From Opinio Juris comes news Dijibouti, where our Marines have an counter-terrorism base and are practicing the a real campaign of public diplomacy (see CT in the Horn and Revisiting the Roosevelt Doctrine).
[T]he Republic of Djibouti has filed an application with the International Court of Justice against France alleging France violated its treaty obligations to provide judicial assistance in a Djibouti criminal investigation.
This looks like a fairly tedious and unimportant case. The only
interesting aspect (to me, anyway) is whether France refuses to accept
the ICJ’s jurisdiction. France famously withdrew from the compulsory
jurisdiction of the ICJ back in 1996 (those unilateralist Frenchies, so
disrespectful of international courts!) and this case can only go
forward with France’s consent. If France refuses to accept ICJ
jurisdiction, even here in this fairly minor case, it will be a slap at
the ICJ’s authority and credibility.
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?
How does the South African Ophir Corporation has recently announced a 75% stake in the Rova Energy Corporation figure into all of this? The maritime diplomacy of the Chinese, Yemini fields accessed from Somalia, and the general lawlessness of the region certainly makes for some interesting reading. More investigation on this surely to come. Comments, leads?
Somalia is a priority for the U.S. State Department, which is engaged in "quiet diplomacy" to help buttress its fragile transitional government, a key state department leader said Wednesday night at the University of Minnesota.
Also, Horn of Africa "security briefing" from a regional news source.
…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?
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 ?
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
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.
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."
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]
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.
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.
"Ethiopia’s prime minister said on Thursday that he believes it iscommon 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."
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…
More information on McCabe and Marathon oil is found in a lengthy document about "the new world order’s mercenaries" has more food for thought:
…old-boy network had put him in touch with oil entrepreneur Anthony Buckingham. Buckingham, also ex-military, has been described in some press accounts as a former member of Britain’s naval special forces, the Special Boat Service, although the description has never been confirmed. After working in the North Sea oil industry as a diver, Buckingham moved into the oil industry, working initially with Ranger Oil of Canada….
Buckingham later founded his own company, Heritage Oil, which he ran from the modern, glass-fronted “Plaza” building at 535 King’s Road, Chelsea…"Plaza 107"…a single receptionist handled incoming calls to more than 18 different companies. From the Plaza suite, Buckingham, Mann and others ran businesses that included oil, gold and diamond mining, a chartered accountancy practice, and offshore financial management services. To this, they would add military ground and aviation companies.
[FYI: Tim Spicer and Buckingham were both involved in PNG through Sandline, the repacked EO…]
A November 1996 memorandum from Buckingham announced the appointment of retired U.S. Special Forces Col. Bernie McCabe as director for the Americas. His task was “to develop Sandline business, and exploit opportunities for other group companies where appropriate in North, Central, and South America. He is also to develop our image/contacts with U.S. government agencies.”…
There is also mention of Marathon Oil and bribe money. The realist says this would be expected in a corrupt region, so no big deal, right?
On July 15, 2000, the Marathon Oil Company sent $13,717,989.31 to an account in Jersey, an island in the English Channel with stringent bank secrecy laws. The owner of the Jersey account was Sonangol, Angola’s state oil company. The sum represented one-third of a bonus that the Houston, Texas-based company agreed to pay the Angolan government a year earlier for rights to pump the country’s offshore oil reserves. That same day, Sonangol transferred an identical sum of money out of Jersey to another Sonangol account in an unknown location. Over the course of that summer, large sums of money traveled from the Jersey account to, among others, a private security company owned by a former Angolan minister, a charitable foundation run by the Angolan president, and a private Angolan bank that counts an alleged arms dealer among its shareholders.
At 64,000 words, it is a lengthy read, better to search for keywords.
TopCat now linked to Marathon… (see previous post on Marathon in Somalia). A tangled web has indeed been weaved.
More information on the Somalia, Oil, and possibly TopCat continue. Reporting from Oil and Gas Investor indicates Marathon Oil, of Texas, and possibly other firms have taken over the Conoco claims, or at least is moving in on them, and bumping yet another company to boot.
4. 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. [Dutch] PexCo exploration has signed up for with the Ministry of Mines and Energy for exploration in the Ogaden area, according to reports in Ethiopia. The company has taken the Ferfer and Abred blocks covering 18,546 sq miles (29,865 sq km) and has agreed to spend US $5 million in the initial term.
However, Range Resources [an Australian firm] has had its claim over the Puntland region put in doubt. Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi said the deal with the regional government was invalid as only the country’s transitional federal government could negotiate the sale.
This contradicts Range’s statement on its website (picture at left in case site changes) that it received in written approval for the deal from the Somali government. Gedi had said that foreign companies and investors that local administrations could not legally negotiate contracts over natural resources.
“Foreign companies should desist in attempts to deal with local authorities … without prior written consent from the federal government,” he said.
On 19 October 2005 it was announced Petronas (Malaysian) and PexCo (Dutch) (More here and also here, but very little on PexCo), had signed deals with the Ministry of Mines, giving them rights to some of the same regions as Range, also reported on 15 November 2005.
On 6 October 2005, Range Resources eyed "Puntland as one of the remaining under-explored areas in the world that has a high potential for vast reserves of hydrocarbons." Their PowerPoint presentation [also stored locally here] indicates a positive co-operative relationship with the indigenous population, with the intent
to facilitate the exploration and commercial development of the State’s natural resources (farm in, joint venture) to bring the commensurate benefits to the people of Puntland and shareholders of the Company
Range believes this is possible because the "Political situation in Puntland is stable with a respected President with no civil unrest like that currently affecting Mogadishu".
