What is now happening in the case of Eritrea, with international sanctions through UN Security Council Resolution 1907, is nothing other than a new form of confrontation (with the African country). The enemy here has managed to cleverly conceal some treacherous contentment in targeting the victim.

The Western media, especially that of the United States, plays a vital role in realising its devilish goal by publishing a series of news stories and reports that are aimed at tarnishing the image of Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki, as if he is the new Saddam Hussain of Africa.

This sort of confrontation is the by-product of well-orchestrated plans and a hostile approach to destabilise a country that strives to stand on its own feet, show its independent identity and get rid of Western hegemony.

The hostile decision taken against Eritrea by the Security Council at the behest of the Western powers brings a myriad of questions and doubts to the minds of political analysts and impartial observers: What is the evidence collected by the UN Security Council that has prompted it to take such a decision against a country that is on the hitlist of the US?

Is it the first time that the people of Eritrea have become a target of a conspiracy by colonial powers? What is the gravity of such targeting? What are the immediate and future goals that these forces are trying to achieve through such action, which is part of pressure tactics to force the people and the government of Eritrea to follow their dictates?

In an exclusive interview with this correspondent last year, President Isaias Afewerki exposed the entire gamut of the Western conspiracy.

I still believe that President Afewerki was fully aware of such well-orchestrated machinations against his government and people. I feel the president has been preoccupied only with the concerns of his country and people. He is a visionary leader striving to achieve all-round national development and make it an independent and sovereign country.

In the interview with me and in similar interviews and briefings for several other newspapers, Afewerki drew attention to the fact that his country was a target of conspiracies by US intelligence agencies that attempted to undermine the stability of the country and encourage youths to travel abroad to carry out anti-national activities.

The hostility towards this impoverished African country, which is striving to play an influential role in this part of Africa, has resulted in the manoeuvres led by the US in cooperation with some neighbouring African countries.

They resort to various types of punitive measures against Eritrea, similar to the action against Iraq and Afghanistan earlier. They are trying to create a similar scenario with allegations that Eritrea is supporting and sheltering armed Muslim militants of Somalia.

There are also allegations that Eritrea is extending support to Al Qaida and the Al Houthi rebels of Yemen. Interestingly, even Yemen has so far not levelled such a charge against Eritrea with regard to Al Houthi rebels, who have been battling government forces for several months.

While calling for sanctions against Eritrea in the UN Security Council, US envoy Susan E. Rice said her country had recently been asking Eritrea to stop supporting Somali militants but had made little progress. What she said reminds us how former secretary of state Colin Powell similarly misled the international community to justify the unilateral US invasion of Iraq.

A calculated move

Recently the Security Council passed Resolution 1907, imposing an arms embargo on Eritrea, travel restrictions and an asset freeze on members of the Eritrean political and military leadership. This resolution was the handiwork of the US and Uganda, in coordination with Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya.

The UN resolution follows a similar action by the African Union, which had criticised Afewerki's government saying: "The acts of Eritrea were instrumental in undermining efforts to establish peace in Somalia. Likewise, Eritrea's dispute with Djibouti poses a threat to peace and security of both countries."

It is noteworthy that President Afewerki has so far not defied the UN decision even though it was the outcome of America's conspiracies — with the support of Ethiopia — to destabilise his government and replace it with one that favours the US.

It is evident that imposing Western hegemony on the rest of the world is not possible as defiance against such a move is gaining ground across the globe.

There is Venezuela, leading some sort of "anti-Western insurgency" in Latin America while Russia leads the voice of dissent in Europe. There are Iran and North Korea in Asia. As for Africa, the baton is with Sudan and Eritrea.

If these countries give in to Western pressures, the confrontation would end in their dismal defeat.

There is no doubt that the US is now concentrating more on Yemen and Eritrea. This was on the pretext of a war on Al Qaida and putting an end to the insurgency by Al Houthi rebels.

The US administration is spreading the message not only in the Arab world and Africa but also in other parts of the world that Yemen is a safe haven for Al Qaida and that Eritrea is providing training to Al Houthis with the support and supervision of Iran at camps in Danqalalu, east of Qanda city in central Eritrea, Tabur on Musawwa Road and two other places in the Shawa region close to Sudan.

The main charge of the US against Afewerki is that he harbours training camps for rebels on Eritrean soil. In addition, there are charges that Eritrea is allowing militants to use its waters.

The US has unleashed an aggressive media campaign based on lies that Eritrea is allowing Iran to use its islands, including Domira located close to Djibouti, for military and intelligence purposes.

Is there any logic in the thinking that Eritrea is allowing the use of most of its territories, whose independence and sovereignty was achieved with the martyrdom of thousands of its countrymen, as a colony of Iran?

It is also ironic that Yemen had accused Asmara of using Israeli naval boats during the Eritrea-Yemen military conflict over the strategic Hanish Islands in the Red Sea in December 1995. Yemen contended that Eritrean forces broke a truce and captured Greater Hanish, the main island in a chain between the two nations that sits astride one of the world's major shipping lanes, near Bab Al Mandeb Strait at the southern entrance to the Red Sea.

As a mediaperson who had covered that war and conducted separate interviews with the presidents of Yemen and Eritrea while the fighting was raging, I remember that the Yemeni media and most of the Arab press had then reported the presence of military bases, missile launching pads and military hardware from Israel in those islands. But now, the allegation is that Eritrea is hosting Iranian military personnel on these islands.

Is it possible for Afewerki to get the magic wand of Mousa and gather its military with the Iranian intelligence and its Israeli counterpart on those islands to turn them into islands of wonders similar to those in the Arabian Nights?

Ulterior motives

The overwhelming presence of naval forces of the US and other Western countries and their intelligence apparatus on the international waters in the Red Sea on the pretext of countering Somali pirates also seems to be detrimental to the interests of Eritrea. They are engaged in monitoring and spying over the Eritrean ports and islands rather than the pirates.

Also, Washington continues to create a media ruckus about the Iranian military presence at the Port of Assab, located in southern Eritrea along the Red Sea, and the types of Iranian weapons amassed there, saying these weapons are much larger than what is actually needed to protect the oil facilities there.

It is noteworthy that Asmara signed an agreement with Tehran in September 2008 to grant exclusive rights to Tehran to supervise the maintenance and development work of the Assab Refinery of the Eritrean Oil Recycling Company at the Assab Port. According to the agreement, Iran is engaged in the reconstruction works of the refinery established earlier by Russia.

Using their media muscle, Washington and London are at the forefront of taking strict punitive measures against Eritrea over alleged support to militants.

The US administration recognises the harsh reality that it is not in a position to enter into a new military conflict aimed at deposing President Afewerki and President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan.

Washington no longer wants to be caught in another quagmire after desperately pursuing an exit from Iraq and Afghanistan. However, there is no doubt that it will, of course, change its tactics and plans to realise its (imperial) goals.

The Americans may resort to tactics similar to those it adopted in Iraq and Afghanistan to bring down governments by using military might.

They would also probably explore other options under the cover of international bodies to get legitimacy for their acts by calling for punitive action against those on their hitlist.

The latest such action was the UN Security Council Resolution 1907 passed against Eritrea recently.


Abdul Nabi Shaheen is the Gulf News correspondent in Saudi Arabia.