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This is why you should care what happens in Djibouti

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This is why you should care what happens in Djibouti

There are three likely flashpoints that may soon draw the United States into a military conflict with a major adversary. While the first two are well-known, the third may not be. Hence this concise analysis.

● Persian Gulf against Iran
● South China Sea against China
● Horn of Africa against China

BACKGROUND

Djibouti is a tiny country of less than 9,000 square miles on the Horn of Africa with just under 1 million people where the median age is 24 years. 90% of the population is Muslim and the official religion is Islam.

The country received its independence from France in 1977. President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh is both head of state and head of government of Djibouti and the commander-in-chief of the Djibouti Armed Forces. He has been in office since 1999.

BASES

“Camp Lemonnier is a United States Naval Expeditionary Base, situated next to Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport in Djibouti City, and home to the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) of the U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM). It is the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa.”

“The Chinese base of the People’s Liberation Army Navy is located by the Chinese-operated Port of Doraleh west of Djibouti City. To the south of the city are several other foreign military bases, including Camp Lemonnier (United States Navy), Base Aerienne 188 (French Air Force), and the Japan Self-Defense Force Base Djibouti.”

GEOGRAPHY

“The Red Sea is an extension (or inlet) of the Indian Ocean, located between Africa and Asia. Entrance to the sea in the south is through the Gulf of Aden and the somewhat narrow Bab el Mandeb (strait). In the north the sea is accessed from Middle Eastern countries via the Gulf of Aqaba (or Gulf of Eilat.)”

CHINA’S DEBT TRAP DIPLOMACY

As part and parcel of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, Djibouti ~ along with a number of other emerging African nations ~ has been extended enormous amounts of infrastructure-related loans which cannot possibly ever be repaid. China’s ploy is to demand ports and terrain in repayment.

BATTLE FOR STRATEGIC CONTROL

The narrow Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb between Djibouti and Yemen controls the entrance from the Indian Ocean via the Gulf of Aden into the historic Red Sea. Therefore, access to the Gulf of Suez and the Suez Canal and to the Gulf of Aqaba and the Israeli southern Port of Eilat must pass through this volatile waterway. It is the only way to get from Asia into the Mediterranean and Europe without having to sail all the way around the immense African continent.

HOSTILE ACTS BY CHINA

With this backdrop, it really comes as no surprise that China seeks to dominate this choke point of world maritime commerce. After an incident last year in which Chinese military were accused of aiming lasers at American Pilots, similar warlike actions have just occurred.

Djibouti’s proximity to restive regions in Africa and the Middle East makes it an ideal location for military bases.

China is alleged to have tried to obstruct freedom of the skies by preventing U.S. military aircraft from flying over the Chinese base in Djibouti. Once again, lasers were used to potentially blind American Pilots and precipitate a fatal crash. The Chinese are alleged to have also attempted to surreptitiously enter the U.S. Camp Lemmonier south of Djibouti City.

Somalia to the southeast of Djibouti has been a hotbed of unrest.

While due attention is also being focused upon the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea for Chinese attempts to exclude all other nations from exercising freedom of the seas navigation and sovereign control of their territory, some 5,000 miles southwest of there, the People’s Liberation Army Navy is also threatening American personnel and assets in the Horn of Africa.

The conflict in Yemen is less than 20 miles away.

All of this of course is happening simultaneously with Iranian bellicose actions in the Persian Gulf. These are very interesting times in which we live. Expect Djibouti to get its 15 minutes in the sun as a household word and part of everyday vocabulary in the near future.

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Foreign Affairs

‘Lady Liberty’ erected above Hong Kong

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Lady Liberty erected above Hong Kong

Several dozen Hong Kong protesters scaled a peak overlooking the city to erect a 3-meter statue they’re saying is their version of “Lady Liberty.” According to Singapore-based news outlet The Straits Times, it overlooks the city to inspire protesters against the increasingly authoritarian government in the city, which is backed by Beijing.

Clashes between protesters and police grew more aggressive over the weekend as the semi-autonomous island off the China coast continues to experience strife between the people and the government. Nearly 2500 protesters have been arrested so far with around 1000 of them being under the age of 18.

This is the latest symbolic call in a long string that is intended to mimic and draw attention from Americans who have the types of freedoms they crave. But so far there has been no significant movement by the government as Beijing grows impatient.

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Foreign Affairs

Russia brokers deal for Kurdish forces, Syria to partner against Turkey

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Russia brokers deal for Kurdish forces Syria to partner against Turkey

Syria as a whole will be Bashar Al-Assad’s once again. That is, at least, what the Syrian President and the Russians are hoping for after Moscow brokered a deal between Assad’s regime and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in eastern Syria.

In the wake of a U.S. withdrawal from the border with Turkey and the subsequent invasion by Turkey 20 miles into Syrian territory, Assad and his long-time rivals are willing to work together against their mutual enemy. It isn’t just Turkey but also their proxies in the Free Syrian Army. The group, which was once supported by the Obama administration to fight Assad’s government, has been the tip of Turkey’s spear so far during the brief conflict with the SDF.

Russia, who has had an ongoing relationship with Assad and once supported the SDF, has renewed those ties and brought the two foes together to fight for a common cause. If it works, the Kurds will likely maintain some autonomy while adhering to a united Syria under Assad. If it fails, Turkey will take control of a stretch of land 20 miles deep and 300 miles wide along the border where they intend to relocate two million refugees.

This isn’t just about relocation, though. The Turkish government believes the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which comprises the most powerful militia group within the SDF, is supplying their allies in the Kurdisran Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey and America regard as a terrorist organization.

With Russia inserting itself into the mix, their relationship with Turkey will likely strain even more. But their greater goal of a united Syria under the control of Bashar Al-Assad is worth making Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan upset.

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Economy

President Trump working with Congress to sanction Turkey

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President Trump working with Congress to sanction Turkey

In less than a week, Turkey has managed to draw the ire of most of the world, including most on Capitol Hill, as they move to eradicate Kurds and Christians in eastern Syria. Their invasion, coordinated with attacks by their Syrian al Qaeda proxies, have already caused turmoil, killed hundreds, and displaced hundreds of thousands.

Now, President Trump appears ready to follow through on his threat to “cripple Turkey’s economy” through sanctions.

The President has been criticized by many in both political parties following the White House announcement that we are withdrawing troops from the border region. What followed was such a quick response in the form of an all out Turkish invasion that it’s clear they’ve been planning this for some time.

Our EIC took to Twitter to push the President towards following through with his threat against Turkey should they cross the line. As he noted, they have clearly crossed the line.

Reports of civilian deaths are mounting. It isn’t just the Kurds that Turkey and al Qaeda are targeting. Syriac Christians are in the crosshairs as well. The intense fighting seems to be focused on clearing out entire cities to make room for the millions of refugees the Turks currently hold. Instead of just taking out military targets from the Kurds, who Turkey believes to be terrorists, the invaders are wiping out the entire populations in cities and villages near the border.

Senator Lindsey Graham chimed in. Graham has been a Trump supporter, but broke from the White House over the Syrian withdrawal. Now, he’s voicing hope and alignment with the President’s sanction plans.

Turkish President Erdogan clearly lied to President Trump. It’s time to send them a clear message in response. Our troops may be coming home, but we can stop this bloodbath through sanctions. Cripple their economy, Mr. President.

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