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In Somalia, Islamist Rapid Gains Leave Room for Changes
The Union of Islamic Courts, the Islamist movement that has taken over much of Somalia, may already be running into difficulty sustaining its rapid gains. Like most Islamist movements such as the Taliban and al Qaeda, little thought appears to have been given to how to govern if and when power is attained. Simply repeating that _sharia_ law provides the answers does not lead to a platform of governance.

At the American Enterprise Institute's discussion of Somalia last week several important points were made by panalists. One is the the UIC is, like most of Somali structures, based on clans and sub-clans. In the case of the UIC, the dominant clan structures constitutes less than 10 percent of the population.

This relatively small base, coupled with the rapid ascent of the UIC, for which its leaders were completely unprepared, leads some to believe radicalization of the movement will cause a backlash that will make it impossible for the ICU, at least in its most radical incarnation, to succeed in even the short term.

The BBC reports on the cracks on UIC, between what it interestingly calls the Salafists (led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys) and the Qutubists (led by Sheikh Sharif Ahmed). The Qutubists take their name from Sayyis Qutub, the great thinker of the Muslim Brothers, or _Ikwan_. The Salafists would be closer to al Qaeda and the Taliban.

It is unclear what the basic distinction is between the two groups, or whether this divison is exploitable to weaken the more radical Islamist bent of some of the ICU leadership. But what is clear is that Aweys controls the military power, and therefore the real power. He has invited foreign fighters to train in the new military camps the ICU has set up across the terrirtory they control.

But it also appears the ICU's heavy-handed attempts to impose strict _sharia_ law may be rapidly eroding the goodwill the group established by driving out the warlords. The closeing of cinemas, interruptions of weddings, bans on radio stations playing music and growing intolerance for all things outside of the Salafist vision could push many supporters to back away. It is almost exactly the same situation the Taliban faced in 1996, when it took over Afghanistan.

London's Daily Telegraph has a fascinating look at the militia training and the efforts to rehabilitate, through Islam, some of the worst thugs from the days of the warlords.

The ICU may soon need the increased military muscle. The BBC and others are reporting on the possibly inevitable war between the ICU and neighboring Ethiopia. The ICU, allied with Eritrea, Ethiopia's traditional enemy, has set the stage for a possible regional conflict.

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