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Somalia's change could be U.S. gain

Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Chairman of the Union of the Islamic Courts in Somalia

Editorial: The Seattle Times
Thursday, June 15, 2006

The United States has a real chance for positive gain in the Muslim world. To achieve it, the U.S. would have to swallow its Western pride and open talks with the Islamist militants who defeated the reportedly CIA-backed warlords in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.

The struggling and violent nation is in dire need of stability. The secular warlords have not provided that structure since Somalia's government collapsed in 1991. Muslim clerics stepped in and created a semblance of stability in the form of Islamic courts.

The moderate clerics — with whom, historically, Somalia lined up religiously — have told Western leaders that their rule will not be like that of the severe Taliban of Afghanistan.

To be of any help, the U.S. first must pull away from the remaining warlords — who were employed in the hunt for al-Qaida cells after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to a wide array of news reports — and call for them to lay down their weapons. Then the U.S. and other key nations should sit down with the clerics and discuss how to bring in the weak transitional Somali government from its ineffective vantage 155 miles outside of Mogadishu in the city of Baidoa.

The U.S. would bolster its image and clout internationally by working with the Islamists to make Somalia whole again. America could demonstrate to the world that it can work with a new Islamist movement, and help a people in desperate need.

Constructive diplomacy can also help close the gap that has widened between the U.S. and Somalia since 1994, when 18 Army Rangers were killed by rebels in Mogadishu. The incident led to a complete American withdrawal from Somalia.

The U.S. should not be afraid of Somalia's political evolution. Nation-building begins with discussion, not violence. Somalis will continue to suffer — and groups such as al-Qaida will surely gain a foothold on the African Horn — if the U.S. stubbornly decides corrupt warlords are the right partner.

Editorial: The Seattle Times, June 15, 2006

The opinions contained in this article are solely those of the writer, and in no way, form or shape represent the editorial opinions of "Hiiraan Online"

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