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Is TopCat really in “mobilization”?

From Karthryn Cramer comes a tasty bit of news that the BBC wasn’t actually wrong when it said Top Cat Marine Security was in a "mobilisation phase" (UK spelling). From Ms Kathryn Cramer:

[a] company that builds boats identical to Top Cat’s seems to have set up shop in Panama

Panama is nice place to hide. A commentator on Kathryn’s site says Casini, if it is Top Cat, can’t hide in Panama because ITAR can still reach Pete, he being a US citizen and all. I don’t think that is why he’s hidingout. The US State Department’s "cease & desist" is still a fuzzy red herring to me until I actually see something. The more I ponder this, the more it seems USG was involved. As I said in the past, somebody should have been fired for selecting Top Cat Marine security as cover. More to come for sure.

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Kathryn Cramer: Top Cat Marine Security Has an Executive Level

In an effort to keep information fresh, from Kathryn Cramer’s blog on TopCat Marine Security:

We had our differences and I’m no longer associated with Peter Casini, TCMS, Cobra Boats, Topcat Design or any other Casini enterprise.

It seems that "Bacehlor #3" in an earlier post by Kathryn is a man who now is making it clear he has nothing to do with TopCat. TCMS is an interesting org, but still more interesting: Did they hope to get in front of the coming action?

The Cheetah Cubs

The Cheetah Cubs

Cheetahcubsap180
According to the Department of State, "U.S. counterterrorism troops, carrying out humanitarian water improvement projects in the Horn of Africa region" found these two cubs and rescued them in Dec 05. It is good and expected our forces are in the region and there are no negatives to that from my perspective. The issue complicates when considering the "armed camps" protecting Chinese oil workers in the region.

Update: Has TopCat Marine Security Been Ordered to Cease & Desist? & Other Regional News

Possibly so, according to Kathryn Cramer’s blog, Top Cat Marine Security Ordered to Cease & Desist.

…the US Department of States Bureau of Arms Control has issued a Cease and Desist order to Top Cat Marine Security on their pirate-fighting contract with Somalia….

But so what?

Ethiopia_eritrea2_map416 From the region are BBC reports of Eritrea ejecting UN peacekeepers monitoring the border with Ethiopia. This comes as a possible reaction to threatened UN sanctions resulting from a lack of compliance with a five year old peace agreement. Kofi Annan and the UN Security Council gave an unusually strong rebuke in response: "The Security Council unequivocally demands that Eritrea immediately reverse its decision without preconditions." The most recent flash point was Badme, far from the contested Horn areas and the coast. Is this related or coincidental? Keep reading for a lesson on complexity systems (you’ll have to read my other posts… at some point I’ll do another, overview).

The region has a lot going on right now. Rumors of something happening before Christmas seem to be gaining traction with reality.

However, some key questions yet to be answered:

  • Was a "cease and desist" actually issued, assuming that is the appropriate legal remedy in this case? If not, will it be? Will it be a paper tiger?
  • Does this mean the dissolution of TopCat Marine Security for either the purpose of protecting Somalia’s coast or for good?
  • Will those involved with TopCat regroup, if the haven’t already, and continue on their planned path?
  • If this was a clandestine operation, will USG do a better job next time? (Based on the participants in this fiasco I highly doubt this was a USG-sponsored adventure. If it was, somebody should be demoted or fired.)
  • Lastly, will there be similar fanfare in the media over the termination of this coast protection solution? I doubt it because I doubt the validity and legitimacy of the whole TopCat endeavor.
  • Will there be another public attempt at a private or public solution? Will the EU, AU, UN be more involved the next go’round, especially as a result of the publicity?
  • OR was this all a complete shame by a criminal (see Kathryn Cramer’s post on Casini & TopCat, the "man" behind TopCat Marine Security) and Somalia is no closer to security or will good things result from the publicity? Based on certain rumors and suggestions, I question the likelihood of this path… it seems like a lot of mobilizing went in behind the scenes to stop a scam artist and a lot interest from people other than District Attorney’s (lawyers working for municipalities in the United States) and Attorney’s General (lawyers working for states in the United States).

My money is on the last option AND the third option. This puzzle isn’t complete, just one of the pieces has been dropped (kicked?) to the floor. While we don’t have confirmation yet, Casini may be getting called on his failure / inability to deliver product to (shady) buyers and compliance with US Code (and apparently bankruptcy courts, etc). However, what is the real importance of the "cease & desist"? Does it not just legally halt TCMS’s involvement? What was their REAL participation anyways? Providing some boats, making some wonder how long before the pirates are cruising on COBRAs, to the region, possibly some teeth? The change of scope from littoral anti-piracy to seeking the "mother-ship" and back was either a lack of discretion by the in-over-his-head Casini or ?

Kathryn Cramer has a theory it was related to insuring ships.

