. He became Jerusalem’s mayor in 1965, and when eastern areas of the city were liberated in the Six-Day War two years later, worked to bring Jewish and Arab residents closer. Kollek was voted out of City Hall in 1993 and replaced by Ehud Olmert, now Israel’s prime minister. Kollek was married and had two children.'

Somalia: What next? Douglas Farah:
Ethiopia’s quick dispatch the Council of Islamic Courts in Somalia has opened the way for the next step, which is seldom any easier than the first: rebuilding shattered institutions while providing the security that brought the Courts the support that propelled the radical group to power in the first place.

The new government is in a very difficult position-beholden to a foreign power that will soon be resented as an occupying force, little leverage in negotiating with the different clans and warlords, and unknown in most of the country.

In addition, the new government faces the prospect of a prolonged conflict with the rump of the Islamist movement, and the strong possibility that the remnant will receive support from Islamist movements around the world, including al Qaeda. ...

One of the keys will be international support and recognition, with support clearly tied to the government’s willingness to take the necessary steps to rebuild a nation that has been without a central government for 15 years.

It was the Court’s ability to provide security for businesses, ordinary citizens and international trade that created the atmosphere where their excesses were tolerated. If the new government cannot provide that in the very near term, it will fail one of the first, most crucial tests in many people’s mind, and support will erode.

The Courts also provided a semblance of a working judicial system, under sharia law, where the cycle of impunity could be challenged and broken. Again, the new government must fill that void ...

ODIE: Trends for 2007. Or Does It Explode sees three trends continuing throughout the coming year: women's citizenship rights (particularly the transference of national status to children of transnational marriages); demands for religious freedom in the Middle East; and regional activist campaigns reaching across borders. Full post at the link.

Al-Qaeda leaders hunted in the Horn of Africa. Debka: 'Special US forces from Djibouti join the pursuit on the Somali-Kenyan border for three most wanted al Qaeda leaders in the Horn of Africa. They fled south with the defeated Somali Islamist fighters. DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources identify them as: Abdullah Fazul, from the Comoro Islands, Ali Saleh Nabhan, from Kenya, and Abu Taha al-Sudani, from Sudan. Fazul, the most senior, is wanted for lead roles in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, the 1996 Ethiopian Airline hijack in which four Israeli air industry directors and 3 Israeli civilians were murdered; the ramming of the USS Cole in Aden Harbor which cost the lives of 19 US seamen, and the 2002 coordinated air-missiles attacks on the Mombasa Paradise hotel and the Israeli Arkia airliner bringing Israelis to the hotel. Fazul is also the highest ranking operative in contact with clandestine al Qaeda networks in the Sinai Peninsula. His capture and interrogation would for the first time provide access to a primary source on al Qaeda’s precise plans for operations against Israel, but he has more than once escaped when his pursuers were hot on his heels.'

Iran: Divestment is working. Vital Perspective: 'No doubt the sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council in late December are too weak to force Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. But, as the NY Times reports today, what could make a real difference is the oustanding job done by financial institutions and other private sector "street fighters" to cut ties with Iranian businesses and individuals beyond those involved in its nuclear and missile programs. The most notable of these efforts is Divest Terror organized by the Center for Security Policy in Washington. The results of the collective work are beginning to show. Last month, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation announced that it would not issue any new loans for Iranian projects until Iran resolved the nuclear impasse with the West. The Iranian economy is suffering a great deal as a result of the economic punishment. ...' Read the rest at the link.

ICU: Farewell Somalia, hello Kenya. ThreatsWatch:
Following the trend consistently seen throughout the duration of the advance driven by the Ethiopian army, approximately 3,000 Islamic Courts Union fighters fled the southern Somali port city of Kismayo overnight, the ICU’s final urban stronghold in Somalia. While the overrunning of the al-Qaeda backed Islamist forces that had taken control of the majority of Somalia is a positive development with global implications in the global conflict, Somalia’s strategic importance to al-Qaeda and aligned movements (AQAM) assures that unless the ICU’s force is blocked and decimated in-place, it will regroup with significant al-Qaeda investment and return to the Somali battlefields in relatively short order.

Understanding this, Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government urged Kenya to close its borders, potentially acting as an anvil to the Ethiopian-led hammer in pursuit of the Islamists. A spokesman for the Somali TFG said, “We request the Kenyan government to close its border since the remnants of the defeated Islamic Courts led by Hassan Dahir Aweys are heading towards the Kenyan border.” The abandoned Kismayo stronghold lies 100 miles north of the border with Kenya. Ethiopian reconnaissance aircraft reportedly observed the ICU fighters heading southward toward the border in convoys of light vehicles.

An initial response from Kenya was disappointing ...

Read the full article at the link. Steve Schippert concludes: 'The defeat of the ICU Islamist forces fleeing combat in Somalia requires more than allowing them to melt into the southern horizon. It remains to be seen, but there is little to suggest that the Kenyans are up to the anvil task in equal proportion to the capabilities and will evident in Ethiopia’s hammer.'

Commentary. With the new year, there's a new focus on the Horn of Africa. Watch this site for continuing developments from that region.

Today's items highlight the broad range of tools that can be brought to the struggle for freedom: trans-national activism, economic pressure, and local leadership. With continued effort, we can take advantage of the ground gained in 2006.