The logical, but possibly coincidental, connection is with the Australian / Canadian HAZFA partnership (read more here). The Range Resources Code of Conduct, prominently available on their website, is clear and straight-forward. The Marathon Oil Code of Conduct, has a different feel and tone. Much of this difference is undoubtedly the result of Marathon’s far greater size.
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."
It seems maybe some oil resource competition is happening. Is there payback for Malaysia for its assistance in GWOT (PETRONAS is wholly government owned)? Or is there something else because of a Chinese connection (PETRONAS contracted Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau)?
The Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau (ZPEB), a powerful subsidiary of China’s second largest national petroleum consortium, the China Petrochemical Corporation (SINOPEC), appears to be the principal oil firm operating in Gambella at present, under subcontract to Malaysia’s national oil company PETRONAS. The base camp for ZPEB equipment and petroleum explorations is located approximately 1.5 kilometers from the center of Gambella town on the Abobo-Gambella road. The Ethiopian site manager, Mr. Degefe, is a highlander who tersely describes himself as "responsible for making all operations and security." The base camp is under tight security and heavily guarded by EPRDF troops. PETRONAS and the China National Petroleum Corporation currently operate in Sudan. A recent report by Human Rights Watch raises charges that the Asian oil giants have provided cover for their respective governments to ship arms and military equipment to Sudan in exchange for oil concessions granted by Khartoum.
Is this why Rumsfeld has asked the IG probe Feith and the Pentagon? The IG is a direct report to the SecDef and if Feith was working for Rumsfeld, why would he call this? As CYA if something blows up? Or, here’s the Black Helicopter version (are no more Black Helicopters since FEMA has been gutted?): Rumsfeld calls the IG probe to placate Congress as cover for another internal investigation that he is not happy with? There are serious differences between the civilian elite and military elites.
The TopCat situation becomes ever the more fascinating as each day passes. More information from the blogosphere surfaces as amateur and not so amateur investigative reporters seek out details. Most of the speculation is most likely wildly off the mark either negatively (almost like the Black Helicopters that hover overhead) or positively (the world will be saved by one merc at a time). Still other commentary is not. It is simply restatements of "facts" and facts, as a quick review of Technorati will show, including some information found in posts on this website.
Background information I've posted on oil may be foundational or it may not. Time will tell if it goes to the motive of the TopCat debacle. I've made other comments wondering if the contract and insertion of Western military people and equipment might be related to a inadvertent payload ejection back on 3 Feb 1991, in other words a Project Jennifer II. That may not be accurate as there are some reports, valid or not, the payload was already recovered by somebody else.
Top Cat Marine Security is registered under Laura Casini, Esq. at what seems like a residential location.I mention the location because there are some interesting circumstances
surrounding this company. It had moved its operations to St Stephen,
South Carolina, to the great expectations of the locals. But, then in Oct 2004, things changed according to the local news: "the
door to Top Cat is padlocked, the company is facing
eviction, one of its top officials has been arrested on a charge of
issuing a fraudulent check and a default judgment was issued against
the company Monday." Interesting bit is the title of Peter Casini:
Chief Operating Officer. He seems to have gotten a promotion in the
last year, but in a Reuters article he’s head of research and development.
Removed from the site TopCat Marine Security site
recently is their address after some have questioned their shared
location with other sites Here’s the cached version.
It seems they share an answering service with other firms (after doing
some WhoIs searching and google address search). The office of record
is just a phone bank. Not particularly normal for a firm awarded with a
$50m international contract.
The webmaster, as of this writing, broke all the links on TopCat Marine Security, all
links now begin with: file:///macintosh%20hd/users/brian/desktop/. A little fidgeting, and the press release for the Somalia contract is available here:
Somalia, which hasn’t had an effective government since 1991, can’t deal with the pirates — and the U.S. government this week advised ships to travel in convoys or simply stay away. Top Cat’s strategy is to go
after the "mother ship" that launches small, high-speed boats
some 100 miles off the coast to carry out the attacks.
"Our goal is to take the mother ship," Casini said from Nairobi,
Kenya. "To disable, to disarm, whatever it takes."
Under their contract the company will set up five bases where former Navy
SEALs and Army Special Forces members will train the anti-pirate teams.
The firm will also provide state-of-the-art patrol boats, backed by helicopters, to go after the mother ship.
From the PMC commentators… "how long until a pirate attack w/ a Cobra boat?"
The State Department had to approve this contract. Some reports list the contract at $55 million, but that exceeds the min for notifying Congress. Likely it is just below ($49.9m), but it still required State approval.
On 25 November 2005, the "Transitional Federal Government of Somalia" signed a $50m deal with US private marine security company Top Cat Marine Security, Inc. to "establish new Somalia Coast Guard and Security Forces". The press release on Top Cat’s website was unavailable as of this writing (403 error). According to a Chinese online newspaper, Topcat "will help fight terrorism, curb illegal fishing and combat pirates, who have used speed boats, automatic weapons and satellite phones to target UN-chartered ships and other vessels." This may provide to be an interesting case study on private security forces.
The progenitor of Topcat is likely CobraBoats, the firm owned by Peter Casini, Jr. Mr Casini holds the patents on the high-speed boat technology (see sections for 8 Feb 01 and 18 Mar 02) that Topcat was likely created to hire out.
The absence of a functioning government in Somalia raises the obvious questions of who is funding this operation. The cost of the contract is actually curious itself: $50m. This is at, and likely just below, the threshold of required to notify Congress for contracting of defense services. It was hard to read, but it also seems Somalia is still an embargoed country, without an update since 1993.
The long of it is the Bush Administration has allowed this to take place. Why? To provide additional security through tax payer dollars to the region? Or is NATO or the EU picking up part of the bill? Highly doubtful.