Merchant of Death
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The Future is Now: Somalia in the New World Order
The recent, audacious hijacking of a Saudi oil tanker by Somali pirates, with at least some of the ransom money destined for Islamist militants, shows just how quickly the future has arrived.

The criminal-terrorist groups on the Somali coast (largely controlled by radical Islamists of the al-Shabaab group, a self-declared affiliate of al Qaeda central) have in essence declared themselves at war as a joint enterprise, against the rest of the world. Even the Saudis are angry enough to try to join international efforts to combat the groups fed by their own theological teachings.

These loose-knit groups now join the FARC in Colombia, the Taliban in Afghanistan/Pakistan and others as full-fledged terrorist-criminal enterprises that are the future. I have long warned that this threat will, unfortunately, have to be a tier-one priority for the incoming administration. These latest developments show just how dangerous it is to not deal with these issues in their infancy.

Unlike the FARC and Taliban, which rely on drugs, the Somali groups have used innovative thinking to generate their wealth. This too, is what we will see more and more of, as groups intersect along the terrorist-criminal pipeline and find overlapping interests and talents.

They took what was at hand, a vital artery in world commerce-including oil shipments-and found the weakness in the system, namely, a complete lack of protection of valuable cargo flowing past them.

The pirates, acting largely from economic motives, now hold a staggering amount of wealth in their hands. The operative concern has to be not only the criminal funds, but the use of these funds to arm and support radical Islamists. Al-Shabaab is likely to share the wealth, and we will see them suddenly armed with new, sophisticated weapons and communications as they move to finish off the weak and ineffective transitional government.

Already the hijackings are having a huge effect on commerce through one of the most obvious choke points in the world's shipping commerce.

As the Daily Telegraph notes, there may be a great deal more thought behind the hijackings than just money.

The pirates may have seen the Sirius Star as a ticket to a ransom in the tens of millions of pounds, but there is also the possibility that the seizure indicates more geo-strategic thinking among some factions in war-torn Somalia, which Western intelligence services have long seen as a safe haven for Islamist terror groups. For anyone bent on attacking the economies of the developed world, striking at the oil trade which fuels them would be a major opportunity.

For decades, when the strategically vital Strait of Malacca between Indonesia and Malaysia was the world's worst piracy hot spot, analysts warned of the risk of terrorists seizing a tanker and sinking it in the area's shallow waters. Blocking the artery through which a third of the world's seaborne trade passes would have dealt a huge blow to the world economy.

Crippling, even hampering, the global flow of crude oil, by forcing tankers to take longer routes and pushing up costs, could potentially have similar effects.

Even yesterday, a Norwegian shipping company, Odfjell, said it would no longer sail through the Gulf of Aden and would send its 92 vessels on detours of thousands of miles and several days around Africa and the Cape of Good Hope.

"The re-routing will entail extra sailing days and later cargo deliveries," said its chief executive Terje Storeng. "This will incur significant extra cost, but we expect our customers' support and contribution."

The tanker oil is worth $200 million, and pumping it into the sea could cause irreparable ecological harm. The Saudis are now now in talks with the hijackers.

In addition, the pirates are still holding ship loaded with Russian weapons, including tanks. They have grown increasingly more sophisticated, and increased their range of operations, apparently now using "mother ships" to ferry small speed boats far out to sea. This allows the pirates to attack ships before they reach the waters of the Gulf of Aden, where Russian and NATO ships now offer some protection. The Indian navy says it sank at least one "mother ship" last night.

That, in my opinion, is a vital step. This is not, in my opinion a soft power issue. There are legions of unemployed youth in a region where the state has failed miserably and on multiple occasions. They are attracted by the quick and relatively easy money of piracy. Fine.

But the only way to stop the current scourge is through the use of overwhelming force, sanctioned by the international community if possible. While the tanker cannot be sunk, the Ukranian ship with the Russian tanks can-and perhaps should be, if there is an attempt to offload them. That is harsh, but it would save hundreds, if not thousands, of lives by keeping the weapons out of the hands of killers.

And ending the pirate threat is vital not only end a criminal enterprise but to remove a key funding source from our enemies.

The Conviction of Monzar al Kassar and News of the Criminal/Terrorist Nexus
Somalia's Collapse (Again)
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