Information / feedback I have received and reviewed indicate TCMS was simply part of something larger and not a lone wolf out to make a few bucks. With TCMS out, will the underlying effort it was clearly providing cover for cease, burrow, or disperse? The access to natural resources (including Yemeni fields accessed from Somalia), the Chinese, and armed factions inland are at most related to the piracy problem and not direct consequences of privateering. The land-bound warlords obviously have at least some control (are there sealords in the area? Kevin Costner, are you out there? sorry…) over the pirates, but they aren’t the whole game.

More to come for sure as the security situation of Somalia is dire. A reality underscored by the  reporting from Kenya of another hijacking of a ship of "unknown ownership and registry was seized in the pirate-infested waters of Somalia early Tuesday".

:: See also the Somalia and Africa categories for additional information, include Chinese and energy implications

Somalia & Uranium?

Came across this tidbit on Somalia from a 1993 National Review Online article:

In 1984, Brazilian mining company Construtora Andrade Gutierrez announced a $300 million investment in a uranium mine in northern Somalia. The deal was to be financed by Banco do Brasil, and the host government agent was the Somali Arab Mining Company (Soarmico). Soarmico was itself a joint venture founded in 1978 between the Somali government, the Arab Mining Company based in Jordan, and Iraq.

But according to a dated World Energy Council report, Somalia has only a small reserve that would be (relatively) expensive to extract.

:: See the Somalia category for all preceding and future items on this thread ::

More on TopCat associations

Without getting into details here, but Kathryn Cramer has done some interesting investigative work on those associated with TopCat Marine Security, which makes for an interesting read. Her information paints TopCat more like an Executive Outcomes / Sandline mercenary outfit than a respectable private military firm providing security services, of which there are many. Her research indicates a Fox News link to TopCat. Definitely worth the read.

TopCat, Somalia, Ethiopia: Ogaden, Gedi, EPRDF/TPLF

Some excellent questions and conflicts in wording were raised by a reader (see Marathon, PETRONAS, and PexCo Oil and Somalia) that deserve their own post. The additional research was insightful and makes me more confident in my Boots on the Ground post earlier today.

To start, Hale pointed out a contradiction found on the Global Exploration and Product News website
(aka "Oil and Gas Investor" in my previous post, or E & P) regarding the validity of Range Resource’s
agreement with the Transitional Government, of which Prime Minister
Gedi (Geedi) is the (nominal?) head. The exact wording of the text I posted contains the contradiction Hale points out:

Mixed messages are being sent about licensing in Somalia with a Dutch firm taking acreage but an Australian firm, which thought it had won a block, being told it had negotiated with the wrong people. [Holland's] PexCo exploration has signed up for with the Ministry of Mines and Energy for exploration in the Ogaden area, according to reports in Ethiopia.

As Hale points out, there is apparently a valid agreement signed by Prime Minister Gedi and Range Resources. The contradiction is possibly just in the reporting, as the Ministry of Mines and Energy is Ethiopian, as Hale points out referencing the Alexander’s Gas & Oil Connection announcement of 19 October 2005.

So, with the Ogaden area in Eastern Ethiopia and not actually in (anymore) Somalia, what gives? Is there some rumbling fallout from the 1977 war when Somalia invaded Ethiopia to "liberate" Ogaden? (This was ultimately led to Somalia agreeing to American use of "naval ports and airfields at Berbera, Chisimayu, and Mogadishu.")

There seems to be a flurry of interest in Ethiopia and Somalia and the region. So why the "mixed messages" in E & P? Was it simply a mistake? Somebody misreading Range Resources claim with Somalia and thinking it was Somali? I don’t think so.

There is an overall deterioration in security in the region with Ogaden "rebels" claiming civilian deaths at the hands of Ethiopians. Between ONLF (Ogaden National Liberation Front) and the recent public statement about al-Qaeda in Mogadishu, Ethiopia is lining us reasons to move eastward. Fighting AQ is always a crowd pleaser and wiping out pesky ONLF while lining up routes to the sea would seem like a by-product when it is the real purpose.

Hale also commented on the agreement between Puntland and HAFZA, specifically in regards to the suspension of work due to security issues. Hale correctly points out this suspension, which I had already commented on in Puzzle Pieces when I first researched HAFZA. This security problem could be Ethiopian stocked, but that is speculation. What is not speculation is an increase in arms shipments into the Transitional Government’s capital that may or may not be intended for the TG.

The cooperative agreement signed between Somalia and Ethiopia
on 1 Dec 2005 came with pledges of assistance to calls "upon the
international community to extend financial and political support to
the transitional government and take measures on those forces who attempt to hamper peace
in Somalia" [emphasis added]. Further, the "African Union, European
Union, UN, World Bank and other donors pledged for their continued
support to the Transitional Government of Somalia."

This "take measures on those forces…" statement could be the public pronouncement to what is coming.

Something else I noticed during this additional research was the both
HAFZA (left) and Range Resources (right) used an identical map with
identical dot-styles to indicate place. [Update 9 Dec 05: still believe the web designer for both are the same, which has pretty much been proven; add'l info: this map graphic is found at State.gov]

Hafza_free_zones

Somalia_sm05_range

Based on this information, I think the scenario painted by Donna is going to be accurate. The details are fuzzy and contradictions do appear, but I believe the weight of the evidence points toward war breaking out in the region. With Chinese, American, and other interests heavily involved over the natural resources in the area, it would seem likely that at least one government is involved. Unfortunately, based on the TopCat starter (possibly with the luxury cruise ship w/ military grade hardware conveniently on-board… violation of the Geneva Conventions anyone? The media never questioned that, just fascinated by its use), it appears the United States may be involved.

Boots on the ground?

Looking back at a previous post, I’m struck by a statement by a minister of the Transitional Government, Abdalla Haji Ali: "Besides donating assorted weapons to favored factions, unfortunately Ethiopian military personnel crossed deep in to Somali regions of Bakol and Bay in the last 48 hours."

The timing of Ethiopia’s recent announcement of what may seem like public knowledge — "We have a very active terrorist cell in Mogadishu, which has been involved in terrorist activities in Kenya" — is curious. Both Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s statement and Ali’s statement were reported the same day.

Ethiopia’s offer to "help" comes during ongoing African Union peace
talks last week. The AU was apparently discussing plans to send troops
to Somalia to guarantee the safety of the Transitional Government.
Ethiopia has said that "should the process collapse, we very much
hope it doesn’t but if it does, we plan to protect ourselves, not sort
out the mess in Somalia."

It sounds to me like preparation for putting boots on the ground in
Somalia, if they have not already moved in as Ali claims they have,
through proactive action.

The TopCat-led or fronted "mission" could be coming under the cover
of Tim Spicer’s hope (cover? hard to not question Spicer w/ the current
problems of AEGIS) of humanitarian intervention through private forces
since governments “won’t make a decision to intervene…or [delay] until
it is too late”. Use of PMC’s (private military companies) for HIs
(Humanitarian Interventions) is something many have written about, even in the NGO world of peace and serenity.

A side note: a paper listed in the previous link by Christopher Spearin, is located on the Sandline website. A reference Mr Spearin used is Col "Bernie" McCabe (ret.), the same as in my recent post. Only then, he was a Director for Lifeguard. He provided the information to David Isenberg, now of BASIC, on Plaza 107 (see "Background" and note 94).

Col McCabe, as Sandline rep, once said "we don’t work for white powder gangs or rebel groups", preferring to work more noble causes, apparently. But Lifeguard was linked to supplying arms to Sierra Leone rebels and employed by mining companies for security. While on its face simply a security arrangement, it cross past the boundary of propriety as it was part of SL’s working both sides (Sky Air Cargo) of the conflict. The region has a long history of working with private military companies. Puntland hired the Hart Group to protect its shores (why not hire them again? or are they…) in the past. Overall, listing the companies with previous engagements in the region currently connected to TopCat personnel (e.g. Lifeguard, Sandline) could make for an interesting map. Anyone going to do that chart?

This backgrounder by "Donna Somala" is interesting in its tracing and similar path my research has taken me. Of most interest is this (emphasis added on parts I’ve heard rumors of before): "It is evident that a US intelligence team will back Ethiopian troops when they invade Somalia in order to ensure the planned works of the Caluba oil pipeline project toward Somali ports. The interest of Ethiopia is purely economic and has nothing to do with IGAD’s so-called plan to disarm the militia."

In the end, I am confident boots will be marching in Somalia sponsored by this state or that state (Ethiopia and others), and probably including the United States in some direct or indirect manner (remember the $50m ITAR / AECA etc limits). Rumors indicate such, as does the news.

Is war about to break out in the Horn?

News from the Horn of Africa heats up.

"Ethiopia’s prime minister said on Thursday that he believes it is
common knowledge that an al-Qaeda terror cell is operating in Somalia’s
capital, Mogadishu…The African Union, also based in Addis Ababa, was meeting late on Thursday to discuss plans to send troops to Somalia to guarantee the safety of the government-in-exile, which was formed after three years of peace talks in Kenya."

Back in May 2005, US Marines were reported to have landed in the area, but that’s dated. Currently, the heat is between the Transitional Government and the "other". From today’s news (emphasis added):

A group of Somali lawmakers in-exile on Tuesday accused Ethiopia of smuggling weapons to militias in Somalia in violation of a 13-year-old UN arms embargo on the war-shattered Horn of Africa nation.

Abdalla Haji Ali of the group said: "Besides donating assorted weapons to favored factions, unfortunately Ethiopian military personnel crossed deep in to Somali regions of Bakol and Bay in the last 48 hours."

He said: "It is a matter of hours or very few days before an Ethiopian-masterminded war breaks out in Baidoa."

The US may still have a presence at Camp United, established Feb 2004. Related to piracy, TopCat, Marathon, etc? Something is clearly coming up…